Must Have Coffee & Beignets in New Orleans!

COFFEE, OUTDOORS EATING, STAFF, STREET LIFE, USA MAINLAND — By on June 15, 2011 at 15:44

Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Brian Williams.

A LONG TIME AGO, back when people wrote real letters with a pen and paper and mailed them with a real stamp, I was infected with the lust to some day have coffee and beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans.

I was living in Australia and did not realize a move back to the USA was in my future. I didn’t know about Café du Monde until a pen pal who lived in Pensacola raved about it in her letters. She painted an irresistible picture of the two of us chatting over coffee and beignets in the French Quarter. It was one of those things you never let go of, even though it might seem unlikely at the time.

Finally, seventeen years later, I got to visit New Orleans. Brian knew the drill: we had to find Café du Monde, even though we only had a day to see the city.

By early evening we arrived at the cafe on Decatur Street via the second most romantic method, which is to walk along the river. (Naturally, the most romantic way is by cable car.) We promptly ordered coffee and beignets and set about getting covered in powdered sugar. I had long since lost touch with my pen pal from the early ’90s, but I saluted her with my coffee mug.

I dare you. Try eating a beignet without getting dusted in powdered sugar.

I dare you. Try eating a beignet without getting dusted in powdered sugar.

The beignet (pronunced ben-yey; Fr. be-nye) is a pillowy, square doughnut. In French cookery beignet means any fruit, vegetable, seafood, etc., dipped in batter and deep-fried. It appears the Louisiana French version of the word refers mainly to these unfilled dessert-style fritters . . . but if a travel editor wants to send me on an expedition to uncover the full range of meaning of the word within both France and The French Quarter, I’m for hire.

Café du Monde (loosely, ‘café of the world’) was established in 1862. During the last 25 years they’ve opened branches in shopping malls as far afield as Atlanta, Georgia—it can even be found throughout Japan. I must admit I would not settle for anything but the original, at least for my first time.

According to Wikipedia, the original site is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, except for Christmas Day and days when “the occasional hurricane passes too close to New Orleans.” When the city was hit by Hurricane Katrina, Café du Monde retained only minor damage but the owners used the down-time to refurbish the kitchen and eating areas.

It has a cafeteria-like atmosphere and patrons line up to order the only thing on the menu: coffee and beignets. You can eat on the patio or indoors. The coffee, to my pampered, breve-loving taste buds, was not the cup of comfort I was hoping for. In the traditional style, it’s blended with chicory, which might be one of those flavors you need to grow into.

Serenaded by a tuba player at Cafe du Monde

Serenaded by a tuba player at Cafe du Monde

Street performers are everywhere in the French Quarter. We saw mime artists, a trumpet player, a husband-and-wife bluegrass duo and a parade. (And that was on a slow day.) Talk about grassroots performers. As we scarfed down our beignets out on the patio we listened to some tunes played by this solo tuba player.

Going to NOLA? Don’t forget. You must have coffee and beignets at Café du Monde, or you just haven’t done New Orleans right.

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RELATED POST:

The French Quarter: Alive & Kickin’

RELATED PRODUCT:

Café Du Monde Beignet Mix

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Milli Thornton

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.


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    19 Comments

  • ronald says:

    It’s amazing you could fulfill a 17 year old fantasy and one dreamed of in another country!

    Looks good – chowing down on beignets – Milli. I could go for a pillowy, square doughnut, hopefully without powdered sugar because I can’t stand the stuff!

    It’s too bad the coffee didn’t turn out. I have my own fantasy about how coffee should be and feel disappointed when my espresso isn’t good. But being in the thick of it in New Orleans would make up for it.

    How did you guys like the tuba in your ear? It looks like the player has a hard hat on?? :)

    I looked at their website – definitely a place worth going.

    • Milli Thornton
      Twitter: millivrstravels
      says:

      Ronald, I figured you’d like the sound of pillowy French doughnuts – and maybe you could ask for no powdered sugar.

      You’re right about New Orleans making up for the chicory-laced coffee. Anyway, usually very few realities can live up to the fantasy when you’ve spent 17 years shrouding it in romance within your mind. Café du Monde would have had to be like an airbrushed scene from a movie to live up to my expectations. :D

      You’re right, it does look like the tuba player is wearing a hard hat! But I think it was ball cap. Fortunately, we were on the other side of the patio so it was upbeat and fun rather than ear-blasting.

      • ronald says:

        My gramma used to make me morning lattes in a bowl during my summer visits to France and she always added chicory.

  • Ann
    Twitter: AnnHolly
    says:

    How wonderful that you fulfilled a dream like that! I love it!

    • Milli Thornton
      Twitter: millivrstravels
      says:

      Thanks, Ann. And, wouldn’t you know it? Now my dream is to live back in Australia. :)

      • Ann
        Twitter: AnnHolly
        says:

        That’s funny – my husband has a dream to visit Australia!

        • BetsyV
          Twitter: betsy_v
          says:

          I have only had two dream destinations.
          The first is Maui and I’ve just recently accomplished this thanks to my wonderful husband! It went way beyond my expectations! The second is to visit Australia. I feel very privileged to have gotten to Maui, and dont think I will ever get to Australia. But ya got to dream!
          I will live through people like you and your blogs to get to those places I will never have a chance to visit in person, and maybe I can even help others who want to know more about the places I have had the good fortune to get to, through my trip reports on sites like tripadvisor or the Disboards!.
          Thank you for the inspiration!
          “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” St Augustine

          • Milli Thornton
            Twitter: millivrstravels
            says:

            Betsy,

            Wonderful to hear you got to visit one of your two dream destinations.

            I truly hope you get to see Australia, even if just one city’s worth. It’s not nearly as expensive to get down there these days as it used to be (especially if you have a cheap way of getting to one of the departure points – you’re no longer restricted to flying out only from LAX).

            The Australian tourism industry is extremely keen to encourage new visitors and they’re always running specials and discounts. If you go to Qantas.com and sign up for their newsletter (be sure to select the USA part of their site), you’ll always be up to date on the latest Aussie travel bargains.

            ~ Milli

  • Another taste tempting article Milliver! My friend drinks chicory. I tried it many years ago, but I couldn’t get used to the taste!

    I’m glad you got to actually live your dream! No matter what it was like, you always have the excitement of creating that reality. I would have had a “shiver me timbers” experience just walking up to the place.

    Great story!

    Hugs ~ Catherine

    • Milli Thornton
      Twitter: millivrstravels
      says:

      “Shiver me timbers” is a good way of putting it. You can’t see the sign up-close-and-personal for something that famous and not feel some goose bumps of destiny. Plus it was an adventure trying the traditional fare that they’ve been serving for 150 years on that very site, even if the coffee didn’t suit me. The beignets were yummy and we felt special sitting on that particular patio on a lovely warm evening after seeing paddleboats on the river.

  • Mrs. Bad Kitty says:

    Hi Milli — wonderful story! Hope you and Brian are well. Looks like lots of fun in Nawlins!

    Matt and I visited in 2007 and fell in love with the city and Cafe du Monde. We became so addicted to the chicory coffee that we actually order it by mail!

    …we also sampled absinthe in a bar in the shadow of St. Louis cathedral. That was, er, interesting!

    Lots of love to you both from Taos.

    MBK

    • Milli Thornton
      Twitter: millivrstravels
      says:

      OMG, MBK!! You’ve made my day, my week, my 2011!!

      Now, this addictive behavior by mail-order and lurking in absinthe dens does not sound at all like the well-behaved couple I know. :D :D

      It would be so much fun to visit New Orleans together. But I’d settle for seeing you on the old stomping grounds, at least!

      Brian’s excited to hear from you as well. Pls. give the Big Mattski our love and hugs.

      Thanks for visiting Milliver’s!

      XOXO

      P.S. You were there in 2007? That was the same year we went. I would cry out loud if you were there the same time we were and we didn’t know it.

  • Roona says:

    Loved this one! I actually like chicory laced coffee as we have a version of it here in India, what we call “filter coffee”…so when I lived in Mayfield Hts, I would sometimes buy the Cafe Du Monde coffee with chicory from “World Market”…kept meaning to try their beignet mix as well but never got around to it. Hmmmm…Millivers is steadily lengthening the list of must-go, must-see, must-do places for me!

    • Milli Thornton
      Twitter: millivrstravels
      says:

      Roona, I’m pleased Milliver’s is causing you to lengthen your list. Now, if only we could devise a way to go to some of these places together. Plus, I still want you as my guide through India someday. . .

  • Julia
    Twitter: wordsxo
    says:

    I absolutely love beignets — but my favorite part of THIS post was:”By early evening we arrived at the cafe on Decatur Street via the second most romantic method, which is to walk along the river. (Naturally, the most romantic way is by cable car.)” Naturally. You do have a way with words! Love the piece :)

  • BetsyV
    Twitter: betsy_v
    says:

    I love this story!
    I’ve eaten beignets! But sorry to say it wasn’t in New Orleans (I’ll get there some day!)
    I had them at “Port Orleans French Quarter” at Walt Disney World. I loved them… and I agree you can Not eat a beignet, without getting sugar dusted yourself. I enjoyed them so much that every morning I would walk down and get my coffee and beignets. I bet the coffee at the resort was as bad or worse then the chicory coffee you had in New Orleans.. Instant.. Yuck! Thanks for taking me with you on this dream of your’s. You made it feel like I was sitting right next to you!

    • Milli Thornton
      Twitter: millivrstravels
      says:

      Betsy, I enjoyed your story about having beignets and coffee at “Port Orleans French Quarter” at Walt Disney World. The coffee you had with it does sound worse. :(

      Now, if I could just go somewhere authentic that serves the kind of coffee I love (see my article on the breve) with freshly-prepared beignets I could call it perfect.

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