A few months ago, I found myself with two kids under seven in my house for an extended period of time (read here: longer than an hour). No, a girlfriend from long ago didn't show up with a surprise. And no, they were not part of some elaborate Blackened Out International Loomers Child Labor scheme. They were in fact my nephews and I was babysitting.
Sunday morning awoke bright, clear with the first cold snap of the year, when the temperature despite only being in the low 70s is downright frigid. One of the nephews asked me if we could go "to the place with the bennies." So off we went to Cafe du Monde. Although it was just before nine a.m., a line was already out the main entrance and halfway to the Moonwalk. Pro Tip: There is a separate line for take out orders. However, this line is twice as long and twice as slow as just waiting to sit down. Avoid it.
After a twenty minute wait, we snagged an open table covered in the detritus of a previous beignet binge. In no time a waitresses, her Vietnamese complexion a few shades lighter than the cafe au lait she ferries about, wiped the table clean while taking our order. The wait staff at Cafe du Monde is nimble and quick, able to juggle multiple orders, change requests, and the demands of a fast paced restaurant. Cirque du Soleil meets the cafe. When you order beignets (which come three to an order), you would do best to order one more plate than you think you need. It will save you trouble later on down the road.
Despite the crowds and hassle, time spent at Cafe du Monde is time well-spent. For the eyes an ever evolving feast of people watching unfolds in front of you- in one corner a young family, the parents hungover, the kids incredulous that they are getting to eat sugar for breakfast, the other table has two elderly tourists just in from Minnetonka and adorned with money belts, conference badges, and guide books, over back there is that girl "what's her name, you went to school with her brother" and her two kids with a third on the way. Sit at Cafe du Monde long enough and you will run into everyone you know.
Now comes the fare. Thick mugs filled with rich creamy cafe au lait, glasses of orange juice, cartons of chocolate milk, water sweating through its glass, and their justifiably famous beignets. The boys went right to work, soon our faces covered in thick powdered sugar and wide grins. My favorite part of the beignet are the slightly crispy corners which allow you to scrap up the extra sugar from the round plates. Lindsay too got in on the action, tentatively at first. But as we were leaving she said, "I can't get over how good those things actually are."
"This is just coffee and donuts," you'll say. You may think you can skip this because you have it at home or because it is too crowded, too touristy, too cliche. Consider this: you can feed a family of four for around $20.
And you don't have cafe au lait and beignets at home.
Cafe du Monde- Worth It? Yes, especially if you have kids. But go early.
If you can't find Cafe du Monde, just keep looking. It only closes on Christmas Day.
PS: Yes, Morning Call is just as good and less crowded, but let's keep that secret to ourselves, New Orleans.