In New Orleans, there isn’t another sweet better loved than a beignet, a freshly fried square of dough served with a healthy dusting of confectioners’ sugar. Although many cultures adore fried dough, think churros in Mexico, fritters in the UK and zeppole in Italy, the French beignet is the treat of choice in New Orleans, a throwback to the city’s French roots.
Brought to New Orleans in the 18th century by either French Acadians or Ursuline nuns, depending on who you ask, beignets were adapted into the evolving Creole diet, sometimes spiked with bananas or plantains, both popular imports in this port city.
In the French Quarter, Café du Monde is the gold standard when it comes to beignets, fried in the original French Market location since 1862. The Café’s menu is short and sweet: dark-roasted coffee with chicory, served black or au lait with steamed milk, beignets, white and chocolate milk, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. It’s a common sight to see folks sitting along the river walk, clouds of powdered sugar giving their breakfast choice away.
Beignets are adaptable, with fried dough working as well as a savory flavor vehicle as a sugary treat. Creative New Orleans chefs are known to incorporate cheese, seafood and duck debris into the fried goodness.
Photo courtesy of Hiiggins Hotel
The sparkling new $66 million Higgins Hotel New Orleans might just be America’s first museum hotel, with a World War II theme from stem to stern. Beyond the hotel’s many stunning Art Deco spaces, just steps from its owner, the National World War II Museum, dining and drinking options impress. Café Normandie, where French chef Virgile Brandel presides, rustic French cuisine shakes hands with the New Orleans’ table. The crab beignets are a revelation, airy pillows of dough stuffed with creamy Louisiana lump crab meat. But really everything is tasty here, from the char-grilled oysters and crispy duck with duck fat fried fingerling potatoes to the stuffed portobello tangy with asiago cheese and for dessert – of course! crazy good warm beignets with dark chocolate dipping sauce. In keeping with its theme, the dining room features WWII era-inspired artwork. Have a drink
Recommended for Beignets because: A new French restaurant in the CBD in a new hotel is big news!
Beth’s expert tip: Have a drink at Rosie’s, a stellar rooftop bar with river views, before or after dinner.
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Photo courtesy of Max Cusimano
Pull up a stool at stunning SoBou (South of Bourbon) in the W, a sassy member Commander’s family of restaurants. Here, a team of crackerjack bartenders create fab original cocktails and chef Juan Carlos Gonzales serves modern fare that is downright fetching. Don’t miss his sweet potato beignets, an umami bomb of sweet-savory, rich and and creamy made with foie gras fondue, duck debris and chicory coffee ganache. Nibble your way through yellowfin tuna tartare with basil and avocado ice cream, foie gras topped with a yard egg and duck bacon on brioche, and pork ribs served with a swirl of sweet heat in the form of ghost pepper cotton candy.
Recommended for Beignets because: Nothing typical about SoBou, which makes eating and drinking here a guaranteed adventure.
Beth’s expert tip: The three hour daily happy hour from 3-6 pm is one of the Quarter’s best deals.
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Photo courtesy of Commander’s Palace
Answer the siren call of the green and white signature awning to dine at Commander’s Palace, the must-eat restaurant housed in a beautiful Victorian mansion in the Garden District. Chef Tory McPhail is always up to something startling, as his occasionally featured Crawfish Boil beignets demonstrate. Made with spicy wild crawfish tails and roasted chilies rolled into a savory-sweet corn dough, these addictive bites are served with red pepper aioli and warm remoulade sauce. Lunch is less formal than dinner, but you still want to look a little uptown when you visit this iconic New Orleans restaurant. Jazz brunch is an event on Sundays.
Recommended for Beignets because: This flagship of the Brennan family offers a seminal New Orleans dining experience
Beth’s expert tip: Yes, the restaurant serve 25-cent martinis at lunch, reason enough to head to Commander’s.
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La Petite Grocery leaves the sugary powdered beignets to the Cafe du Mondes of the world, taking its own approach to the beignet. La Petite stuffs their doughy morsels with blue crab and serves them with a tangy malt vinegar aioli. These are a must-order appetizer when you visit this popular Magazine Street eatery for lunch, dinner or brunch. Chef/owner Justin Devillier, a California native who moved to New Orleans in 2003, is known for his creative approach to all kinds of local culinary customs, including a spin on bread pudding that pairs it with black truffle jus and the introduction of local turtle meat to an outstanding Bolognese.
Recommended for Beignets because: Chef Justin Devillier is a creative culinary force to be reckoned with in New Orleans
Beth’s expert tip: La Petite Grocery is named after the business that used to exist on the property; a specialty grocery store.
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The New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Co., located in Uptown New Orleans and in the suburbs of Metairie, is a swell spot for breakfast, whether you’re craving a beignet, yogurt parfait or egg white mini casserole. As long as the beignets are fresh out of the fryer – ask before you order if they are being made ala minute, you won’t be disappointed. Besides the traditional confectioners sugar covered version of these sweet square doughnuts-without-the-hole, there is a mini version – great for guiltless snacking, and a chocolate version, which to some palates is an out of the park home run.
Recommended for Beignets because: This uptown classic delivers a chocolate version of the Cafe du Monde original.
Beth’s expert tip: If you are visiting during the swampy months of summer, try the frozen cafe au lait to chill down.
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Susan Spicer opened Bayona in the French Quarter in 1990 in a centuries-old cottage complete with a romantic courtyard. A doyenne of all things culinary in New Orleans since the 90s, and now an inductee into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food, Spicer’s creative take on beignets is chronicled in her Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans. Better yet, treats like her savory smoked salmon beignets with brandied tomato sauce or sweet cinnamon banana beignets show up on the menu as specials any old time, yet another incentive to dine at this French Quarter gem.
Recommended for Beignets because: Celebrating 30 years in 2020, Bayona is a French Quarter gem with a gorgeous courtyard.
Beth’s expert tip: Although her smoked salmon beignets aren’t always on the menu, you won’t be disappointed by anything you eat at Bayona.
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Chef John Harris opened Bouligny Tavern in 2010 in a century-old New Orleans cottage just next door to his wildly popular Lilette. Bouligny Tavern is a sleek and elegant space, a backdrop of mid-century modern with an eclectic menu of fine wine, cocktails and small plates. The Tavern is famous for its gouda filled beignet, an ethereal pillow of fried smoky goodness that manages to be surprisingly light. Served warm, and wonderfully salty and these fried treats work well as a starter or paired with a tall beer out of the tap. More good news, they’re half-price during happy hour!
Recommended for Beignets because: Cheesy smoky fried deliciousness adds up to one heck of an appetizer at this Magazine Street tavern.
Beth’s expert tip: Imagine a mozzarella stick with French pizzazz and the gouda beignet is the ticket.
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Photo courtesy of Beth D’Addono
If you’re a fan of the addictive cochon de lait po-boy revered at Jazz Fest but don’t often find yourself at the most excellent Walker’s Barbecue in New Orleans East, chef Scot Craig can help. Craig is chef/owner at Katie’s Restaurant in Mid-City, a much-loved neighborhood Creole-Italian eatery that draws armies of regulars for lunch, brunch and dinner. Craig’s version of the slow-roasted suckling pig is off the hook, tender shards of swiney goodness piled high on a buttered, lightly toasted Gendusa roll smothered with Creole mustard-tanged slaw. Get the char-grilled oysters for sure, and the crawfish beignet is wonderous, filled with Louisiana crawfish tails, jalapenos, onions, cheddar and mozzarella, all topped with jalapeno aioli.
Recommended for Beignets because: Katie’s is an uber-local spot in Mid-City that’s always friendly, with rib-sticking cuisine that includes a wow-worthy crawfish beignet.
Beth’s expert tip: If you’re seeking a quieter meal, ask to be seated upstairs.
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Cafe Beignet, with locations on Bourbon and Royal Streets in the French Quarter, is the clear number two to Cafe du Monde as far as beignets go. A bit less hectic than Cafe du Monde, where a line of hungry folks hang out like vultures waiting for your table, Cafe Beignet serves tasty fried treats along with a full breakfast from 7 am every day of the week. The house-made quiche is quite good, as is the crawfish omelet. If there’s a line, don’t worry too much, it goes fast. Sit in the outdoor courtyard if the weather is fine.
Recommended for Beignets because: Cafe Beignet is centrally located in the French Quarter, a convenient spot for tasty beignets.
Beth’s expert tip: If you find yourself craving a beignet but you’re staying close to Canal Street, head to this respectable spot.
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Cafe du Monde is beignet ground zero in New Orleans and a longtime favorite on this list. Situated in the heart of the French Quarter, Cafe du Monde is a must-visit location for tourists but a regular stop for locals too who come by when there isn’t a line. The cafe features a sprawling outdoor patio where diners are served cafe au lait and delicious squares of fried dough. People watching is fun here, you see all kinds, both wandering by and waiting in the line that usually forms when the city is busy. Cafe du Monde has locations across the lake and in the ‘burbs, but this is the original and the best.
Recommended for Beignets because: Cafe du Monde is the gold standard when it comes to the sweet version of beignets.
Beth’s expert tip: Eat your beignets by the river for a real dose of New Orleans ambiance.
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