In our #FoodieScore Travels series, we focus primarily on one-of-a-kind, locally-owned restaurants. We love the concept that a particular menu or food item is something you can get in only one unique place, not at multiple spots or at a chain’s location on a corner of every city in America. But as with every rule, this one has its exceptions.
Cafe Du Monde is a perfect example of a reason for such an exception. While there are now 10 locations in the New Orleans region of Louisiana, and an even greater reach through the opportunities to order products online and purchase them in some stores such as Whole Foods Market, Cafe Du Monde is simply an iconic restaurant that is too historic and too good to not share. We have ignored it far too long on this blog.
Why share it now? We haven’t been doing much traveling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s not likely we will anytime soon. However, we just moved a short distance to a new house in western North Carolina, where we’ve lived most of our lives. During that process, one of our former neighbors shared several foods with us, including some of her organic home-grown tomatoes, a lunch of pizza from a local oven known as Pleasant City Wood Fired Grille, and a healthy dose of Cafe Du Monde coffee.
The coffee at Cafe Du Monde may not be the only one of its kind you can get anywhere, but it contains a unique quality that absolutely separates it from most you’ll be able to find. The cafe’s brew is a blend of coffee and chicory, which maintains a long and historic tradition that dates back at least to the American Civil War.
During the Civil War, Union military blockades cut off supply lines into the port of New Orleans, one of the key entry points for goods to the Confederate military units in the South. That meant coffee was extra scarce, and therefore expensive, so alternative products were conceived. One of those products was a coffee-like beverage made from the more plentiful (at the time) chicory root.
Coffee with chicory is often quite strong, and that means a cup made from the blend Cafe Du Monde sells can give you quite a jolt of energy and, to be honest, quite an urge to visit the nearest restroom. It’s good, and potent, stuff! If you like strong coffee, I suggest you give it a try.
Cafe Du Monde typically serves its coffee two ways: black or “au lait,” which simply means “with milk.” (We are talking about a place rich in French heritage here.)
Traditionally just about the only other thing on the shop’s menu is a “beignet,” basically a little doughnut sprinkled with powdered sugar. The doughnuts from Cafe Du Monde draw travelers from miles around and other states because they’re so good. The beignets have even led chefs of other restaurants to serve them on their menus. In fact, we ate some delicious beignets with a brunch at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin, Fla., earlier this year.
It’s not quite the same as ordering and indulging at the French Market location of Cafe Du Monde, but you can order coffee as well as a mix for making beignets from the cafe’s website. My suggestion is to make the cafe a bucket-list stop when you have the opportunity to visit or return to New Orleans. Though there are many special places to enjoy a full, rich meal in the city, it’s not likely you’ll find a more iconic food and drink spot.
As a sidenote to that suggestion, order yourself some coffee from Cafe Du Monde and try the chicory blend at home. It’s a unique experience connected to generations of history in the South. And that’s exactly our kind of place. We’d even call it exceptional.