Our second day in New Orleans involved an awful lot of walking and exploring of the French Quarter, so it was only right that we ensured that we had some decent sustenance along the way! Cue some world-famous doughnuts and a humongous sandwich, New Orleans style!
Breakfast involved grabbing a table at the French Market’s Café du Monde, the world-famous home of the legendary beignet; in fact, Café du Monde’s sweet fare is so famous, it has featured in numerous books and films across the globe! The donut like pastry, covered in mounds of powdered sugar, is another example of the French influence on New Orleans cuisine. History states that early French settlers, who journeyed from Canada to the South and discovered the famous port town, brought with them the beignet and chicory coffee, both of which are served at the famous café.
The original Café du Monde has been a permanent fixture at the French market since 1862; a quick bite at the café is certainly a taste of authentic New Orleans, as the recipe used for the famous deep-fried choux pastry remains largely unchanged. The menu is very basic – a small selection of drinks and only beignets to eat however, sampling a few of the cafe’s powdery delights is the perfect hangover breakfast or mid-afternoon sugar rush! True to NOLA’s roots of being known as a city that knows how to party, the café is open 24/7 for those that need their breakfast on their way home from the Bourbon Street action; at under $5 for three beignets and a coffee, it certainly is a bargain!
The beignets themselves are utterly delicious, served warm, so sweet and fluffy, they go down far too easily! Be warned, no matter how hard you try, you will get covered in icing sugar when eating so it is advised not to wear dark clothing when visiting Café du Monde!
Locally, there is much debate about who makes the better beignet, Café du Monde or Café Beignet, both of which have numerous locations across NOLA. Having tried the beignets at the latter, I found them to be a little tough and more chewy than those at the French Market, although they did have a bit less sugar on which was a bonus for my clothes! Café Beignet have a premises at the Musical Legends Park on Bourbon Street which makes for a fantastic afternoon pit stop with the bonus of some live music! However, Neil and I are firmly in the Café du Monde camp, but it is all up to personal preference so if in New Orleans, why not try both!
After an awful lot of walking on a very hot day, it was time to eat again (surprise, surprise!!). Upon a friend’s recommendation, we decided to check out Central Grocery, home of the muffuletta, so it was back to Decatur Street!
Central Grocery is a fab place to visit if you have fallen in love with the local New Orleans cuisine; it stocks a good range of Cajun and Creole cooking necessities such as various seasonings, hot sauce, chicory coffee, and an important Gumbo ingredient, file. The shop is crammed with shelves bulging with local delicacies, so much so that the queue to order food at the long counter snakes all around the shop!
Like po’boys, muffulettta’s are massive sandwiches that were originally a staple of the working class diet however, unlike po’boys they are normally served cold. According to the owners of Central Grocery, the sandwiches were devised in 1906 so that Sicilian farmers working at the local French market could eat their beautiful Italian delicacies for lunch in an easier, more portable and accessible, fashion. Rumour has it that the humble muffuletta would keep the farmers going throughout the day and, due to its vast size, would serve as dinner back at home once heated in the oven.
The name refers to the type of bread used to make this massive sandwich; it is very soft and appears to be made with olive oil like a focaccia however, it is round in shape. The bread is then stuffed with cured meats, such as salami and ham, cheeses, including mozzarella and provolone, and olive salad which is a mixture of olives, herbs and pickled vegetables and available to purchase from the store.
It is possible to get an order to take away or, if you are lucky, there may be a free seat at the back of the store on which to enjoy your lunch and take the weight off your feet. I thoroughly enjoyed our muffuletta; the olive salad provided a nice, salty contrast to the creaminess of the cheese and smokiness of the meats. It is most definitely a fantastic and filling lunch to enjoy whilst exploring the French Quarter! In fact, the humble muffuletta is so highly rated that it has been questioned whether it is the best sandwich in the whole United States! Definitely one to tick off a foodie bucket list.
As you can see, the sandwich is huge so half of one between two people will more than suffice! If you cannot resist an entire muffuletta like we did, do not worry about wasting any if you get full up as it tastes even better hours later after a few cheeky cocktails in the French Quarter!
Places to visit:
Café du Monde, 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116, (504) 525-4544
- Café Beignet, Musical Legends Park, 311 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116, (504) 525-2611
- Central Grocery, 923 Decatur Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116, (504) 523-1620