On a good weekday if you just time it right, you might have to spare only 40 minutes of your time to wait to be seated. The place? Café Du Monde—The Original French Market Coffee Stand. It’s right at the heart of New Orleans and just steps away from the French Quarter. It’s where you can get a hot cup of chicory before you stroll along the French Market. It’s also probably one of the first stops that you should make as soon as you land in NOLA. The question is whether the coffee and the food are really worth the wait. After all, there aren’t that many things on the menu.
Café Du Monde History
Some people say that the history is better than reality. That’s something that you’d have to decide for yourself, but the history is fascinating enough to at least warrant a look. The original coffee stand that still exists today was built in 1862. It’s seen plenty of decades and has gone through 156 years of operation. It’s typically open 24 hours a day, and the café only closes on Christmas days. The occasional hurricanes may force the café to close, as was the case with the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But even something as destructive as Katrina couldn’t keep the café closed for too long. The café opened just under three months after the storm closed it down, giving hope to many through their warm beignets.
The menu is small. Don’t expect to see a whole wall of New Orleans offerings because you might get disappointed. If you have any desire to go to Café Du Monde at all, you probably know them for serving the best beignets in the South—probably the best beignets in the nation. If you have absolutely no idea what a beignet is, then you might be in for a real treat. All you need to know is that they’re deep-fried and full of sugar. You only get beignets one way there, and we’ve got to say that it’s more than enough.
Of course you’ll have to pair your beignets with something. You have a couple of options. You can either have your chicory coffee black or au lait. If you can’t handle the caffeine, the café does serve a decaffeinated option. They’ve also added a pure French Roast coffee without chicory. The café has been flooded with requests for a different coffee flavor, and the French Roast still has distinct New Orleans flavors. You can end your meal with some pralines if you wish, but we actually prefer ending ours with even more beignets—to go, of course.
What to Expect
Café Du Monde is old. It’s well maintained for having been around for 150 years, but the amenities are definitely not fancy. We’re talking about plastic chairs and tables and standard china. The café is basically in a shaded outdoor space that’s supposed to sit about 400 people. Trust us when we say that they fill that small space easily and constantly with 400 beignet-hungry tourists. The space is definitely cramped. If you’re lugging a stroller around, they’ll accommodate to you for sure; but expect a couple of glances from your neighboring tables.
The staff there are on hustle mode 24/7. Those servers are serious. They get it done, and they do it quickly. After all, they have to turn tables around as fast as possible because there’s always—ALWAYS—a line outside. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or shining; you’ll always end up in line somehow.
So here goes the curious question, “Is it really worth getting in line for Café Du Monde?” Our resounding answer is yes, but not for reasons that you might expect. Yes, the food is absolutely good. Beignets always come out warm and tasty, but they’re not necessarily something that you’d skip other activities or local attractions for. To be able to say that you’ve tried it is a good thing. But what you’re getting at Café Du Monde is the overall experience. To be able to sit at the café and have a view of where it all happens is pretty cool. But what you need to do when you’re there is really soak up the location. You’ll be right on Decatur Street at the French Quarter. Your views across the café are pretty historic and downright awesome. Most of the time, you’ll hear buskers playing jazz music right outside the café, and Jackson Square right across the street are always full of artists just doing their thing, artworks on display, ready for some business.
The good news is you don’t have to wait in line if you just want to eat beignets. The café does have a takeout line for the more impatient public. Grab a bag, head on over to St. Ann Street, and work your way toward Bourbon Street. You might find the action there a little bit more exciting, and at least you’ll have some food in hand to soak up the libations that typically come with Bourbon Street. Either way you go, whether you sit in or take out, Café Du Monde is definitely worth the trip.