“Like Princess and the Frog! The beignets! Now I have to visit you and try them!”
By Alexis Martin
Beignets. They seemed to always be the first thing to roll off the tongues of my friends and family the moment they learned I’d spend the next four years in New Orleans. Fast forward two and half years in this city and beignets have continued to anchor the most vivid memories of my life here.
The Original Cafe du Monde is arguably the most infamous spot. Situated in the French Quarter right off Decatur, and only a short walk from the Mississippi River, you’d be hard pressed not to find yourself at this 24-hour beignet institution and leaving only after a baptism of the heavy-handed powdered sugar that
hangs round the air long after patrons have left their tables.
With a tourist culture like New Orleans’, it’s not surprising that often Cafe du Monde is the notable player when it comes to beignets and Cafe au Lait, what with the turnover of trip duration and endless sites to see and drinks to drink. However the coffee and beignet culture in the city runs even deeper.
If we’re talking beignets, it’s important to note that there are actually three beloved spots in particular that both tourists and locals enjoy frequenting for these fried treats and their caffeinated counterpart: Cafe du Monde, Cafe Beignet, and Morning Call. While Cafe du Monde appears to be the “front runner”, thank to the airtime they particularly enjoy, everyone in this town has an opinion of “why X is better than Z, but
only slightly more than Y”.
“The public definitely does have their favorites… they have their preferences, one over the other. They have their own experiences. They have their own interpretations of the histories of both places… [and]
that’s where the ‘Battle’ of it actually comes out. It’s like, people’s competing perceptions and opinions
and preferences.” – Ian McNulty, Food Writer for the New Orleans Advocate
Throughout my own time in New Orleans, I quickly became worn down by the beignet buzz. That was
until word came out of Morning Call potentially being displaced by another Cafe du Monde location early
Morning Call held an especially important place in my heart for a number of reasons, as my visits were
often tied to very poignant memories of my life New Orleans. The last of three locations, Morning Call
Coffee Stand resides in the Casino Building of City Park, a public building leased by businesses to
generate revenue for themselves and City Park itself. Since 2012, this location has happily doled out their
fare to patrons of the Park.
At the beginning of 2018, the Park put the Casino Building’s lease up for a public bidding process to
solicit a new 10-year lease of the space. While Morning Call posted the highest bid, $10,000 in rent plus
10.5% of their gross revenue (compared to the 10.25% posted by Cafe du Monde), technicalities in the
process made City Park award the lease to the next highest bid, made by Cafe du Monde.
After an ensuing lawsuit between Morning Call and the Park, a New Orleans Civil District Court judge
ruled to nullify the original bidding process in August 2018, with City Park later announcing on
September 4th that they would re-open the bidding process at a later date after the events of the Summer.
While the ripples of the lawsuit hadn’t shaken most except the main players themselves, the thought of
Morning Call being displaced struck a nerve with me. With gentrification being an epidemic within this
city, the idea of another historic locale being displaced by more a “powerful” entity in the same business
felt close to (my, albeit temporary) home.
Sitting in Morning Call around 11 o’clock in the morning, you are greeted with a cacophony of noises,
comforting in their chaos. The floors are dirty, but in a lived in and loved in kind of way. The lights have
collected dust, and there is water damage on the ceiling, but it only marginally detracts from its beautiful
sea foam green panels. Here the staff, each adorned with a paper hat and bowtie, aren’t rushed to turn
over tables and churn out customers. The pace is much more comfortable, yielding to both the needs
locals and tourists alike. Boasting a menu including even more local New Orleanian fare than just
beignets, it is certainly an oasis tempting passerbys to stop and take in the day. Why not sit and stay a
For some, like myself, these are the details that make Morning Call a gem worthy of preservation,
especially in the face of displacement by a “fan favorite”. For others, it’s more of a question of quality
and ambience, as they are energized by the hustle and bustle of the original Cafe du Monde instead.
Regardless of one’s Cafe au Lait allegiance however, I think we (might) agree that only in a city like New
Orleans could so much farefare be created and continue to be created around these French donuts.
At the opening of my talk with Mr. McNulty, he described New Orleans as being “… full of stories like
this because the city is so particular, so unique, so itself.” And while i’m sure truer words have been said,
I can’t say any other city would tune into a “battle” as mundane, unobtrusive, and yet incredibly telling as
the one which these donut shops found themselves in. Only in a place such as this, with all its
wonderfully bizarre and brilliant particularities.