I’ll confess right up front. I didn’t know exactly what a beignet was.
I knew it was associated with New Orleans cuisine, and I’d gathered from context that it was a pastry of some kind, but beyond that? No idea. And I didn’t try to find out. I darkened the door of Beignet Café not knowing.
But I’m skipping ahead to dessert, aren’t I?
Beignet Café Menu
Beignet Café, on Winchester Rd. in rapidly-growing northeast Huntsville, serves mainly New Orleans fare for breakfast and lunch (which is what we had). Po’ boys and numerous other sandwiches are available, as are salads and fried baskets. Jambalaya and gumbo round out the lunch offerings. Entrees are consistently $6-9.
Given the shopping center location and somewhat cozy dining room, a fast casual experience seemed a reasonable expectation. So I was delighted to find full service. Our server was attentive without hovering, and the owner checked with us to make sure we were pleased with everything.
My dining companion paired her cranberry pecan chicken salad sandwich with fried okra. She was pleased with her selection, calling it an excellent blend of obviously fresh ingredients. My blackened chicken po’ boy was appealingly seasoned and prepared perfectly, not suffering from the dryness that is much too common with this cooking method.
We also shared some jambalaya, which comes with chicken and sausage, and to which you can add shrimp for a slight additional charge. More good tastes here, with Louisiana hot sauce presented promptly upon request.
So, back to those beignets. Turns out they’re perfect little puffs of goodness, lightly fried and topped with powdered sugar. Call them funnel cakes that have been to finishing school. They’re served just barely cool enough to handle, and they’re marvelously indulgent. I enjoyed a black coffee with mine. I bet they’d be even a little better with a glass of cold milk.
I suspected that ordering a dozen ($8) and taking leftovers home was a common play, and our server confirmed this. She also gave me a pro tip, which I now pass along to you: order what you think you’re going to eat in the restaurant with the powdered sugar. But, get the sugar on the side for what you think you’ll take home. (This keeps the sugar from dissolving into the dough.) At home, wrap the beignets in foil and go about 10 minutes at 350º. Then, put the sugar on right before you serve.
I’ll add that this is the ultimate you-can’t-look-cool-eating-this food. They’re much too large to pop in your mouth whole, but if you take a bite, then won’t powdered sugar go everywhere? Indeed it does. There is no being careful enough to avoid a mess. Just manage as best you can. I started to say stay away from these things on a first date, but if you want an instant litmus test for whether s/he takes himself/herself too seriously, they could be just the thing.
Though we didn’t have breakfast, a peek at that menu reveals that beignets are available the way we ordered them, or also served with syrup (“pancake style”). You can also get French toast, oatmeal, breakfast po’ boys, egg bakes, or grits (and dirty grits, with andouille and chicken, may bring me back some morning).
Beignet Café’s children’s menu includes a few scaled-down regular menu offerings, as well as a corn dog. Highchairs are available. The for-everyone restroom is a clean single-seater without a changing table.
Other than abbreviated hours, there are no downsides to the Beignet Café experience. Food and service were both excellent on our visit, and pricing is reasonable. Put this place in your rotation.
Address: 2246 Winchester Rd. NE, Huntsville (map)
Phone: (256) 929-4402
Hours:Open Tuesday through Saturday, 6 am – 2 pm
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