Coffee, Beignets, Bit Of Normalcy

Jay Roman runs his family's business, a 153-year-old café, a New Orleans institution: Café du Monde.

"I've been here since I was 11 years old," he says. To many customers, the cafe is synonymous with New Orleans.

"It was like, 'Where do you wanna go' after you got up, and the answer was, 'Let's go have some coffee and beignets (a French pastry),' and we'd come here," says Lelia DuValle, a New Orleans resident.

"We'd start to come alive at 6 a.m., and by 9, we're full of people. … The tables are just alive with a hodgepodge of people, and that's what so great about it," says Roman, the café's vice president.

Café du Monde is known for its chicory coffee, Trish Regan.

"When you add that chicory," says Roman, "it just adds a flavor that we here in New Orleans grew up with."

It's even better known for its beignets.

How many calories do the deep-fried treats have, Regan wondered.

"We check calories here at the border in New Orleans," laughed Roman.

The menu of coffee and pastry hasn't changed much since the café opened.

The café is so popular, Regan says, that ordinarily, it never closes, except for Christmas.

And the occasional hurricane.

"When the wind blows strong enough to blow the powdered sugar off the beignets, then we'll close for a little while and then reopen," Roman said before Hurricane Katrina.

After the longest closing in the café's history, seven weeks, Roman reopened his business Wednesday.

"You've got to get these businesses open, give (evacuees) something to come home for," he says. "Sure, it's going to be slow for awhile, but New Orleans is too great a city to stand idle for too long."

And Roman hopes that, by reopening the café, the aroma of coffee and beignets will remind people just why so many still want to call New Orleans home.

Regan says there was a "very festive" Wednesday morning. "There's music. There's a lot of people out here, having their first cup of coffee.

"It's an interesting cross-section of people. A lot of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency" workers, rescue workers, some friends of (Roman) and, of course, the media."
  • Brian Dakss

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