Hometown Hungers: Best Beignets Outside of New Orleans
No need to catch a ride to the Crescent City — or Louisiana, for that matter — to bite into a sugar-topped beignet. These charming spots across the country offer delicious spins on the delicate pastry.
Photo By: Amy Johnson ©Amy Johnson 2015
A Blissful Bite
Beignet is French for “fritter,” but if you’ve ever had one, you know it’s so much more than that. Typically served for breakfast or dessert, these airy pastries are made from dough, then deep-fried and heaped with a deliciously inordinate amount of powdered sugar. French colonists from Canada’s Acadia region brought beignets to Louisiana in the 1700s, with the pastries becoming such an integral part of the culinary canon that they were declared the state’s official doughnut in 1986. Beignets have long been synonymous with New Orleans in particular, where many cafes serve this signature dish. For those who can’t catch a ride to the Crescent City, however, these Food Network-approved spots across the country offer traditional takes on the deep-fried delight.
Photo of The Bywater's beignets courtesy of Joyce Oudkerk Pool
Grand Lux Cafe, Las Vegas
The Grand Lux Cafe was created for the Venetian in Las Vegas and was inspired by Italian trattorias, French bistros, and the grand cafes and pastry shops of Vienna. The cafe offers a variety of signature dishes from around the world, but the New Orleans-style beignets are not to be missed. They’re a very popular item on the menu here, thanks to their particularly light and airy consistency. And in typical Vegas style, these beignets arrive flanked by an extravagant entourage: three delicious sauces that are perfect for dipping.
Photo courtesy of Grand Lux Cafe
Go to: Grand Lux Cafe
Homage, Reno, Nev.
Chef-Owner Nicholle Alumbaugh offers a dizzying array of pastries at her Reno bakery, including piping-hot beignets. The dough is made the day before, allowing it a good night’s rest before it is rolled out, cut and fried to order, resulting in pillowy fritters served buried under a sheet of powdered sugar. Homage is particularly known for the savory-sweet combinations on its menu, including an interesting tweak on the traditional beignet: Each February an herbes-de-Provence version with lemon curd is offered for the duration of the month, to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Photo courtesy of Homage
Go to: Homage
Parish Cafe, Healdsburg, Calif.
Chef and owner Rob Lippincott is a Louisiana native who hails from Uptown New Orleans. A former charter boat captain, he honed his culinary chops at a fine-dining restaurant before striking out on his own to sell beignets at farmers markets in Northern California. Building on the success of that business, Lippincott opened Parish Cafe four years ago. The spot is about as close as you can get to New Orleans without actually stepping foot in the Crescent City. Lippincott turns out NOLA staples like gumbo, boudin balls and jambalaya, following recipes handed down from his mother and his grandmother. His light and airy beignets are a definite draw. They’re made traditionally, being rolled by hand and getting a quick fry before being doused in powdered sugar.
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Glassell
Go to: Parish Cafe
Eli’s Table, Charleston, S.C.
A mainstay on the menu, the airy and doughy beignets at Eli’s Table are fried golden brown, then served with a generous coating of powdered sugar. This fluffy white blanket of sugar contrasts beautifully with the crimson rivulets of bright berry coulis seeping down the sides of the pastry, which is a slight departure from a standard beignet. This menu must-try fits well with the theme of the restaurant, which offers both French and Southern specialties made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The beignets are served at both breakfast and brunch, just as they are in New Orleans.
Photo courtesy of J Michael Walker for Charleston Hospitality Group
Go to: Eli’s Table
Café Dupont, Birmingham, Ala.
Having grown up in New Orleans, Chef Chris Dupont wanted to include a few classics from his childhood when he opened his contemporary Southern restaurant in Springville, Ala., in 1994. Beignets were a favorite, so they were a definite must for his menu. Dupont found a few older New Orleans cookbooks in some used-book stores in the French Quarter and from there worked out several versions. These days, you can still find the beautiful, fluffy and perfectly structured square beignets being served at Café Dupont, which has since relocated to Birmingham.
Photo courtesy of Café Dupont
Go to: Café Dupont
The Bywater, Los Gatos, Calif.
This restaurant dreamed up by Chef David Kinch is a love letter to all things New Orleans, right down to the beads hanging on the wall. Kinch grew up in the Crescent City, where he began his career at the iconic Commander’s Palace restaurant in a kitchen that was helmed by the renowned Cajun and Creole chef Paul Prudhomme. Kinch brings what he learned in the formative years of his culinary training to the forefront at The Bywater, where the menu is rife with NOLA-inspired dishes. The beignets are made by Stephanie Prida, who is also the pastry chef at Kinch’s three-Michelin-star restaurant Manresa. Prida’s delightfully puffy pillows of fried dough peek out from beneath an avalanche of powdered sugar. They’re offered with chicory-laced coffee, another NOLA specialty.
Photo courtesy of Joyce Oudkerk Pool
Go to: The Bywater
The Beignet Truck, Los Angeles
When Chris Bautista traveled to New Orleans, he was inspired by the influences that inform the city’s signature dishes, including the obvious impact of French culinary traditions. Back in Los Angeles he craved beignets; he found them comforting and familiar, and thought these golden pastries had a special wow factor that he didn’t find in run-of-the-mill doughnuts. After several return trips, Bautista started making beignets from scratch at home, and the truck business was a natural progression. You can opt for the classic style of beignet that comes caked with powdered sugar or switch it up and get cinnamon sugar instead. Dipping sauces are also available, in case you want to plunge your pastry into something more decadent than coffee.
Photo courtesy of The Beignet Truck
Go to: The Beignet Truck
Queen’s Louisiana Po-Boy Cafe, San Francisco
Adele’s on Canton, Roswell, Ga.
Everything on Adele’s menu is inspired by and sourced from Louisiana, the home turf of Chef Marc Wegman, who trained under NOLA culinary legends Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse and Ella Brennan. Po’ boys dominate the menu, but don’t skip the dessert section, because that’s where you’ll find the beignets. The chef uses a proprietary blend of flours and a deft hand to produce a fluffy beignet that’s fried yet light as a cloud and served warm with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Loomis
Go to: Adele’s on Canton
Pitchoun Bakery, Los Angeles
To make his classic beignets, owner Frédéric Souliès uses a traditional recipe from the South of France, where he grew up playing in his grandparents’ bakery. Now with a bakery of his own, Souliès turns out beignets made with homemade brioche in small batches every morning. They are lightly fried, then stuffed with raspberry jam, homemade hazelnut-paste custard or Nutella. Though this filled version of the pastry served at Pitchoun Bakery is not the typical style seen today in New Orleans, it actually harks back to the original beignet recipe that was brought to New Orleans from France by way of Canada (via the French colonists known as Acadians).
Photo courtesy of Pitchoun Bakery
Go to: Pitchoun Bakery