You’ll know people who grew up in New Orleans the second you meet them. There isn’t some shared physical or genetic trait or even a discernible accent. You’ll know because we’ll constantly tell you we grew up in New Orleans.
I know this because I'm one of them. I grew up there for my entire childhood and teenage years. I still root for the New Orleans Saints. I'm the guy my friends go to when they want to know the best restaurants to visit for their honeymoons, weekend getaways or vacation food binges.
Can you blame us? It’s one of the biggest cultural hubs and most sought after travel destinations in the world for so many reasons, the chief of which is the food. It’s a culinary philosophy based on the thesis that, “Hey, you’re gonna die from something. Why not go out putting something in your gut that makes you happy?”
One of my all-time favorites is the French-fried beignet, a satisfying take on the fritter that’s a square, bean bag-sized mass of delicate dough covered in powdered sugar. It’s often paired with strong chicory coffee or café au lait, making it a wonderful breakfast treat, a tasty dessert and a perfect treatment for being drunk and hung over.
A big part of my childhood was spent at beignet places, whether it was after church on Sunday, during school field trips to the French Quarter or just needing a way to pass time before or after a movie.
Cafe Du Monde is the most famous dispensary brand of this Crescent City staple, but Morning Call was my family’s preferred dealer, because it didn’t require wading through waves of tourists or trying to find the one empty parking spot downtown that’s there simply to mock the drivers who miss them.
There are plenty of places to get good beignets in Dallas, such as Toulouse Cafe and Bar, Grand Lux Cafe and Haute Sweets Patisserie. But a true New Orleans beignet comes from a place that dedicates its entire menu to just these pillowy puffed pastries. Finally, Dallas has one with Le Bons Temps on Main Street in Deep Ellum.
The space is small, but you don’t need a dining room space to get a good beignet. You’re either going to have to eat it standing on the sidewalk, sitting on the outdoor dining set or after taking it home. You can also eat it in your car, but that’s risky with the powdered sugar. If you don’t care about the interior looking like the police dusted it for fingerprints by the time you’re done, then it’s technically possible.
The menu is slightly bigger than the traditional beignet place, with extra New Orleans dessert options like bananas Foster made with vanilla bourbon and pecan pralines. But their primary purveyance is beignets, and they do them very well.
Beignets may be in the pastry family, but they shouldn’t be structured like a doughnut or some cream-filled concoction. They are fried pockets filled with a geode of soft dough. Le Bon Temps’ beignets are soft and yielding, like cake with light and fluffy insides encased by delicate foundations of dough that deliver mouthfuls of delicious powdered sugar.
The first bite is sweet without an ounce of crunch, which is really the magic of the beignet. It’s like eating the optical illusion where one part of the shape appears to have three prongs, but the hinge only shows there should be two of them.
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They also don’t skimp on the powdered sugar, which is the necessary final ingredient. There should be a small re-creation of the Swiss Alps made out of sugar on top of the beignet, as it nests in a bed of the powder underneath. My attempts to savor every bite caused me to momentarily forget that I require breathing to survive, and as I took a breath in, a cloud of powdered sugar slammed into the back of my throat. It’s the most delicious coughing fit I’ve ever suffered.
The shop also offers a slightly denser take on the beignet called the Le Boneignet that’s basically a cronut taking on the beignet. If you’ve never had a beignet (for starters, why are you so afraid to be happy), you should start with the classic version, then move up to this one. The Le Boneignet is also a delicious treat that gives the traditional beignet slightly more weight and bite resistance, but it’s also very tasty, pairing just as well with a hard shot of chicory coffee or café au lait. The classic and Le Boneignet even go well together if you can clear the next few hours for the beautiful nap the combined dough and sugar produce in you.
Le Bon Temps would fit as well in the French Quarter as it hopefully will for years to come in Deep Ellum. If you only go to New Orleans for the beignets, Le Bon Temps is a wonderful excuse to not waste your frequent flyer miles on the whims of your addictions.
Le Bon Temps, 2932 Main St. (Deep Ellum). Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.