The one overwhelming advice I got pre-trip to New Orleans was to get beignets from Cafe du Monde.
At first, I didn't even know what a beignet was. The french pastry is similar to a New York Zeppole or English fritter – a deep fried pastry dough served high and fresh with loads of powdered sugar on top. New Orleans is beignet central, as they were brought to the city at its founding by the French Creoles.
While in New Orleans, the undisputed cafe to get your beignet and cafe au lait fix is Cafe du Monde. The original coffee stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market on the river and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is always a line, but service moves decently fast. If you just want a bag of beignets to go, head to the back and order from the window.
Each order comes with three medium sized beignets. As I didn't know what to expect, I thought Cafe du Monde would be an actual coffee shop, but it's more like a large stand with a roof awning. It's not really a place to linger but it's definitely worth a visit. The beignets come out piping hot, crunchy on the outside with a soft steamed inside and the liberal amounts of powdered sugar make it quite tasty. Note that if you get a to-go bag as I did, there's not really much seating so it can be a bit of an awkward juggle to eat and hold your cafe au lait.
Afterwards, head down to the riverfront for a leisurely stroll, check out the outlet mall or take a ride on a steamboat Natchez riverboat.
Headed to New Orleans for a long weekend? Check out my city travel guide and 4 day itinerary here.