Beignets are back in City Park following a brief hiatus, and, for the time being, they’re on wheels.

Café Du Monde last month won a lengthy public bid process to operate a cafe in the park’s Casino Building.

In the months ahead, the company will open a cafe based on the look and feel of its famous French Market location. While those renovations are underway, Café Du Monde's food truck will be parked beside the Casino Building to serve park visitors. 

Morning Call, which operated a cafe in City Park since 2012, closed on Jan. 20 after its bid to keep the space came in third behind Café Du Monde and another local contender, Café Beignet.

Hinging on the local passion for beignets and the two names most associated with them, the switch from Morning Call to Café Du Monde has been closely watched around New Orleans.   

The park’s lease requires Café Du Monde to open within 90 days. Jay Roman, an owner of the family-run company, said Café Du Monde will likely use all of that time for its renovations.

“I think we’ll need every minute of it,” Roman said. “While we have the opportunity here before we open, we want to make sure we’re taking the time to do it right.”

The food truck, he said, lets Café Du Monde establish its presence and serve the tour buses, local families and others who visit the park.

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Jay Roman, top right, president of Cafe Du Monde, helps Mike Bocage, top left, with Sign Lite, measure the spot for a new sign that will go on top of the Casino Building in City Park as renovation work gets underway in New Orleans on Tuesday, January 29, 2019.

The truck will operate daily, with initial hours scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The truck is deployed with its service window facing the Casino Building, where patrons are sheltered by the veranda that edges the building.

A station for Blue Bikes is nearby, should the spontaneous need to pedal off a few calories arise.

Renovations will start with overhauling the kitchen and will extend to the look and amenities around the Casino Building.

“If you can picture Café Du Monde, that’s what we’re planning here,” said Roman, referring to the brand’s historic location in the French Market at Jackson Square.

Inside, visitors will have a view of beignets being prepared in the kitchen. Outside, the veranda will have fans and heaters, like the covered patio at Café Du Monde’s main location. The familiar green- and white-striped awnings will be part of the design too.

Once open, the new Café Du Monde will operate daily, though it will not keep a 24-hour schedule like its French Quarter location, nor as Morning Call once did in City Park. Per requirements laid out by City Park, the cafe will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight. 

While this cafe is new, it will inhabit a century-old Spanish Mission Revival-style building with tile floors, spacious and airy outdoor seating areas and an evocative sense of history. Its windows and outdoor arches frame views of City Park’s lagoon and oaks, a popular playground for young families, and Popp Bandstand.

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Renovation work going on inside the new Cafe Du Monde location in City Park in New Orleans on Tuesday, January 29, 2019.

“The framework is great, the bones of this building are amazing, and that’s what we’re starting with,” said Roman.

Officially called the Timken Center, the Casino Building opened in 1913 as a spot for refreshments and park offices. It has been home to other food concessions in more recent times, including operations run by City Park itself.

In 2012, Morning Call began leasing the building. It was an expansion from its home base in Metairie, where the restaurant had done business for four decades after leaving its original home in the French Market.


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That Metairie location closed last spring, however, with the owners citing rising rents and a changing competitive landscape in Metairie. With the loss of the City Park location, Morning Call is homeless for now.

Co-owner Bob Hennessey has said Morning Call will reopen, but a new location has not been announced. 

Café Du Monde has nine locations in all, including its original stand in the French Market.


Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.