I told a friend once that if you could buy beignets closer to my home I might just die of a heart attack. Many years later in 2012 here comes Morning Call to City Park, open 24 hours of course, and, as they say in Monty Python, “I’m not dead yet.”
Morning Call took over the old casino building on Dreyfous Avenue, by the Popp Bandstand, a beautiful structure built in 1913 that previously had been serving some pretty lackluster concession stand fare and mostly just housed the closest clean restroom to the playground. As I sat down to write this I found surprisingly little information online about this space. I remember when I was a child it was a grungy place where one could rent swan boats. In the early 2000’s it had become a place for your child to beg for soft serve ice cream. Morning Call came in and returned it to a lovely piece of history, comfortable and casual, but with the white tablecloths and friendly wait staff adding an old fashioned dash of luxury. (Of course, the cash only policy also reminds one of older, less convenient times.) If you, like me, are not interested in the huge number of confusing, unnecessary choices at your local Starbucks then the coffee is perfect. If you are a cafe au lait gal then, as the song goes, nobody does it better. The beignets are everything that any New Orleans expat would dream of, but without the drive to Metairie or the parking nightmare of the French Quarter’s Cafe Du Monde. Beignets, for the uninitiated, are little pillows of fried dough that beckon enticingly to be covered in a blanket of powdered sugar. At Morning Call they have the courtesy to let you add your own powdered sugar from table side shakers. (I confess to unscrewing the tops. Those little holes slow me down.)
For whatever reason Morning Call chose to expand their menu at the City Park location, adding such things as gumbo, jambalaya, and ice cream as well as beer and irish coffee. Perhaps they hoped to take advantage of parents at the playground who neglected to pack a picnic. I also discovered they do mimosas when I spotted a couple of mothers ferrying glasses outside during a child’s birthday party. I am sure moms who have been to the park and desired the odd libation will heartily approve of the liquor license. I do not, however, understand the other menu additions. The gumbo and jambalaya are good but nothing to write home about and soft serve ice cream should probably be left to Dairy Queen. I would hate for some lost tourist to wander into Morning Call, try the gumbo, and think that’s what old New Orleans cuisine is all about. Still the existence of beignets in a beautiful old New Orleans building puts a smile on my face, a nice warm layer of fat around my heart, and makes it more likely that parents will bring their kids to the playground more often.