Beignet Café serves up Southern cuisine with a Creole twist
WRITTEN BY STEPHANIE L. ROBERTSON
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
What is a beignet?
According to the official New Orleans Tourism website, “Beignets were first introduced to the city by the French-Creole colonists in the 18th century.” The square fritter – deep-fried and covered with a generous blanket of confectioners’ sugar – is New Orleans’s official “doughnut.” One could journey to the Big Easy to satisfy a craving for the piping hot powdered confection or simply swing over to Madison’s own Beignet Café at 1591 A Hughes Road.
Whether someone is looking for a place to bring the whole gang, have a date night or just meet for coffee and dessert with friends, Beignet Café might be the perfect alternative to chain restaurants.
The café is the concept of restauranteurs Denise and Drew Tyriver. Drew started his career in the Red Lobster test kitchen. The restaurant sent him to culinary school, and afterward he worked in culinary development for the famous chain for about 13 years. Meanwhile, Denise worked in operations for the restaurant until becoming a stay-at-home mom.
Later, Drew took a job with Tago’s out of San Jose, California. For years he commuted between Los Angeles and their home in Massachusetts. “We wanted to get back to the Southeast,” said Denise. “We had family who had moved here to Huntsville, so we thought, ‘Well, let’s go check out Alabama.’”
The couple purchased Ole Hickory BBQ in New Market but also had their eyes on opening something new – something different.
“When Drew was working in Massachusetts, he traveled to New Orleans a lot for chefs’ symposiums and conferences,” Denise said. “There’s not a bad meal in New Orleans. There’s just not. We love New Orleans, and we thought, ‘You know, nobody’s really doing beignets. Let’s kind of look at that.’”
The couple opened the first Beignet Café in Huntsville. Because of its great success, they later opened the one in Madison about seven months ago.
Not just beignets
Denise will be the first to say they are not trying to replicate the beignets in New Orleans. “We have our own little spin on them. We’re not trying to duplicate anybody – and then, we have a full-blown menu.”
The menu’s extensive list of Southern favorites includes options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beignet Café offers sandwiches, po’ boys, salads, jambalaya, Louisiana gumbo, sides, desserts, gluten-free options and a children’s menu.
For people who are seeking breakfast food such as finger-licking French toast with strawberry sauce, Beignet Café is the right place. “Dirty grits are the most popular item on the menu,” added Denise. The dish melds creamy down-home, Southern grits with blackened chicken and andouille.
“My favorite thing is when guests become regulars,” said Denise. “We know who they are, we know what they like, and we know what they want to drink before they even sit down. The best part is the very kind people we’ve met on our journey.”
Of course, guests to Beignet Café should understand they aren’t ordering fast food. “Sometimes there may be a little bit of a wait because everything is made fresh and to order,” explained Denise. “Your beignets are not sitting there under a heat lamp. Your French fries are not pre-cooked. Because our food truly is fresh and made-to-order, sometimes it takes a little longer.” Customers can order by phone and pick up their meals at Beignet Café’s window, or they can enjoy their meals on the front patio or relax in the dining area.
All but one piece of artwork in the dining area “is original art by local artist Elizabeth Audenaert of Ten Six Studios,” said Denise. “She’s an amazing artist. These are all her ideas, her concepts.” Denise and Drew said they put a lot of thought and sweat equity into the design and function of their restaurant.
Giving back to Madison
Beignet Café is also committed to giving back to the Madison community. The restaurant sponsors school events by hosting spirit nights, buying ad space and more.
“There’s a men’s Bible study group that meets here every Friday,” said Denise. “We recently catered WDRM’s listener lounge. We hosted a coffee and connections networking group for 80 people and catered breakfast for Madison Street Festival volunteers.”
Beignet Café provides ample space for special events such as networking groups, reunions, wedding brunches, office parties and more.
Call 256-325-3820 to reserve Beignet Café for an after-hours event, or for more information, visit www.beignetcafe.org or find the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.