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New Orleans, home of Mardi Gras, crawfish beignets, gumbo, the Sazerac, the Saints, the French Quarter, ungodly summer heat – and lots of coffee. Seriously, this place seems to love its coffee, and not just the iconic Café Du Monde.
When I went looking for breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning in May, I wasn’t actually hunting for a coffee shop. Someone had told me The Trolley Stop had the best breakfast, so I was considering how to get there, and whether I had the wherewithal to figure out the street car system and travel into the Garden District, before breakfast. Meanwhile, my wandering feet carried me into Factor’s Row, one of the many unique historic areas of New Orleans.
Café bon Ami sits on Perdido Street, just about three blocks south of the AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon. It’s in the Central Business District, nestled among – you guessed it – other businesses. The only one I remember for sure is a tailor.
On an increasingly warm late morning, the clean, quiet little coffee shop seemed as good a place as any to nurse my Bourbon Street hangover. The place had only been open for a couple of months, and I would have walked right by without noticing it, if not for their sandwich board proclaiming that they were “Now Open.” Who says old-school advertising doesn’t work?
I tried to get a pour-over, not because it’s the one true way to make coffee, but it is a decent method for allowing you to taste the quality of the bean. They were having issues with their drip grinder, and offered me an Americano for the same price. No complaints there. The Americano was well-balanced, though I admit to adding some cream and raw sugar.
Café Bon Ami gets their coffee from a roaster called Café Grumpy, in Brooklyn. Why their coffee?
The owner, who said she was the “Bon” in Bon Ami, and her sister is Ami, used to enjoy Café Grumpy when she lived in Brooklyn. When Bon Ami was opening, the folks from Café Grumpy consulted on the setup, helped them figure out what equipment to buy for the shop, and so on. Looks like they offered good advice, too. Everything from the grinder (which the owner cleaned out and got working again as I chatted with her) to the espresso machine seemed legit. No prosumer gear that I could spot, among all that stainless steel.
The atmosphere in the cafe was modern, with a sort of zen feel that paired well with the sunlight streaming through the front window, and my own lazy attitude. The raw sugar simple syrup (homemade) was a nice touch, too. To keep my Americano company, I ordered a savory cruffin (cross between a croissant and a muffin) which I’m fairly sure Bon said was made by Gracious, a local bakery.
Between that and the coffee, I revived enough to chat with the owner about coffee shops in Dallas (a scene I definitely need to explore more), and gather some recommendations for places to get lunch. If fuzzy memory serves, the French Market was on her recommendation list, as were a couple of places in the Warehouse District.
New Orleans definitely likes to party.
They’re famous for it, after all. Perhaps that has something to do with their obvious appreciation for the coffee bean. Not counting the ubiquitous brand from Seattle, Google Maps shows something like 10 coffee shops within a reasonable walk from my hotel. I think my map search missed a couple, too. Some do indeed pour chicory coffee, but there’s a vast world of coffee out there, and New Orleans is apparently into it. Thank goodness, because the French Quarter ain’t no joke.