“You’re in for a treat. These are every bit as good as the ones at Cafe du Monde.”
The chatty dude behind us in line was referring to the New Orleans landmark renowned as a mecca for beignet aficionados. He went on to say that he had been a fan of Mr. A’s Beignets ever since he first spotted the bright yellow truck parked in a small gravel lot on North Salem Street in Apex a couple of years ago.
He had heard others favorably compare the truck’s beignets to the legendary ones at Cafe du Monde, and had always wondered if it was true. He’d finally been able to make the pastry pilgrimage to the French Quarter institution this past summer and was now enthusiastically confirming his findings with anyone who would listen.
It has been several years — okay, decades — since I last had beignets at Cafe du Monde, but I’ve got to say I agree with his assessment. These are the quintessential beignets: pillows of deep-fried yeast dough (think “square doughnut”), light but with a gratifyingly chewy-tender texture, deep-fried to a delicately crisp golden brown, blanketed with a blizzard of powdered sugar.
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And no wonder. The truck’s owner, Arlton (that’s Mr. A) Cangelosi, was born and raised in New Orleans. He first worked as a 16-year-old for Dunkin’ Donuts, then honed his skills with a year-and-a-half stint at a Big Easy beignet shop. After moving on to a more “serious” career with the U.S. Postal Service, he retired after 30 years and revived his early pastry passion by starting Mr. A’s Beignets in 2015.
You’ll usually find him at the fryer, turning out beignets to order by the dozen (or more accurately, by the Lagniappe Dozen — that’s Creole for “baker’s dozen”). He also makes mini-beignets, a sort of square “doughnut hole” that’s popular with children, who also like to dip them in one of the optional sauces: Nutella, Hershey’s fudge, or caramel.
If you’re a beignet novice, a few tips are in order. First, as the sign over the menu says, they’re pronounced BEN-YAYS. Second, don’t inhale as you’re taking a bite, or you’ll snort about a kilo of powdered sugar. Third, the beignets are cooked to order, so be prepared to wait a bit. They don’t take long, though, and you can use the time to chat with the guy behind you in line.
That’s pretty much the entire menu, except for a handful of hot and cold beverage options. You’ll want try that other New Orleans specialty, coffee with chicory, at least once.
Granted, the menu is limited, but Mr. A’s Beignets is truly worth seeking out. Or to quote an expert on the subject, you’re in for a treat.
Mr. A’s Beignets
Where: Mr. A’s Beignets is usually — but not always — parked at 400 N. Salem St. Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings. A second truck sometimes makes appearances elsewhere. Check the calendar on restaurant’s website for the schedule.
Prices: beignets 3 for $4, 13 (“Lagniappe Dozen”) for $15;