From New Orleans to White Center: Mardi Gras Donuts is all about the beignets

By Tracy Record and Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog/White Center Now co-publishers

First word arrived via a tweet directed at us by Caffé Delia in White Center, with a photo of newly opened Mardi Gras Donuts and the message, “Donuts! In Rat City!” So we headed over to investigate.

More than the donuts, it turns out, Mardi Gras is all about the beignets.

That’s what proprietor Michael Williams (“call me Mike”) told us.

The donuts are a sideline to the beignets (ben-YAYS, as he pronounces it in his New Orleans accent – “New Orleans born and raised,” he says proudly).

He’s been open a few days at 9828 16th SW (a storefront that’s been a bakery before). Signage just went up yesterday. No decorations inside, and when we walked in, we wondered if he would tell us he’s not really open yet. But oh, he is.

His marquee item, the beignets, are 3 for $2.25. He says he’s making and selling other types of donuts because, well, that’s expected – cakes, glazed, honey buns, apple fritters, twists, donut holes.

He’s here as what sounds to be the latest stop on a cross-country journey of sorts. He worked in a donut shop in New Orleans that gained fame via a Food Network feature in 2011. Later that year in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, he opened his first Mardi Gras Donuts shop, featured in local news there.

Deciding to make a move, Williams said he almost wound up in Fargo, North Dakota, where he owned some property. The prospect of deep-freeze winter was a little much. Talking to a wholesaler, he heard Seattle didn’t have much in the way of beignets. So here he is.

6 am-8 pm for starters (Williams says he’s still figuring out the hours depending on how the customer flow goes), and during the morning, they’ll make hot glazed donuts while you wait. Cash only, by the way.

50 Replies to "From New Orleans to White Center: Mardi Gras Donuts is all about the beignets"

  • rob February 26, 2015 (5:15 pm)

    This is great news, but lets get off the rat city. The area is call white center. You know after one of the founders of the area. Mr, White.

  • coffee February 26, 2015 (5:43 pm)

    Dear god, my waist line will become huge….and he is right up the street from me! Im so there tomorrow morning!

  • Beverly K February 26, 2015 (5:45 pm)

    But do they serve chicory coffee???? Will check it out this weekend. Can’t wait!!!!!

  • ws foodie February 26, 2015 (5:46 pm)

    Yay for beignets! What about muffalettas or oyster po’boys?

  • Rob February 26, 2015 (5:52 pm)

    Tried them the other day. They make a great donut

  • Andi February 26, 2015 (5:56 pm)

    I’ll be visiting ASAP! Good thing WC is an uphill both ways walk from my house…

  • elikapeka February 26, 2015 (6:01 pm)

    I know where I’m heading this weekend!

  • Myr-myr February 26, 2015 (6:11 pm)

    I’m drooling! Missed my beignets! Can’t wait to dig in!

  • Benay February 26, 2015 (6:27 pm)

    yes can you please advise on which foods network program mr michael ‘mike’ williams appeared i recall examining a program in october 2013 demonstrating a gentleman who had a similar character im wondering if this is that same gentleman. disappointed that im seeing a cash only sign including my personal habit of using a credit card for all purchases. looking forward to your response regarding this foods network instance.

  • heather February 26, 2015 (6:35 pm)

    Oh my god YES!

  • jissy February 26, 2015 (6:37 pm)

    Uh oh — that’s going to be a problem for my waistline!

  • TM February 26, 2015 (6:57 pm)

    Yeah you right! Looking forward to coming by

  • RarelyEver February 26, 2015 (7:07 pm)

    BEIGNETS, OMG!!! It’s something I can only have once a month, unfortunately, but a good, NOLA-style beignet is a true thing of beauty… I’ll definitely be by to check them out. :)

  • Cheryl February 26, 2015 (7:55 pm)

    Add King Cakes and chicory coffee to the list, and I’d gladly come off “the rock” to visit Mardis Gras weekly. Yum!

  • NorDel February 26, 2015 (8:01 pm)

    Dare I ask…..what’s a beignet?

    • WSB February 26, 2015 (8:20 pm)

      We didn’t know, either. I believe I’ve linked the first instance of the word to the Wikipedia explanation.

  • WS Native February 26, 2015 (8:50 pm)

    Hope they are as good as I’ve had down in New Orleans. And yes I hope they have Chicory coffee to accommodate the beignet greatness. Google Cafe Du Monde (New Orleans), to understand their greatness. I will be going this next week. YUM

  • westseattledood February 26, 2015 (9:01 pm)

    Speaking of Mardi Gras in White Center, wasn’t there a White Center Mardi Gras parade back in the day? Am I making this up or confusing it with another old-timey WC parade? There’s an old photograph of it at the SWHS. Looked to be in the early 50’s? Any local historians out there know about this?

    I think White Center should have a Mardi Gras parade. Don’t let the dream die Mardi Gras doughnuts.

  • Heather February 26, 2015 (9:25 pm)

    @NorDel you can look at the link but a good beignet is an eggier dough, like a brioche, that’s lightly fried and dusted with powdered sugar. It should never be heavy, oily or taste fried like a fritter. Instead it’s very soft and light inside with a delicate crispy outside. The batter is dolloped into the oil creating ridges that when warm, catch and melt the powdered sugar. But not piled with sugar and super sweet like a donut. Dipped into coffee the inside absorbs the liquid but the crisp remains. They’re really wonderful. They’re best when warm but if you can’t get them then, as they’re cooked in oil, expect them to be a bit heavier and the outside less ‘delicate crisp’ but still delicious.

  • newesty February 26, 2015 (9:59 pm)

    Please stop with the waistline comments, it kills the joy of this new establishment. I’m fairly certain the owner didn’t open it to expand your waistline but to please your palette. I’m excited to eat a delicious donut or beignet from this place and support another local WS business. Eat what you love, love what you eat.

  • WSB February 26, 2015 (10:08 pm)

    Newesty – I am pretty sure those were just jokes. Size-shaming is against the rules here (along with shaming/criticism/prejudice against other traits with which people are born). Sorry if it came off as such – we work to keep this little corner of the web more civil than most of the rest. We appreciate the readership’s general love of food and food discussion and once we heard about this, knew we had no choice but to go fact-find. (We don’t do taste-testing or reviews, though, so we’ll have to leave that to you all.)
    Re: those wondering about anything else on the menu aside from the beignets/donuts – be aware that this place JUST opened and as we mentioned, the interior was quite bare-bones. Almost like a wholesale bakery with a front counter for some retail sales. – TR

  • Joe Szilagyi February 26, 2015 (10:19 pm)

    RIP my diet.

  • Joe Szilagyi February 26, 2015 (10:22 pm)

    Actually, I think the only beignets considered “decent to good” in Seattle are at Toulouse Petit on Queen Anne & Mercer, if I remember right. The only other really good New Orleans food (that I know of) is Marcela’s Creole in Pioneer Square. The actual New Orleans Cafe on 1st down there was good but more for the music… but they’ve been renovating for like two years, so who knows what happened to them.

  • WSobserver February 26, 2015 (10:36 pm)

    Who doesn’t love that sign?
    “Hot When Flashing”

  • justducky February 26, 2015 (10:43 pm)

    Yay! I remember a little bakery at Seattle Center (back then called the ‘center house’, now ‘armory’) made and sold fresh beignets. They were my Cafe du Monde fix, now long gone, and I just love them. Nothing like getting covered in powdered sugar trying to eat them! Would love to see king cakes there, too bad Fat Tuesday just passed.

  • newnative February 26, 2015 (10:58 pm)

    Meanders has been serving just fine beignets for a good while.

  • Richard February 26, 2015 (10:59 pm)

    Rat City just got a little tastier, and the Eastside of 16th just got a little deeper in its Southern flavor too. BBQ, beignets, and now all is needed is some live 2nd line, zydeco, Lenny Kravitz, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Harry Connick Jr. or Dumpstafunk music, oh and a mint julep too.

  • Kara February 27, 2015 (12:58 am)

    When my grandparents moved here in their twenties, working at Boeing and Sears, WC was called Rat City, my dad calls it Rat City, and hence too so have I, I love it! It’s just part of our history, maybe once us old timers fade away so will it, but until then own it ;)
    Also, so excited for this, when I was volunteering to rebuild after Katrina the food was a great reward after a long day, can’t wait!

  • Omri February 27, 2015 (3:11 am)

    My girlfriend and I were strolling back to our car after a brunch at Meander’s last weekend, when we noticed Mike putting up the Grand Opening sign and stopped to investigate. We’d already had a plate of Meander’s lovely beignets (into which I drizzled some of their sweet orange cardamom syrup) upon noticing them on the menu, but absolutely couldn’t pass up Mike’s offer of sample beignets for us inside.

    Boy, were they good, with airy dough and such a serious dusting of powdered sugar that makes one look as if they have a serious drug habit. We just had to get each of their donuts to try later (glazed, honey bun, cinnamon twist, apple fritter), and I’m happy to report they were all just as wonderfully fluffy and delicious.

    Highly recommended. I know we’ll be going back soon.

  • Orca February 27, 2015 (6:21 am)

    The origin of “Rat City” has nothing to do with rats.

    RAT is an acronym from WWII for a facility that was located in the now WC area.

    Someone can post the actual history in another thread so as not to hijack this beignet shop discussion.

  • NorDel February 27, 2015 (6:24 am)

    @Heather- THANK YOU! That is what I was looking for! I followed the link, but I knew that picture and description didn’t do the pastry justice. I’ll have to taste test them soon!

  • Pibal February 27, 2015 (8:01 am)

    Never miss a stop at Cafe du Monde when visiting the Crescent City (I’ll let you google that one). Just the best, especially after a bowl of gumbo on white rice.

    All I can offer is don’t wear dark slacks, unless you want to show off a powdered sugar badge of honor on them the rest of the day.

    Hmmmm….. Wonder if Mike will offer a free beignet if you can correctly spell the street pronounced CHOOP-EH-TOO-LIS or if you can explain why the West Bank is in east New Orleans…

    Lasisez les bon temps roulez!

  • AG February 27, 2015 (8:38 am)

    For those who’re looking for a good po’boy, etc, check out “Where Ya At Matt” food truck. He also makes fresh beignets that are delicious. Sadly, I had to give up all wheat recently, so I won’t be sampling that particular goodness unless someone figures out a good wheat-free version. I’m thinking mochi dough might make an acceptable-ish variation. Hm.

  • East Coast Cynic February 27, 2015 (10:08 am)

    If Mardi Gras can whip up Vanilla Custard stuffed w/ chocolate on top donuts(Boston Crème), I’m interested:).

  • chelle February 27, 2015 (10:32 am)

    Went at 9 and they had a sign that they needed supplies and would be back at 10. Ran some errands, came back and they were still closed at 10:05. Sad we didn’t get to try their beignets. There were about 7 or 8 people waiting in their cars outside too.

    • WSB February 27, 2015 (10:43 am)

      Sorry to hear that – hours were posted at 6 am to 8 pm when we stopped by, but businesses do tend to be sorting things out in the early weeks … I recall the early days of Zippy’s in Highland Park, often running out in the early going until they figured out the rhythm.

  • Photon February 27, 2015 (10:39 am)

    @Richard Don’t forget the crawfish place a block or two further south!

  • Mark February 27, 2015 (11:22 am)

    Was there this morning too!!! No Beignets, ack! will try again tomorrow.

  • Anne February 27, 2015 (12:06 pm)

    Went by @ 8:15- sign said back at 9.- out getting supplies. Will try again — but sure had our taste buds ready for fresh beignets & doughnuts!

  • 2 Much Whine February 27, 2015 (12:50 pm)

    For those of you that do not know what a beignet is, watch the recent movie “Chef.” If you like food you’ll likely like this movie. Beignets play a role in the storyline. I’m visiting tonight to get my first taste before going to my first Mardi Gras night at Senior Center Bingo. Can’t wait!

  • Ex-Westwood Resident February 27, 2015 (5:45 pm)

    For those looking for Chicory coffee, Planet Coffee has a good one.
    I bought it at the Asian store in the strip mall behind the old Safeway on Roxbury.

  • R C Lives February 27, 2015 (7:56 pm)

    Orca…. You are correct on the origin of the term “Rat City” . It was an acronim for the Regional Army Training Center. The Army housing units became the White Center and Highland Park Projects…White Center was just written up the best nieghborhood to offer the most diverse and exceptional cuisine in the Seattle area….A Hidden Secret until now

  • AR February 28, 2015 (10:56 am)

    I’ll be there as soon as Lent is over!

  • beth February 28, 2015 (12:05 pm)

    Just had beignets and they’re amazing!!!! Best in the city, hands down. Only complaint is no coffee for sale!

  • CMP March 1, 2015 (9:41 am)

    I just got home and devoured all three of my beignets, they were delicious. It is a bare-bones shop, no seating and no heat it seemed. Mike was super busy getting donuts and beignets to customers, was very nice about explaining that the dough needed to rise for at least 30 minutes before his next batch so be aware of that potential wait. Bring some coffee, a book or a friend to chat with in case it’s not ready. Worth the wait and I wish this business well, I’ll certainly stop by periodically for the occasional treat!

  • AN March 2, 2015 (2:32 pm)

    yummmm, stopped in on Friday evening for a taste. I went back on Sunday with the hopes that they would be open but :( no.
    I will go again because they were sooo good

  • Oculus Prime March 2, 2015 (8:41 pm)

    Buy a can of Pillsbury biscuit dough, roll it into balls. Deep fry them. Let them cool a little bit. Roll them in powdered sugar. That’s beignets

  • panda March 3, 2015 (4:03 pm)

    Went on Saturday and ordered 6. They were amazing. The place was packed but we only waited maybe 8 minutes after placing my order. They need to manage the line a little better however. Section off an ORDER HERE lane then a waiting area. Every time someone came in they had to ask who had ordered.

    Good stuff. Will be back.

  • Cynthia March 4, 2015 (9:47 pm)

    Just so you know, the beignets are the size of my hand, palm to finger tips. $2.25 for 3 of these pieces of Heaven is such a steal! We ordered 6 because we thought they’d be tiny; they’re not! Please keep going, so they can figure out their flow and White Center can continue to be delicious.

  • ML March 6, 2015 (11:24 am)

    I have not been yet, but my husband went yesterday and said they are DELICIOUS, best in Seattle. I can’t wait to try for myself!

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