I was up in Tampa yesterday morning, so I took the opportunity to stop by one of my favorite cafes for an authentic, New Orleans-style snack: café au lait and a beignet - a light and fluffy square of warm fried dough covered in powdered sugar. It was hard to stop at just one, although it was filling. The café au lait - half chicory coffee and half hot milk - was delicious, too.
The place is called Second Line Café, formerly Nola Café. Owner and New Orleans native Louis F. Robert, Jr. said he opened it six years ago because he couldn't find anything resembling authentic New Orleans-style cuisine anywhere nearby.
Honestly, it's the best crawfish etouffee I've had outside of the French Quarter. I bought some, plus the Red Beans and Rice (Louisiana-grown red kidney beans, smoked and Andouille sausage, onions and creole seasoning), plus the Shrimp Po' Boy sandwich and took it all home to have for dinner last night. Everything tasted great, even reheated.
Other menu items include Jambalaya, Chicken and Andouille Gumbo, Creole Turtle Soup au Sherry (yes, made with fresh Louisiana turtle meat) and the Alligator Burger (yes, you read that right).
The café also offers food items from New Orleans, like Zapp's potato chips (including Spicy Creole and Cajun Dill flavors), all kinds of sausage, beignet mix, hot sauce, Community Coffee (New Orleans blend), even New Orleans postcards and souvenirs (need a voodoo doll? Then this is your place).
Second Line is the type of place where you can come in for a full meal (BYOB with a $5 corkage fee), or just a tea or coffee drink (there are lots of options, including the "Dr. John," a dark chocolate and blackberry latte) and a snack (try "The Big Easy," two scoops of ice cream, a shot of espresso and a beignet in the middle).
There's also a branch on Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg.