I can never find Tout de Suite by the same route twice. Invariably I get turned around in the off-kilter grid of Algiers Point streets, so each visit first entails an inadvertent tour around this beautiful neighborhood of gingerbread woodwork and pocket parks.
As it turns out, this makes an appropriate introduction to Tout de Suite, because upon arriving it's clear this eclectic, colorful cafe is a focal point for the neighborhood around it. Tout de Suite is a place for Algerians to grab a croissant on the way to work, read the Sunday paper over a skillet of biscuits and gravy or hang out outside near a corkboard stuck with ads for real estate and guitar lessons.
It's also a place that reflects a neighborhood full of young families. While their parents order Cuban sandwiches or H&H-brand bagels with lox, kids point to their favorite Whole Foods-friendly cereal boxes on display at the counter and order their French toast "PB and J." style. During weekend brunch, acoustic music from street buskers invited inside or a bluegrass musician adds a live soundtrack to the scene.
Jill Marshall opened Tout de Suite early in 2005 following a catering career around Seattle. Though new, the place rose to the occasion immediately after Hurricane Katrina, a time when a functioning cafe was something between a community center and a first responders' lounge. One customer hauled in her own printer and ran a nonprofit from a window seat after the storm. National Guardsmen set down their rifles for coffee and scones.
Like other New Orleans businesses who were able to open when the chips were down, Tout de Suite endeared itself to Algiers, and the neighborhood has returned the favor ever since, packing the place on weekends or after services at the Holy Name of Mary church across the street.
It also helps that Tout de Suite is such a neat place. There is something interesting at every turn, from art market trinkets to the patina-laden plank walls to a play table for kids. Perhaps most riveting is the service counter — densely stacked with house-made pastries, towering quiches and a jewelry case full of cookies.
Breakfast is the strong point, especially with the kitchen's creative compositions of poached eggs. Boudin underlies one version while sauce piquant goes over the top. For another, grit cakes and sausage patties are the foundation and Steen's cane syrup is the glue. The true charm of Tout de Suite, though, comes across in homey and refreshingly light dishes such as bowls of yogurt or Irish oatmeal loaded with tart berries and house-made granola. Triangles of wheat toast are topped with avocado, feta, cucumber and tomato like open-faced tea sandwiches. At lunch, you can get a scoop of quinoa beside your pressed Reuben or a pasta salad strung with chopped greens and golden cherry tomatoes. The house salad dressing is a cocktail of flaxseed oil, miso, apple cider vinegar and other feel-good ingredients.
It feels like someone is looking out for you here, and that's as admirable a quality for a family-friendly brunch spot as it is for a tight-knit neighborhood.