BrunchFaced, Food

Brunch and boogie: Tigermen Den’s Cajun brunch features food, zydeco dancing

Can’t two-step? There are even classes to help you work off those croissants.

If you’re looking for a brunch that serves up community, music and a healthy dose of dancing, look no further: Cajun Brunch at the Tigermen Den has it all. This monthly event has been going since April 2012 and happens every second Sunday of the month.

Scoping the scene

I had never been to Tigermen Den, although it was highly recommended by friends who are in the Cajun music and dancing scene.

The November brunch was on a warm and bright day, and the Den had its French doors open on both sides to let in the sunny air. I walked into the busy dance floor as the musicians were playing and the dancers’ shoes were tapping out a two-step.

Cajun music features accordions, washboards, fiddles and sometimes guitars, and the band played with high spirits the entire time. Each month has a different group play, with styles from traditional to zydeco to swing. You can check the website to see who’s coming each month.

There is a cover for the brunch of $10, which goes toward the space and the musicians. Kids get in for free, and well-behaved canine companions are welcome, too.

“For me, it’s one of my favorite events in town,” said New Orleans native Kristen Gremillion. “It’s super queer, super intergenerational, and some of the best Cajun musicians play here. Also, there’s babies and dogs!”

For Cajun dancing newbies like me, there are mini-lessons throughout the brunch to help you find your footing.

Leesaw Anne, the host of Cajun Brunch, said the event was inspired by Café des Amis Zeydeco Breakfast in Breaux Bridge — which she would wake up early for and drive two hours Saturday mornings to attend.

“There is something about Cajun and zydeco music played live that gets into my bones,” she said.

The Food

Deciding I needed to fuel up a little before taking a spin on the dance floor, I walked to the next room, where Bywater Bakery was serving up brunch. The menu rotates, and the bakery posts the menu to the Den’s Facebook page a few days before the event. There’s a dining area off the dance floor and a lovely courtyard in the back with tables.

To start, I got the croissant ($5), which was served with a homemade fig jam. The croissant was excellent — glossy and flaky on the outside, and fluffy and buttery on the inside. The jam was superb, too, kicky and not too sweet, with nicely sized pieces of fig and crunchy seeds to contrast the chewy croissant.

Next, I got the cochon de lait (slow-cooked pork) with grits and sunny side up eggs ($12), while my dining companion got the shrimp etouffee ($14), which was served on biscuits with two eggs.

The etouffee came ladled over the eggs and grits and my oh my, it was delicious. The etouffee was flavorful and the shrimp were fresh. The sauce tasted really wonderful and shrimpy without being overpowering. The biscuits were fluffy with a delectable brown crust on the outside, while the eggs were a little runny without being underdone.

Then we split the cochon de lait. This bad boy was served with creamy white grits spooned over the pork, topped with the two sunny side up eggs and a garnish of microgreens. The grits were cooked to perfection, but it was the cochon itself that anchored the dish—dripping with gravy and very tender.

The Drinks

I also sampled two of the drinks on offer. The bar is in an adjoining room, where, if it’s a game day (which it was), you can check in on the Saints while you get your drinks.

The first drink I tried was the French 75 ($6). To my mild shock, it was served in a mason jar. The drink was served on the rocks with a lemon wedge and had a fresh, citrusy taste, perfect for a midday sip. 10/10.

Later, I tried one of the Den’s specialty cocktails, a “cherry cacao coffee with bourbon” ($6). This one I was iffy on—it was made with a cherry liqueur blend, coffee syrup and bourbon, which sounds great, but then soda water got involved for some reason. I was less than enthused when I tried the finished product, then I added oat milk, which only made things murkier and stranger.

That part was on me.

For the less adventurous, there are mimosas (grapefruit and orange), bourbon sweet tea, whiskey Sazerac, assorted juices, and hot and iced coffee that can be spiked as needed.

After the food and drink, we were ready to dance!

The Dancing

A word about my dancing skills—any semblance of rhythm that I possess comes from being forced to learn choreography for chorus in middle school. So if I can do it, no one should be afraid of dancing at Cajun Brunch. There were people twirling and dipping with all levels of experience, and plenty of experts were happy to lead a newbie out on the dance floor. I had a great time being led around by my dining/dancing companion, who actually knows what they’re doing. I barely stepped on any toes!

Honestly, it’s all in the leading.

A few tips I learned on Sunday:
– If you have someone leading, follow their hand that’s holding yours.
– Keep your bent elbow somewhat tight—this makes twirls and other moves easier.
– Wear loud shoes to step to the beat as you dance (it’s more fun this way).
– Remember to cradle the neck when you dip someone!

Whatever you do the other Sundays each month, you should come to Royal Street on the second Sunday for Cajun Brunch! I know I’ll be back.

The Tigermen Den
Getting there
3113 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA
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