Madame, S’il Vous Plait

A simple ham ‘n’ cheese sandwich transforms into a lavish brunch with a little heat, a creamy, buttery sauce, and a bright yellow egg, sunny-side up.

The crunchy croque monsieur – a toasted ham and cheese sandwich doused in béchamel sauce — was invented in a French bistro over a century ago, but it took and additional 60 years before someone came up with the brilliant idea to top it with a fried egg. Some people (myself included) believe the madame to be a superior version. While the egg is the only real difference between a croque monsieur and a croque madame, it’s hard to imagine the sandwich without it. The béchamel’s richness increases tenfold with the creamy, velvety yolk. This magnificently simple, but oh-so decadent ‘wich is regularly available, and amazingly affordable, at some of the best restaurants in New Orleans.

Cuban Madame at Patois

Launched by chefs and restaurateurs Aaron Burgau and Leon Touzet back in 2007, Patois is an charming, neighborhood restaurant located on the corner of Laurel and Webster streets. It’s one of those places you hope will always be there with the same amazing flavors and atmosphere its been offering since day one. Everyone has their favorites from Patios, dishes they turn to again and again, from pillowy gnocchi and moreish mussels, to five spice duck confit salad, but if you’re there for brunch (and it’s not already your favorite) try a Cuban Madame. Toasted WildFlour sourdough slices are layered with ham, smoked pork, tangy Gruyere, Dijon mustard, and bread and butter pickles, then topped with a creamy manchego “custard” (an egg-based savory sauce) and sunny-side up egg. Served with a mound of crispy shoestring fries, it makes up a magical morning meal that’ll only set you back $18.

Birdy’s Behind the Bower on Magazine Street is a glorious spot for breakfast and lunch, especially when sitting outside on their covered patio during a warm spring day. Known for an all-day brunch menu and deals on cocktails, the Lower Garden District restaurant is frequently packed (especially on the weekends), so be sure to reserve a table ahead of time. You could pair your Espresso Martini with a fried chicken biscuit or avocado toast, but why not this time go for a croque madame instead? Toasted slices of brioche are piled high with thinly-sliced Chisesi ham and topped with Gruyere custard, fresh thyme, and a golden-yolked fried egg. Served with a spring mix side salad, Birdy’s sandwich rings in at only $16.

Croque Madame at Toups’ Meatery

Less than a hop and a skip down N. Carrollton Avenue from the grand oaks at City Park lies Toups’ Meatery, celebrity chef Isaac Toups’ flagship restaurant. As is evidenced by the name, Toups’ is a meat-forward kind of joint that serves brunches filled with crispy turkey necks, pig ears, and chicken fried pork chops with sausage gravy, but they also have a killer croque for only $18. Served on sliced and toasted, WildFlour sourdough, their sandwich is layered with smoked ham and smothered in Mornay sauce (Béchamel with Gruyere cheese) and finished with a beautifully-fried egg.

Croque Madame at Scrambled

Where else would you expect to find a “crisp” croque but at a spot called Scrambled? Located on the corner of Laurel and Octavia streets Uptown, Scrambled was recently launched by chef/owner Steven Green earlier this year. Every weekend the place is packed with crowds clamoring for red velvet waffles with vanilla cream cheese or spicy chilaquiles with Moroccan-braised chicken and cilantro crema. Though it’s really hard to resist their Banana’s French Toast, go for a ride on the savory side with his version of the classic croque featuring thinly-sliced and seared honey ham layered with nutty provolone layered in between toasted sourdough spread with garlic aioli. The whole ‘wich is topped with a creamy Mornay sauce, sunny-side up eggs and a truffle oil drizzle. Served with a spring mix side salad loaded with grape tomatoes and crumbled cotija, Scrambled’s croque will only set you back $16, so add a creamy latte and breakfast is served.

There’s no way any sane food writer can get out of a breakfast-focused article without mentioning Toast. Chef, bakester and restaurateur Cara Benson owns and operates the booming local breakfast chain – now in Gentilly, the French Quarter, and a brand new spot across the river in Gretna. Any and all of the Toasts offer incredible fare which will not only break your morning fast in a spectacularly-good way, it will send you home fat and happy with your wallet decidedly not worse for wear. This column has frequently waxed poetic about the fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup and cayenne butter; coconut cream stuffed French toast; and breath-taking B.L.T.E.s, so it should be a surprise to no one that we’re also going to talk about their croque madame. Only offered at French Toast on Decatur Street, this sandwich is a massive “meater-piece” with a thick, grilled slice of Chisesi ham and gooey melted Gruyere sandwiched between toasted slices of house-made sourdough. The monster croque is topped with creamy Béchamel and not one, but two sunny-side eggs, served with crispy-edged, buttery Lyonnaise potatoes and a simple salad for only fifteen bucks. #werenotworthy

*Article originally published in the March 2024 issue of Where Y’at Magazine

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