By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Aug 04, 2003 at 5:33 AM

{image1} Downtown Milwaukee is about to get a little bit of the Big Easy. Opening on or around Aug. 11, 2003, Crescent City Beignets will serve hot beignets cooked to order served with rich Louisiana style café au lait, in the first floor of the new Grain Exchange Condos, 741 N. Milwaukee St. (corner of Milwaukee and Mason).

Never sampled a beignet ("ben-yay")? Here's some history:

In 1863, as the Civil War was coming to a close, a simple coffeehouse opened near the New Orleans open market, presently the French Market. This coffee house served up strong coffee (some say it was purposely made extra strong to dissuade the unaccustomed palates of the unwelcome Union military) and its soon-to-be-famous beignets -- fried squares of pastry generously topped with powdered sugar.

Crescent City Beignets, a chain with 12 locations around the country and another 80+ locations in the works, was founded in 1997. The downtown Milwaukee location will be the first Cresent City Beignets in the Midwest and the first in the Milwaukee-area.

Local franchise owner Timothy Tuttle and General Manager Terry Swarthout have been friends and business associates for more than 10 years. They met while working together in the wireless telephone industry. Tuttle searched for years to find an entrepreneurial adventure that would be unique to Milwaukee, and his search ended at Cresent City Beignets.

"We wanted to bring a unique and affordable option to Milwaukee," said Swarthout. "It's something new to the downtown area, and beignets are already well known from Bastille Days." Randy Prasse, executive director of the East Town Association agrees. "The East Town neighborhood just got more interesting- now people don't have to wait until Bastille Days to enjoy beignets," Prasse said.

The French Quarter atmosphere will provide a friendly reminder to those Packers and Marquette fans who followed their team to the recent Super Bowl and Final Four in New Orleans.

The first Crescent City Beignets restaurant opened in Houston, Texas in July of 1997. The initial menu began as simple and as traditional as the old style coffeehouses of New Orleans. The menu has expanded beyond the beignet to include fresh baked muffins, frozen café au lait granitas and daily Creole blue plate specials such as red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, shrimp creole and crawfish bisque. Eggs NOLA (Short for New Orleans, LA) also are on the menu. You'll love these eggs layered with bacon, ham, red and green onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Cholesterol check, please.

Tuttle and Swarthout have plans for more area locations, but "will start downtown and then look to the suburbs."

As Milwaukee Street, between Mason and Wisconsin Avenue, evolves into a true entertainment district with a plethora of new bars, clubs and restaurants, Crescent City Beignets will be a fine addition for late night clubbers and early morning residents and business people.

"We will become an affordable staple for the offices (in East Town) and the condo dwellers," Swarthout added.

Crescent City Beignet fast, casual restaurant will employ 12-15 people and will be open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call (414) 283-9707 for more information.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.