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Bon appetit! Creole 2 Geaux offers zesty taste of New Orleans, service with a smile

The Columbus Dispatch 10/6/2022 G.A. Benton

My first impression of Creole 2 Geaux in the East Market was that chef/owner Janvier Ward might have the warmest personality of the many restaurateurs I’ve pestered over the telephone anonymously through the years.

Ward didn't even remotely lose her patience as my nosy line of questioning about service hours and menu items and daily specials awkwardly plodded on. And she spoke to me — an unseen, complete stranger — like I was an old and dear friend she couldn’t wait to see again. When I eventually showed up for her good New Orleans-inspired homestyle cooking, I realized that my experience on the phone was no fluke.

So expect service so friendly at Creole 2 Geaux that you might find yourself thinking about lending a hand in its busy little open kitchen, even if you are clearly not needed. Also expect a small but eye-catching stall rocking the bright Mardi Gras colors of green, purple and gold. Other New Orleans-evoking decorations include a colorful umbrella, beads and the eatery’s name on a street sign whose bold and distinct, black-and-white-with-curlicues style is borrowed from the French Quarter. 

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The blandest-looking element at Creole 2 Geaux — a notebook-sized whiteboard listing specials — deserves ample attention, too. Especially if you see the catfish po’boy sandwich on it. That spectacularly messy assembly was pricey at $18, but it was worth every penny.

Spilling out of a lightly toasted baguette segment that recalled garlic bread was an enormous serving of catfish filets with wonderfully crackly coatings. The darkly fried, salty and zestily seasoned fish was accompanied by addictive house remoulade sauce, pickles, mayo plus a little lettuce and tomato. On the side were prefab but crispy fries perked up by a spicy-sweet Creole seasoning. 

If equally indulgent, the jambalaya mac and cheese ($12) was confined to a bowl and easier to eat. It was easy to like, too: elbow macaroni married to thick and tangy cheese sauce enhanced by firm dark-meat chicken chunks, smoky andouille bits and Creole seasoning.

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The original Creole bowl with chicken ($12) was another crowd-pleaser: Chicken plus chopped peppers and onions swamped in a rich brown gravy closely related to an etouffee base with a nice little chile kick. The stew-like mass is served atop white rice that doesn’t bring much to the party or spicy, red-tinted rice that does, or a half-and-half blend.

Something mild? Teriyaki fans are sure to dig the bourbon chicken ($12), a sweet dish made with soy sauce that is said to be named after its origin in a Bourbon Street Chinese eatery. This likewise comes with a choice of rice. If you’re missing a spicy component and the collard greens are offered ($4), mine were tender, fiery and garlicky, which spelled irresistible in my book.    

Creole 2 Geaux also served me an enjoyable if characteristically salty rendition of another New Orleans classic, red beans and rice ($10). The earthy notes of this hearty ensemble were leavened by sprinklings of the eatery’s appealing spice mix.

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A huge, pillowy bread pudding special with raisins, toasted pecans and toffee notes ($7) gave me plenty to like. In fact, I hardly cared that the moist and comforting dessert was burnt in spots.

For something icy, visit the neighboring stall called NOLA Daq Shack — a newly opened, pink-tinted operation specializing in frozen treats owned by Janvier Ward and her sister Maxine Ohakim. While sipping a Hurricane ($6), a daiquiri-like New Orleans staple from there — the “shack” doesn’t offer alcohol, but has an arrangement with The Railhouse, an East Market bar, to spike its beverages for $5 (go with rum) — Ward walked by on the market’s nice patio and cordially asked how I liked the drink.

I slurped a little more of the pleasantly tart-sweet, fruit punch-evoking slush, and then answered that it tasted better with every sip. 

gabenton.dispatch@gmail.com

Creole 2 Geaux at East Market

Where: 212 Kelton Ave., Near East Side

Contact: 614-432-6226; www.creole2geaux.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays; closed Mondays

Price range: $12 to $18

Ambience: East Market food stall with lively Mardi Gras and New Orleans-themed decorations and exceedingly warm and friendly service

Children's menu: no

Reservations: no

Accessible: yes

Liquor license: no

Quick click: Easy-to-like “Big Easy”-inspired homestyle dishes are served with a smile at this welcome new eatery.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Bon appetit! Creole 2 Geaux offers zesty taste of New Orleans, service with a smile

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