1052 Mount Vernon Avenue
Open: 7am-7pm, Mon.-Sat.
You can’t talk about Creole Kitchen (hereafter ‘CK’) without talking about Chef Henry Butcher. Unfortunately, of late, it has become increasingly hard to talk to him.
I’ll cop to it right off the bat – I’ve long been a fan of CK. For the past 4 years, I’ve kinda thought of it as my own little secret – easy in, catch a quick and often hilarious chat with the Chef, easy out with a great meal. But as time has gone by, this has become the routine for an increasingly larger number of people as CK has become the go-to spot for many in the King Lincoln District.
As a result, chat time with Chef has turned into this:
The man’s so busy he’s a blur. It’s a shame, perhaps, that it’s much tougher engage in the always interesting conversations with him, but it goes without saying that he’s there to do his job and the seemingly constant open-to-close business he’s pulling is very well earned.
A quick outline sketch of the business can be found in the name: CK serves creole (and/or cajun – many think they know the difference, but few seem to agree on what it actually is…), and the physical space really isn’t much more than a kitchen, most of which is visible from the order/waiting area. There’s no seating, so take-out’s the name of the game.
Here’s what we’ve taken out recently, starting with breakfast:
Moving clockwise from top left, we started with the beignets, a doughnut-like fried pastry sprinkled with confectioners sugar. Every bit as delicious as they sound, these are an absolute steal at 4 for a buck.
Next, the creole omelette, another tasty creation filled with andouille sausage, tasso ham, onion, tomato, and cheese. If you’re starting to pick up on a ‘death-by-cholesterol’ vibe, reading on probably won’t disabuse you of that notion.
Creole eggs benedict on a biscuit could have something to do with that – two eggs on a biscuit slathered with rich bearnaise sauce, served with your choice of home fries or grits.
Finally, the eggs Basin St., a bed of red beans topped with rice, two eggs, bearnaise, and a generous helping of andouille sausage. Like the rest of the full breakfasts we tried, this was sinfully rich and delicious, practically enough for 2 people to share, and priced out at a very wallet-friendly $5.
At around 10:30, CK’s focus shifts to their lunch/dinner menu:
Moving clockwise from top-left in the above photo, we start with the crawfish etouffee. Etouffee, roughly translated from French, means ‘smothered’, and at CK we find their excellent traditional dark roux committing this felony. Plump little crawfish tails play the part of victim, and with one taste you know that this was a crime of (the Chef’s) passion. Your choice of two sides stand in as spectators… yeah, they know what happened, but when asked, well, they didn’t see nothin’.
Next, we have the creole fettuccine – fettuccine pasta noodles with tasso ham and andouille bathed in an almost comically rich cream and butter sauce. As delicious as anything so decadent damn well ought to be, this dish also packs a serious spicy heat punch. CK will adjust heat to taste, and if you don’t, say, routinely eat raw habaneros just for kicks I’d recommend exercising the option.
Moving on, we next tried the chicken andouille jambalaya, which was probably the most divisive dish we tried – to the tune of a 4 for/3 against split at the table. Part of this may be attributable to spice fatigue, as, not unlike the last dish, this was hot. Personally, this dish was the least exciting for me of the evening, which – to CK’s credit – is to say still quite good.
Finally, there was no way we were going to miss the fried gator. Exotic though it may sound, I’ve come to characterize it as nothing more challenging than the other other white meat – similar to well-cooked pork in texture, the flavor is largely that of the deep fried cornmeal crust. Nice enough, but somehow almost a letdown… until you dip it in the truly wonderful included sauce. Chef wasn’t eager to give up the whole game on the sauce, but he did let slip that it’s ingredients included orange juice and mustard. It was definitely a crowd pleaser.
In exchange for our gluttony, we experienced eight different flavors of satisfaction and found ample excuse to reacquaint ourselves with the Pepto. Carnivores should check Creole Kitchen out post haste, pescetarians should find plenty of contentment, and vegetarians might find their selection limited to sides… though even that might well be worthwhile.