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Creolina's Cajun/Creole

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Published in The Miami Herald on Monday, 1/05/04

Cajun/Creole fare will brighten your day

Creolina's has been a fixture of Himmarshee Village for years.
Its New Orleans-style cooking may be ideal cuisine for a business lunch.


The atypically quaint area of Fort Lauderdale known as Himmarshee Village features a lively mix of restaurants and clubs. It's just a few blocks from the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Discovery and Science on one side, and Las Olas Riverfront on the other. It's also within walking distance of numerous downtown offices, making it a perfect getaway for a noontime break or a business meeting and meal.

Creolina's is a fixture of Himmarshee's colorful Southwest Second Street. Its New Orleans-style cooking may be the ideal cuisine for a business luncheon. If you're experiencing an unpleasant day, it's sure to improve it, and if you're having a good one, it will only make it better.

On a recent weekday visit between Christmas and New Year's, Creolina's, which seats about 60 inside and maybe another dozen outside, was uncharacteristically quiet, with only about four interior tables occupied for lunch.

Upon arrival, I was instantly and warmly greeted by assistant manager Rosemary O'Neal, who invited me to sit wherever I liked. My two guests, Aventura sedation dentistry guru Dr. Howard Hoffman, and his brother, Neil, the founding publisher of Florida Design magazine and other publications, arrived shortly afterward.

Rosie was occupied with other guests, but another server quickly moved in, handed out menus and took our drink orders, giving us a chance to study the décor -- an eclectic mix of hanging wall art and plants. The dining room has a pleasant, funky-but-chic ambience, wholly in character with owner-chef Mark Sulzinski's deft interpretation of New Orleans' fabled Creole and Cajun fare.

But is this food for everyone, or specifically, is it suitable for business lunches where hosts may be ignorant of guests' likes and dislikes?

Though some might expect a menu replete with hellishly fiery and strange cayenne-laden concoctions, Sulzinski and executive chef Kevin Guay cook up a nice variety of fish, poultry, red meat, pasta and more.

Befitting its Louisiana roots, red beans, rice, shrimp, crayfish, jambalaya and gumbo are featured prominently, but the heat is held to a minimum, and one can raise the temperature accordingly with a plethora of bottled hot sauces that are available upon request.

Creolina's lunch menu is, naturally, a more concise version of its dinner offerings. Jambalaya, grilled chicken and smoked sausage in a spicy Creole sauce served over rice, is a bargain at $7.95 (or a dollar more with shrimp). Crayfish etouffée features the tail meat of the tiny freshwater crustacean, also in Creole sauce with rice, and bread and butter for just a nickel under ten bucks.

Simpler fare, such as a plate of red beans and rice topped with scallions, is a mere $6.95. A Cajun combo, combining all three of these plates, goes for $10.95. Gumbo, the red beans and rice, and crayfish bisque can be ordered as starters for $2.25 a cup, and double that for a full bowl. Salads include grilled teriyaki chicken, grilled or blackened shrimp, blue crab or Caesar with grilled or blackened shrimp or chicken.

These prices would be remarkable for competently prepared food served in a cafeteria setting, but the quality of Creolina's offerings is first rate, and the service is professional and accommodating.

The restaurant also features a different lunch special every day. On the day of my visit, it was Maryland crab cakes: two jumbo cakes with a dollop of chipotle cream sauce served with that ubiquitous rice, cold roasted corn and black-eyed pea salad, and garlic toast -- all for just $7.95.

If Creolina's sounds too good to be true, it's not entirely without fault. After we finished our lunch that day, Neil asked for a cup of espresso. Sounded good to me, too. Oops; our server said that she'd been meaning to pick some up for the last week or so, but they were out, and she didn't offer any alternatives -- not even a cafecito. Maybe not a deal breaker, but still, business is business.


• Rating:

(The highest rating is four stars.)

• Details: A little off the beaten path, though not hard to find. Metered street parking is plentiful in the area.


• Address: 209 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. 954-524-2003.

• Type of Food: Cajun, Creole fare.

• Average Prices: $15 per person for main course, appetizer and drinks.

• Service: Pleasant and familiar, but professional.

• Atmosphere: Bourbon Street transplanted to Broward County.

• Best for: Entertaining clients who are bored with the usual. Dutch treat lunches with co-workers.

• Linger Factor: Let the good times roll.

• Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Dinner: 5 to 9 p.m., Sunday and Monday; 5 to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Sandwich window (gyros, Polish sausage, chicken pita wraps and salads): midnight to 4 a.m., Friday and Saturday.

• Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express.

• Reservations: Usually not necessary, but not a bad idea.