Old Town Goes Cajun
The New Orleans Creole Cafe
Starting in October 2004, there's a little of New Orleans in San Diego. The New Orleans Creole Cafe opened its doors in the small park called Whaley House Gardens tucked away across the street from Old Town's most famous restaurant, Old Town Mex and next to the haunted Whaley House - a perfect setting for the spirit of New Orleans to flourish. One of the few non-Mexican restaurants in Old Town, the Creole Cafe is a welcome expansion to the dining variety in Old Town, the most visited place in San Diego.
Partners Mark Bihm and Humberto Villegas opened the cafe based on Mark's longtime experience running restaurants like the Franciscan on Fisherman's Wharf, Max's Deli also in San Francisco and a chain of cafes for Nordstroms deparment stores.
Why Creole food? "I was raised in a Louisana family, something like Robert E. Lee's great-great-great grandson, so I have family recipes to draw on," Mark said, "and these are bullet-proof recipes, made this way for 200 years."
The inexpensive menu covers the gamut of famous Cajun cooking, from Shrimp Creole to Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, from Crawfish Etoufee (pronounced "a-2-fay") to a Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya. In addition, there's a plentiful Shrimp Caesar Salad and a collection of succulent "po-boy" sandwiches including Alligator Sausage.
The prices all hover around $10 where a cup of the tasty gumbo is only $4.75.
Humberto acts as the only waiter and the host. He comes in with a marketing background from San Diego State University and years in interior design work having risen to the top managment ranks of Kravet Design, a nearly 100 year old home decoratoring supplier with operations in all 50 states. "I met Mark through a mutual friend and we've talked about opening something like this for the last ten years," Humberto said, "Mark has an unusually extensive knowledge of the restaurant business we wanted to tap and I was ready for a change."
Inside, the restaurant itself fits only one table and the order counter behind which Mark cooks up and Umberto serves close to 26 quarts of Gumbo a day in addition to the rest of the spicy menu. However, there's a quiet and welcoming courtyard set off from the bustle of mainstreet Old Town set with tables and umbrellas where you can dine for either lunch or dinner at your leisure.
Open Sunday through Thursday (closed Wednesdays) from 11:30 to 6pm and Friday and Saturday until 9pm, The New Orleans Creole Cafe makes it possible to eat like you're at Mardi Gras all year round.
- City: San Diego
- Phone: 619-542-1698
- Name: New Orleans Creole Cafe
- Address: 2476-A San Diego Ave