Those immersed in the cuisine of the Gulf Coast view vegetarians with the same level of contempt and consternation as residents of the planet Earth would view an encounter with an alien life form. As I discovered in my travels to New Orleans, however, if you search long and hard enough, you can find meatless gems filled with the character that makes Creole food a world classic.
Creole Kitchen in the King Lincoln District follows the same formula as many other Gulf Coast establishments. Vegetarian options on the menu are few and far between. However, the few vegetarian options on the menu are full of flavor without the burden of blackened animal pieces.
Chef Henry Butcher's restaurant is hidden in a shopping plaza that is easy to drive past without noticing. Butcher has a long track record in Central Ohio, with stints at Tony's, the Delaware Hotel and Ollie's in Grandview. Creole Kitchen is a take-out joint. It has no tables or dishes.
The main attraction at Creole Kitchen is the roster of po boys, one of Louisiana's two signature sandwiches. Po Boys are the New Orleans rendition of a submarine sandwich. Creole Kitchen has a vegetarian po boy made with three different melted cheeses and grilled cabbage, onions, mushrooms and green peppers on a soft white roll. The seasoning blend, a mixture of black and cayenne pepper with hints of garlic and green herbs, adds a great flavor to the grilled veggies.
The veggie po boy costs $5 and comes with a side of herbed potato chips. The chips are tasty. A few of them were soggy, but they definitely blew away anything made by Frito Lay. The whole package is an absolute steal for $5. Let the sandwich cool down a bit, because it is stuffed with so much veggies and cheese that the toppings will explode everywhere if it isn't eaten carefully.
A few of the side dishes are vegetarian. The macaroni and cheese is vegetarian, but the red beans and rice, which contains sausage and ham, are not.
There are limited breakfast items at Creole Kitchen. Beignets, or New Orleans doughnuts, are a sweet and savory way to start the morning if you're so inclined.
Creole Kitchen is tough to find but easy to love. Although there are limited choices available for vegetarians, the vegetarian po boy shows that they take as much care with their vegetarian fare as they do with the other Gulf Coast favorites.