Before you even walk in the door, you can tell this is a place that doesn't take itself too seriously.
When you walk in, you are immediately surrounded by the kitschy, it's-always-Mardi-Gras, laid-back vibe. You are definitely somewhere not in Berkeley anymore. On second thought, maybe you're exactly in Berkeley.
It's Easy Creole. As it says, kind of Cajun, Kind of Creole.
The downside is that there aren't any descriptions of the food on the board, so you have to ask the very patient person behind the counter exactly what is tofu ropa, or Manhattan Maque choux. We asked her almost every single dish. But then, she offered us samples!
Yes, I am obsessed with okra. So I tried the okra creole, and I have to say that it might be one of the worst preparations of okra I've ever had in my life. The okra is fried until it is crisp, yes but charred black. Only then is it smothered in the Creole sauce.
The counterperson probably explained that this okra was prepared so that it wasn't slimy. Since when was that a problem? For a real okra lover like me, sliminess is just part of the lovability of okra.
Even though I wasn't that impressed with the sample, I went ahead and ordered it. Because I pretty much cannot resist ordering okra whenever I chance upon it on a menu. Or as Doug is yelling as I write, I'm an okra slut.
So that's the okra on the right. On the left, I got the bourbon red beans with hot links. It also comes with two giant pieces of bread with "creole oil". I didn't really taste a lot of spice on the bread, but it was crunchy and another good vehicle for sopping up the sauces. You didn't really need it though, because this thing came with about 3 cups of rice.
I realize this dish looks almost exactly the same, but it is in fact Doug's plate, which was half chicken Creole, and half Ropa Viejo. It's possible the Ropa Viejo was the most delicious dish of the night. Not Cajun, I realize, but very tender pork, complemented by the very clear flavors of capers and olives that were in the tomato sauce. (That not Cajun-ness of it is why the place has the motto: "Creole .Cajun. Sort of." The étouffé was spiced with Indian spices.)
For the most part, this is comfort food that I can easily imagine being dished up in a church basement someplace in Louisiana. The flavors are not necessarily sophisticated or as complex as I would've hoped… Aside from the char of the okra, my creole was sort of muddy and indistinct, and the mushroom étouffée which we sampled but didn't order, seemed kind of one- note and flat.
But for $10, you're not going for high-end dining. You get something that's reasonably tasty, very filling, and kind of like home cooking when you don't want to cook at home. Like when you're tired of eating the taste of your own food, but don't want anything that's a big deal. Nourishing and comforting, not fancy.
Anyway, if you think it needs a little zing, you can always add one of many hot sauces.
I guess I'm also a cornbread slut. This piece was a little on the dry side, but it had nice chunks of corn in it which I really love. And how can you resist anything served with the zigzags of honey?
They also have homemade lemonade, iced tea, And lemon in mint in the water. It really does make a difference!
Then when you're all done, you bus your own table.But in our case, not without sneaking an order in for dessert to go. The bread pudding, which we ate after watching our movie. (We finally watched "her" with Joaquin Phoenix.)
So overall, I would definitely come back here. It's a fun place, relaxed, good food, really good prices, and a nice place that you could chill with any crowd.