It’s been a long time since I’ve had a dining experience in Shreveport-Bossier that was so surprisingly good, so completely enjoyable in every way, that it left my head spinning. I had that kind of experience at Creole Cafe’ & Catering (2814 Greenwood Rd., Shreveport), where mother-and-son team Dr. Gail Guidry Griffin and Henry Wilson Griffin are serving incredible Creole gumbo, étouffée, jambalaya, and other traditional foods of southwestern Louisiana.
The Griffins originally hail from the very small, very Cajun town of Abbeville, Louisiana, but have put down deep roots in Shreveport. Dr. Griffin is retired from teaching at A.C. Steere. She and Henry co-own Creole Cafe’ & Catering, which is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Both of the Griffins are incredibly charming, welcoming people. Henry told me how he got his start in the restaurant industry – at age 13, standing on a milk crate, stirring a giant vat of Mama Mia’s spaghetti sauce with a boat oar. Since then, he’s been a casino chef, an oil field caterer, a steakhouse grill man, and more. When his mother retired from teaching, the two bought a dilapidated building across the street from the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club. Through a lot of love and a great deal of hard work, that building now houses the kind of warm, welcoming gumbo joint that we dream of in Louisiana.
“This kind of food is so labor-intensive,” Henry told me. “But that’s what it takes to have a product so good that word of mouth sells it.”
Both the chicken and sausage gumbo and the crawfish étouffée were the best examples of each dish that I have, personally, eaten in Shreveport. The gumbo has a blonde roux, but it’s incredibly flavorful. The sausage is andouille from Richard’s Meat Market in Abbeville, and it is delicious. The chicken is from a whole chicken, including lots of big portions of dark meat. The gumbo is served with a small bowl of potato salad, which is meant to be plopped right into the gumbo.
The étouffée is similarly light in color, compared to some, but has a deep, rich flavor. The crawfish are provided by Dr. Griffin’s friend, who owns a crawfish farm in Erath.
You get the feeling that this food can only be as good as it is because of the small scale of the restaurant; with only 20 seats or so, they are able to make food with the care that it deserves. The Griffins seem to have put thought into everything about their food.
“We don’t use green bell peppers,” Dr. Griffin said while I fawned over the étouffée. “We use yellow, red, and orange bell peppers. And a lot of garlic. And a lot of onions!”
If at all possible, save room for an order of homemade beignets, which are unlike any that I have had before. Unlike flaky, pillowy beignets (which are tasty, for sure), these are more like a crumble, and they’re flavored so deeply with Steen’s syrup that you can smell the Steen’s when the platter hits the table.
To come right out and say it: I was a fool to judge this place based on its outward appearance, and you would be, too. If you love Louisiana’s most famous foods, I’d encourage you to get to this place as soon as possible. It is a gem of a restaurant that could do wonders for the surrounding Queensborough community.
P.S. Park in the empty lot at the corner of Greenwood Road and Missouri Avenue, one door down from the restaurant.