On my first visit to Old Colorado City's A Taste of New Orleans Café, I didn't quite know what to make of owner Beth Mell, a New Orleans native who goes casually by "Ms. B." Upon our ordering fresh beignets and two signature French toast plates for a late breakfast, she drawled, "That's a lot of food hope you have time," before disappearing into the kitchen.
What I first perceived as disinterest, I later pegged as Big Easy mellowness. She slowly showed us some of the warmth that she's lent her two-month-old restaurant, festive with bright purple and yellow walls and cabinets. Lattice and green foliage line the ceiling, and the sounds of New Orleans jazz and Zydeco boom from the speakers. Next door, she also runs Ms. B's Emporium, a Louisiana grocery mart offering items featured on her own menu, coffee and other staples of her Southern cuisine.
As we enjoyed a cinnamon-rich Mexican hot chocolate ($2.75), she set down the piping-hot plate of powdered sugar-dusted beignets (a trio for $3.50). Fresh from the fryer, the sweet, fluffy and delicious treats were just a bit denser than the ones I enjoyed years ago at the French Quarter's famous tourist destination, Café du Monde.
Our breakfast orders, however, didn't quite leave me wanting to don masquerade attire. When they finally arrived, my beautiful-looking Bordeaux ($5.50), a French toast-styled French bread stuffed with cream cheese and finished off with dark red cherries and dusted with confectioner's sugar, was cold and hard in the center. My friend's L'Orange ($5.25), sliced almond-topped French toast stuffed with cream cheese and orange marmalade, suffered the same ailment. I suspect they'd both be rich and satisfying when on temp. (Ms. B later told me she hadn't been prepared for a late breakfast order, so the cream cheese hadn't had time to soften to room temperature.)
For lunch, we went all-out and ordered an item from each area of the Cajun and Creole menu. The jambalaya ($7.50), a generous portion of rice with sausage, chicken and ham, proved the only miss the meat was dry, and the rice a tad crunchy.
But sparks flew with the pecan-crusted catfish ($13.50), topped with four plump shrimp and served with an amazing Dijon cream sauce. A surprising complement to catfish, it was both fragrant and light, with diced tomatoes and green onions for color.
The seafood gumbo ($7.50), a roux-based soup with shrimp, crawfish and crab, came loaded with okra and served over a few tablespoons of rice. Ms. B leaves it mild for the faint of heart, but keeps hot sauce on the table. I took it to-go, and it worked with more salt and a few shakes of Tabasco at home.
Another winner was the warm Vieux Carre muffuletta ($7.50), a New Orleans classic and one of the best sandwiches I've had in a long time. A large, soft roll jammed with salami, Provolone and ham reached new heights with the accompanying tart, chunky olive spread.
On the whole, time waiting for the eats at A Taste of New Orleans feels like time well spent. It'd be a great place to wile away your Mardi Gras look for a grand-opening crawfish boil around that time in February.