After a trip to New Orleans, I've been inspired to find real-deal Creole and Cajun food in Columbus.

I took a little trip to New Orleans at the beginning of the month. It was my first time visiting the Southern mecca of food and drink, and I was duly impressed by the city's culinary scene. As a first-timer, I went ahead and indulged in some of the touristy-type famous dishes, like fried oyster po'boys and muffaletta sandwiches and beignets at Cafe du Monde.

Funny enough, the morning after I got back in town, a coworker brought in a bunch of beignets from Creole Kitchen, an Olde Towne East hole-in-the-wall serving what's widely acknowledged to be some of the best New Orleans-style comfort food you can get in Columbus.

Impressed by the warm, powdered-sugary goodness of the beignets, I planned a lunch trip to Creole Kitchen to see if their sandwich offerings stacked up to the stuff I tried down South. Now, to be fair, I sought out the very best po'boys and muffalettas I could find in a city full of them, so putting them up against the only ones available in Columbus isn't exactly a fair comparison. For example, this Muffaletta came from Butcher, a real-deal butcher shop specializing in housemade meats that's attached to Cochon, one of the swankiest spots in NOLA.

The Muffaletta is named after the bread it's served on, a large round loaf that's kind of like foccaccia. It's typically filled with cured meats (capicola, salami, pepperoni, ham, etc.) and cheese as well as a marinated olive salad. Butcher's was, honestly, one of the top sandwiches I've eaten in my life. Terrific bread, interesting meats and a great housemade olive salad.

But Creole Kitchen's Muffaletta held up well. Their take on the Muffaletta is kinda like a hybrid between a traditional muffaletta (the meats and cheeses are all there and taste great) and a po'boy, which is traditionally served on a baguette-like French bun. The bread here is great but definitely more sub-like, and the addition of a bunch of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes unfortunately leads to some sogginess. But the sandwich is a winner overall.

Especially since the demise of the great little Johnny Oak's Po'Boy Shack on Campus, I'd say it's fair to declare Creole Kitchen the place to head when you're in the mood for Big Easy-style sandwich or breakfast pastry. For Cajun/Creole stewy stuff like etouffee and gumbo, Creole Kitchen fares well too but has some tough competition from Da Levee in the Short North. Where else in town does New Orleans food justice?

Creole Kitchen

1052 Mount Vernon Ave., Olde Towne East

614-372-3333

creolekitchen.biz