The New Orleans Creole Café is located behind the legendary Whaley House in Old Town, San Diego. This is a ‘back to the basics’ restaurant built to fulfill the dreams of owners’ Mark Bihm, a New Orleans native, and Humberto Villegas, a native of sunny SoCal. This quaint restaurant keeps it simple by focusing on personalized service; everything from seating you to preparing your food is done by Mark and Humberto. To them, “this business is a labor of love,” and they revel in being involved in every aspect of their restaurant.
Mark’s historic roots in New Orleans, with family dating back to the 1750s, and his extensive background in the industry, coupled with Humberto’s love for Louisiana, attention to detail, and hospitality have allowed them to see a dream realized. This restaurant has been thriving since 2004, standing strong in an original Old West building that dates back to the 1890s, and affording guests a charming, mystical experience while delighting in delicious traditional New Orleans fare. New Orleans Creole Café is personalized service to a T – no computerized hoopla – just good atmosphere, great food, a hand-written check, and a heartfelt ‘Come back now, ya hear.’
Creole Café Ambiance
New Orleans Creole Café can sneak right past you if you’re not careful. Just off the beaten path, it’s disguised as a quaint, charming, little house. Then again, if you know where the Whaley House is, you must look no further than its backyard to find this restaurant. Large beautiful trees, and lush greenery surround this butterscotch painted cottage-style restaurant, giving off a Bayou feel without the fear of gators. A matching picket fence encloses a small patio filled with black wrought iron tables and chairs shaded by white and red umbrellas. The patio is surrounded by lush plants, small colorful trees, and bright flowers providing a bright and warming feel while indulging in New Orleans cuisine.
Dining inside this wood-paneled house is just as divine as their patio; black and white photos hang on the walls, showcasing some of San Diego’s rich history. Red and white checkered table cloths, reminiscent of the ones you’d find at a crawfish broil, adorn the tables. Willowy shear white curtains sway over the square paneled windows overlooking a beautiful oak tree. New Orleans masks and mystical décor are scattered about, wonderfully highlighting the native area this restaurant pays homage to. New Orleans Creole Café perfectly blends the magic of Louisiana and the historic roots of Old Town.
Creole Café Food
It’s near impossible to find authentic New Orleans cuisine in San Diego, some restaurants might take their influence from this city to design dishes, but when it comes to the real deal, it’s New Orleans Creole Café all the way. Mark Bihm’s dishes are created using family recipes that have been handed down through seven generations of his New Orleans lineage. To keep the cuisine true, Mark imports many of the ingredients and beers directly from Louisiana, and specializes in New Orleans staples such as Jambalaya and Crawfish Étouffée.
Mark and Humberto offer a small menu of traditional New Orleans cuisine beginning with starters like Blackened Alligator Sausage on a Plate; a blend of alligator and pork sausage with house-made barbeque sauce. Try one of their delectable Hot Entrees like Chicken Creole, BBQ Shrimp, or the Fried Shrimp Platter – battered and pan fried in cotton seed oil served with red beans, rice, and a mixed green side salad with Remoulade. For those looking for the true, blue New Orleans taste, the Spécialtiés-de-la-Maison are where it’s at. Choose their Jambalaya – a rich, spicy, and meaty flavor with traditional Savoie Sauce and your choice of shrimp, sausage, chicken, or your desired combination.
They also serve up delicious salads and New Orleans Poor Boy sandwiches, perfectly complimented by their imported Abita beers. End your trip through the Bayou with their savory Bread Pudding with Whisky sauce. From start to finish you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to Louisiana. Beware it might take an hour or two to reacclimate back to the SoCal vibe, but it’s totally worth the jet-lag.
Tip: Not everyone can handle the spice of New Orleans, but if you want to take on the challenge, let them know you want it spicy. You’ll feel like a native afterwards.
Creole Café Details
New Orleans Creole Café is located on the corner of San Diego Aveue and Harney Street. It can be tricky to find, because it is located in a courtyard a bit off the street. If you get to the Whaley House, they can surely point you in the right direction. Street parking is available, and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the nearby Hacienda Hotel allows guests to park in their lot for $5. If you’re traveling by bicycle, they do feature bike parking; the restaurant is also ADA accessible. This is a small space so reservations are always recommended. They can accommodate groups, and kids are more than welcome. There are no televisions or Wi-Fi, and it’s a strictly beer and wine establishment. They are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and only serve lunch on Mondays. The other days of the week the last seating takes place mid-evening.
Creole Café Neighborhood
Old Town is the birthplace of San Diego; it is rich with tradition catering to families and history enthusiasts. Visitors will enjoy the carefully preserved architecture, with 25 historic sites and buildings. Shoppers will enjoy perusing more than 100 specialty stores, and art lovers will love exploring their 12 galleries. This is a walking and ambling sort of neighborhood especially when it comes to the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park where you can enjoy a free tour through the neighborhood with volunteers dressed in traditional garb. The Whaley House directly in front of the restaurant offers an exceptional experience, you can tour around the home known as the most haunted house in America. If you want to stay the night in Old Town, the Cosmopolitan Hotel is a good choice. King’s Inn and Handlery Hotel & Resort in Mission Valley are also great choices.