Here’s good news for Creolina’s fans who’ve missed its creamy crawfish etouffèe or hearty red beans and rice: Chef Mark Sulzinski is back at Himmarshee Village, cooking New Orleans-style at the new Bourbon on 2nd.Sulzinski set up shop in a Davie strip mall 21/2 years ago after losing the lease on his 12-year home on Southwest Second Street, but that move didn’t work out. Now, just in time for Mardi Gras, he’s a few doors east of the old Creolina’s spot as the chef, though not an owner, of Bourbon on 2nd. (We were disappointed that beloved waitress-hostess Rosa Mary “Rosie” O’Neal didn’t join him; she’s cooking breakfast at Webby’s in Plantation.) With doors open to the street, Bourbon looks like a lounge at first glance. There’s a stage near the entrance that hosts live music on weekend evenings. The former Porterhouse Bar and Grill space has been renovated, with more tables and comfy booths in back. The decor is pretty minimal, but elaborate chandeliers salvaged from the over-the-top Plum Room at defunct Yesterday’s add that funky New Orleans-style glam. Open since early January, the restaurant is still working out service issues. On our first visit, there were lots of lapses and a long wait for the check. We were happy to find a much smoother operation on our second trip, when a sweet, young server kept the meal well-paced. Sulzinski brings back Cajun-Creole favorites like his soul-satisfying gumbo, built on a deep, dark roux, potent spices and the “holy trinity” of sautéed onions, celery and green bell peppers. He adds the customary okra, tomatoes and sausage (Pennsylvania-Dutch smoked kielbasa with plenty of earthy, spicy flavor stands in for andouille) as well as lots of chicken, crawfish and shrimp, served with rice. The chef knows how to cook gator tail — he uses a “secret” marinade and coats the meat in a cornmeal batter. It’s tender, flavorful and yes, it tastes like chicken. Fresh oysters from Apalachicola were superb. Oysters Bienville, with shrimp, mushrooms and brandy were delicious, and we also liked the clams casino, with bits of bacon and sweet peppers. We love Sulzinski’s simple, homey red beans and rice, which you can order as a starter or entrée. Or get the Cajun combo — samplings of red beans and rice, jambalaya with shrimp and crawfish étouffée, each in its own bowl. We’re not as excited about the jambalaya, but we are still craving another plate of étouffée — plump, coral crawfish tails in a creamy Cajun sauce on a mound of white rice. On our first visit, we encountered a chewy lobster and bland mahi-mahi, but on our second trip, we had a sensational, whole, roasted baby New Zealand rack of lamb with a feta cracker-crumb crust that was juicy and well-seasoned. Desserts are classics — cherries jubilee, peach melba, bananas Foster (flambéed in the back and presented without fanfare). On Fat Tuesday, we’ll be craving the cinnamony bread pudding, studded with chocolate chips and pecans and topped with a decadent bourbon custard sauce. Like the rest of Sulzinski’s menu, it’s a taste of the Big Easy in our own backyard.
If you go
Place: Bourbon on 2nd
Address: 201 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale
Rating:★ ★ ★ (Very Good)
Contact: 954-522-1253, www.bourbonon2nd.com
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday. (Daily lunch and dinner service planned; call to check).
Prices: Starters $4.75-$12.95, entrees $10.95-$26.95, po’ boys $9.95-$15.95, desserts $5.95
FYI: Fat Tuesday party 8 p.m. Tuesday. Live music Friday-Saturday evenings. Full bar. Metered street parking. AX, DS, MC, VS.