When Zing, the small-plates-then-big-plates eatery on Indiana Avenue, closed last May, we knew it wouldn’t be long before someone came along to snatch up this historic, two-story gem of a restaurant location. But we were surprised to hear it would soon be the second outpost of Avon strip-mall Cajun eatery Nawlins Creole Cafe. Hopefully they could do the big, flashier space justice. So when we saw an open sign lit up in the window after the John Waters event at the Madame Walker Saturday night, we dashed across West Street to try it out.
Hardly a thing has changed since Zing left, though a painting of a jazz musician has replaced the Kyle Ragsdale original in the stairwell, and the soundtrack has been changed to light jazz. But the menu at New Orleans on the Avenue, the name of the new place, is practically the same as at the one in Avon, featuring homey plates of etouffe and jambalaya. A few local brews were on tap, though the bartender didn’t have the goods to put together the Sazerac we requested. (Hopefully that will be on the way.) A plate of boudin balls offered up fluffy, rich boudin (a mixture of meats, spices, and rice popular in the Bayou) with a nice crust, though the garnish of iceberg lettuce, tomato, and onions seemed more suited for a deluxe diner burger.
Salads consisted of more iceberg and a few veggie garnishes with a creamy Cajun “vinaigrette.” Potato salad proved to be one of the creamiest versions we’d ever had—almost like a deviled egg salad with bits of potato. Entrees were fairly modest for their average $15 price and seemed a little wanting in presentation, especially the jambalaya, which was just three piles of rice on a white plate. But crawfish etouffe had a nice kick and a silky roux-based gravy, and red beans and rice exuded a hearty charm. Thin shreds of French bread with Country Crock made for a curious—and disappointing—extra.
Definitely the highlights were an enviably juicy breaded pork chop and a spicy sausage po’ boy with seasoned fries, the latter the bargain of the night at $9. We left saying we’d be back for lunch, but we hoped that as New Orleans on the Avenue gets its footing that it will adjust the portion sizes to the prices, turn the garish lights down, and move more toward the funky vibe of its environs. As well as getting that Sazerac we wanted to help let the good times roll!