Creole Food Tempts Taste Buds In Tustin

TUSTIN MARKET PLACE | Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Crescent City, a new Market Place outlet, serves New Orleans fare with flair, blues.

Beignets, po' boy sandwiches and gumbo are muscling into the crowded restaurant scene at the Tustin Market Place.

Crescent City, a Houston restaurant company that specializes in New Orleans cuisine, has opened its first fast-casual eatery in California near Tower Records.

Terry Ubl of Tustin, formerly general manager of Corner Bakery at the Market Place, is a co-owner of the franchise along with his brother, Larry Ubl, and uncle John Deusenberry. The three have an agreement with Crescent City to open up to 15 locations in Orange County.

The Crescent City chain was attractive because the food is somewhat unusual compared with other sandwich, Mexican and fast-food chains that are everywhere, said Terry Ubl, 33.

"I had given up on finding something unique, then I flew to Houston and fell in love with the (Crescent City) food concept," Ubl said. "I just thought it needed a little more pizzazz for California and Orange County." To provide pizzazz, Ubl upgraded the decor from the "hole-in-the- wall" look. In Tustin, the restaurant has pale yellow walls, faux brick accents, replica gas lamps and blues playing on the sound system for a French Quarter feel. The menu includes traditional New Orleans dishes such as red beans and rice with andouille sausage for $6.95; shrimp and crawfish gumbo for $7.95; and frozen hurricanes, an alcoholic drink popular in the French Quarter of New Orleans and made here with vodka-flavored wine.

Ubl also has added more mainstream offerings such as mixed- green salads, oatmeal, fruit bowls, and scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. Crescent City faces stiff competition, however, from nearby fast-food stalwarts Carl's Jr. and In-N-Out as well as better-known fast-casual restaurants Baja Fresh, Quiznos and Corner Bakery, said restaurant consultant Randy Hiatt, president of Fessel International in Costa Mesa. "People will have to figure Crescent City out the other concepts they know how to use, they are familiar," Hiatt said. That was apparent Tuesday when a lunch customer at Crescent City looked quizzically at the menu and asked, "What's a po' boy?" A po' boy is basically a sandwich, and once diners understand the menu, and in particular learn that not all Creole food is hot and spicy, they are less intimidated, Ubl said.

"Creole dishes, po' boys and beignets (a fluffy, doughnut-like pastry) are our biggest sellers," he said.

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3272 Westheimer, #1
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