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Mardi Gras? Didn’t make it downtown.

But: Did make it to the nearest thing to N’Awlins in this fair city, the New Orleans Creole Cafe (2476 A, San Diego Avenue, Old Town, 619-542-1648).

I mean, this is – as Carla’s southern auntie used to say – a darlin’ little place. I have a little sentimental feel for New Orleans too: my great great granddaddy was raised there, before he went to sea.

But actually this was accidental. Heck I didn’t even remember it was Mardi Gras till I noticed people in the café’s cute brick courtyard were wearing strings of yellow red, blue, green beads.

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Can't resist. I sit down. Humberto, one of the partners, shows up with a menu. And necklaces.

Except, oops. Things looking a little pricey here. Po-Boy sandwiches are $11-$14. Hot entrées go for $16-$20. No way.

But got to have something, Mardi Gras and all.

“Two things,” says Humberto when he sees me squiriming. “You could have gumbo in the starters size, for $6.75, or just ask for a half-order of the entrées. It’s okay to. So you could get red beans and rice, or jambalaya with sausage for around $6, $7. Or crawfish étouffée for, like $10.”

Wow. So now we’re talking. I go for the starter gumbo bowl, and then in a moment of, like, Go Figure? I order a Louisiana beer, the most expensive, just because of the name: Andygator. Twenty-two ounces for $8.

But what a combo, with a big basket of bread, small-but filling bowl of that porky meaty gumbo that hits you with a peppery end, white linens, and that Andygator with its slightly sweet, fruity taste, I’m in heaven. And already planning a come-back with Carla.

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Man, with these li’l ol’ 1870s shacks turned into kitchen and dining room, I’ll bet The Big Easy don’t have a nicer place.

Oh, and Humberto brought my bottle of Andygator and a glass chillin’ in an ice-filled ice bucket. Classy.

“Careful of it,” says Humberto. “It’s 8 percent.”

“No problem,” I say. “I have a driver down at the trolley depot.”

“Why’s he parked down there?”

“He drives a trolley.”

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