Northwest Neighborhood Treasures, Near and Far

Five new reviews of family-friendly ethnic cafes and east coast-style pizza parlors

Ms. B's Authentic Creole Cuisine

8105 Mesa Dr., 372-9529

Monday-Saturday, 11am-3pm; 5:30-10pm

Just around the corner from Las Colinas, you'll find another little jewel of a restaurant tucked into yet another strip center. Restaurateurs Billy and Brenda McGowan opened Ms. B's a little more than three years ago, bringing Brenda's delectable renditions of the Creole cuisine of her native New Orleans to discerning northwest patrons. The McGowans, you might recall, operated a casual Cajun/Creole cafe in Pflugerville for several years, selling it a year ago when their new Austin outlet was firmly established.

The decorating style in Ms. B's is simple and elegant with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Lunch is a pretty casual affair, with $8.95 daily specials such as smothered pork chops or fried chicken with red beans and rice on Mondays and fried catfish on Fridays. You can get baskets of nicely fried seafood ($7-$12) or hearty, well-dressed po'boys ($8-$10) with sides of fries. Kids who aren't adventurous enough to appreciate Creole flavors can chow down on fried chicken or catfish, grilled cheese, or PB&J at very reasonable prices.

Dinner is a little pricier and somewhat more sophisticated, with a leisurely dining pace. The affordable wine list is small but well stocked with wines that pair well with spicy foods and most everything is available by the glass. They also offer some Louisiana beers. We suggest that you start with the dainty crab cakes ($10) or a substantial cup of seafood gumbo ($3.50) made with a rich, dark roux. You'll find a lighter, medium-brown roux as the base for the pleasantly spicy crawfish étouffée ($13.95), a bountiful serving of plump mudbugs surrounding a mound of fluffy white rice. We also enjoyed the chicken and sausage jambalaya ($10.95), in which the sweetness of the tomato sauce balanced fiery cayenne and garlic shrimp, as well as oysters over pasta ($12.95), with the delicate seafood perfectly cooked.

Be sure to save room for dessert, perhaps a steaming bowl of the luxurious bread pudding ($4.75) bathed in a tangy lemon sauce and plenty of warm Chantilly cream or a soul-satisfying serving of homey peach cobbler ($4.50) crowned with quickly melting Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. Whether you're looking for a spot for a business or family lunch or a quiet, romantic dinner, the McGowans have it covered.

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