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No amount of doctoring could save the pulled pork ($9.95), however. When I opened the to-go container, the grayish mounds of stringy meat were still in the shape of the styrofoam bowls used to scoop it out of its holding cell; it looked and smelled like wet cardboard. My fiancée's mother commented on barbecue sometimes being more about the sauce you flavor it with, but neither of the two varieties provided — a vinegary Carolina sauce and a sweet and spicy tomato one — could help me stomach the sad swine. A container of four country pork ribs smothered in barbecue sauce were better; they reminded me of the meaty spears that toppled Fred's car in the opening of The Flintstones — excessively big but delicious.
Speaking of excess, much of the Southern-style cooking at Creolina's veers toward that mark. Mac and cheese ($2 per half pint) is not baked; rather, the wad of pasta and custard-thick cheese is broiled with a layer of more melted cheddar. I wanted to like the fried gator tail ($7.95), but like most of the fried foods Creolina's produces, the cornmeal-crusted bites are overly coated and rather chewy. Accompanying each dinner plate is a brick of corn bread Sulzinski says took "18 years to perfect." Is it perfect? No. It was moist and sweet but too earthy for me.
Although the restaurant serves a lot of its orders to-go, there's also a modest dining room that houses 11 vinyl-covered tables sporting paper menus and plastic flower arrangements. I wanted to give Creolina's one more visit, so I returned to eat dinner there on a weekday. Lisa, the blond waitress from the pickup counter, met us at the door with a big ol' smile that never diminished through our meal, even when she had to peek outside to shoo away loitering kids from the nearby trailer park. Everything inside is aged and worn, from the press clippings to the nostalgic advertisements pinned to the walls. It feels like visiting a relative's house for dinner. We chatted with her about her own kids as we crunched through too-thin fried green tomatoes ($5.95) and overdone hush puppies ($2; Sulzinski has since told me that he's switched to a smaller scoop size to make sure the hush puppies fry more evenly). She packed half of the sad puppies up as I poked at my stomach to try to make more room for a big plate of dolphin piquant ($11.95) crowned with two glistening fillets of mahi-mahi, each lavished in garlicky tomato sauce. Again, I was thwarted by the size of my meal. But when Lisa emerged from the nearby kitchen to refill my house-made lemonade, I resolved to push myself for the win. I asked her if bread pudding ($4.95) was the only dessert they served.
13150 W. State Road 84
Plantation, FL 33325
"You bet," she replied assuredly. "We only need the one."
She was completely right. The warm slice was full of cinnamon, chocolate chips, and walnuts, like a more supple version of a cinnamon bun. We hummed along as we scooped up the whipped mound of vanilla and bourbon sauce with each bite, managing to eat almost the whole thing. Lisa even offered to help us polish off the last bit.
"I get a piece of my own, though, because I've been here a year," she bragged jokingly. Turns out, she started around the same time Creolina's moved into its new spot.
With staff like Rosie and Lisa, who are as delightful as the food, Creolina's should have a lot more anniversaries in its future.