New Recipe: Local Eats: Creole N’ Soul dishes up authentic New Orleans-style Cajun cuisine in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI — A taste of New Orleans Cajun has been drawing people from all over Michigan to Kalamazoo’s Northside.

Creole N’ Soul, located at 702 Douglas Ave., opened last November next to the McKinney family’s first restaurant, Cookie’s Five Star Grill.

The idea for Creole N’ Soul grew out of the soul food Sundays and Cajun specials that owners Chrissy and Tina McKinney would often dish up at Cookie’s. The specials became so popular that when the restaurant next door became available, the McKinneys decided to turn the specials into staples.

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“I love Cajun cuisine,” Chrissy McKinney said. “It has such character.”

It’s also a rarity in West Michigan, more than 1,000 miles north of its birthplace in southern Louisiana.

“You just can’t get these dishes anywhere around here,” McKinney said. “We’re bringing a whole new type of food to the area.”

Many of those old Cookie’s specials can be found on the Creole N’ Soul menu, which features a wide variety of healthy portioned New Orleans-style seafood.

“My mama has always made the best soul food ever,” McKinney said. “Her nickname is Cookie, which is where we got the name for Cookie’s Five Star Grill. I know great soul food when I taste it, and I lover sharing it with our friends of the Kalamazoo area.”

Cookie’s closed this week for remodeling, and the owners expect that closure to stretch from March 26 until April 26. But, in the meantime, Creole N’ Soul continues to operate next door.

Chrissy McKinney said they plan to remodel the interior, logo, signage and update the Cookie’s menu. One item patrons can look forward to on the updated menu is hot honey chicken and fish, which has been served as an occasional special in the past.

Menu items at Creole N’ Soul are packed with flavor, from the gumbo to Po’ Boy sandwiches to loaded fries.

Some of the most popular items include the Seafood Suzy, which starts with a base of penne pasta tossed in creamy white-garlic sauce and is topped with deep-fried catfish, crawfish, jumbo shrimp, lobster claw meat and Langostino lobster meat.

Another favorite is called Surf’s Up. Mashed potatoes loaded with bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions and sour cream are paired with mac n’ cheese topped with bacon and served with deep fried catfish, whole lobster tail and jumbo shrimp drizzled with their surf sauce.

Soul food favorites that originated next door at Cookie’s are now served daily at Creole N’ Soul, with options like chicken and waffles, wings, chicken or pork chops smothered in Creole Southern style gravy. Options for sides include mac n’ cheese, sweet potatoes, collard greens and corn bread.

Both Creole N’ Soul and Cookie’s serve their family recipe “power punch,” which comes in either fruit punch or blue raspberry. Customers can also mix the two flavors.

Creole N’ Soul is currently open Wednesday through Sunday, from 1-6 p.m. The restaurant is closed Monday and Tuesday. Check out the menu here. The restaurant can be contacted at (269) 743-7643 or through its Facebook page.

Be prepared to wait for your food. Despite high demand, the McKinneys say they want to make sure each customer is receiving their money’s worth with a fresh, hot meal.

Tina McKinney says that she was dubious when the family first opened Cookie’s Five Star Grill four years ago.

“It just seemed like such a huge risk,” she said. “We had to borrow a lot of money to start it, and we’ve been working on a shoestring ever since.

“But our success is seen in the faces of people we serve. We have wonderful, loyal customers, who really want to see us succeed. That has kept us going, even when things have been tough.”

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