By Marc Butcavage
The smell of stewed goat and freshly prepared fish fills the air. On the TV, commercials play in an unfamiliar French dialect. Colorful local artwork lines the wall, most of it for sale. Like most restaurants in area, bodegas, hair salons, and pool halls surround it. The Creole Buffet on Uniondale Avenue was exactly what I was looking for.
Though not exactly a buffet, the food is presented in just that style. Nearly opaque lids cover deep pans behind the glass display case. Some open pans reveal whole fish, stewed in an array of vegetables, eyes staring right back at you; while other display the blackest of black rice and beans. For this, however, I wanted something simple and traditional. After overcoming a lack of menu, I settled on stewed beef accompanied with rice and beans, and of course, two large fried plantains. A meal like this would not be complete without a bottle of Kola Champagne, a sweet soda with a taste strangely reminiscent of Juicy Fruit; a soda that has recently be somewhat of an obsession of mine.
Like any good meal of this caliber, it came stuffed in a dripping Styrofoam box, with one plastic fork and a single napkin. The beef itself was tender, and most pieces were still stuck to bone, making the experience a bit more hands on. Though I wasn't completely impressed with the amount of meat in the meal, it came with enough rice to make three meals of. The rice itself was wonderfully moist and came in a blend of spices that made stopping next to impossible. Unlike similar restaurants, the rice was really the centerpiece of this meal, and when both the meat and rice were gone, the cornmeal encrusted plantains made an excellent tool for sopping up the leftover broth.
Even before I had finished my meal, I had already made plans to return. The staff is friendly and more than willing to help with those unfamiliar with the menu. They may crack a few jokes, but it's all in good fun. If you want a good, home-style meal, do not hesitate to stop in and try it yourself.
498 Uniondale Ave, Uniondale NY
516. 280. 7274