The Parish Cafe: New Orleans in Healdsburg

New Orleans style gumbo, fried okra, muffaletta and po boys at Parish Cafe

Nawlins comes to Healdsburg at The Parish Cafe

“The first time you walk in, we want you to feel like you’ve been here a hundred times,” says Bradley Blanchard, setting down a half pound Muffaletta sandwich on my table with a wink. Despite looking easily half my age, he’s called me “Baby” at least three times, with the same kind of boyish Southern charm as his cousin, Parish Cafe owner Rob Lippincott. I can’t say I mind being fawned over. Nor will you.

With all of the easy of The Big Easy, Lippincott’s New Orleans cafe draws you in with homey charm, Southern comfort and a menu that’s pure French Quarter. Open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Sunday, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more authentic Louisiana cooking this side of the mighty Miss.

Breakfast includes a crawfish and Andouille omelet;($11) Egg St. Charles (poached egg with fried trout, $14); Shrimp Grits with Creole tomato sauce ($12), Pain Perdu (French toast with bananas and Bourbon sauce, $9) and Lippincott’s signature Beignets (three for $5), which he’s sold for several years at local farm markets. You’re required, at least by me, to eat those beignets — lightly fried pastries with a dusting of powdered sugar — with Cafe au Lait ($3.50), a heavenly mix of half-and-half and chicory coffee often associated with the famous Cafe Du Monde.

Lunch is a hearty affair with ten different Po-Boys — the signature sandwich of New Orleans served on a light and fluffy French baguette. Lippincott’s in-laws (who own nearby Costeaux French Bakery) make the loaves specially for the restaurant, which are stuffed with fried shrimp, fried oysters (go for the half-and-half, with a mix of both oysters and shrimp), catfish or fried green tomatoes (half or King-sized, $7-$15). Several come with “debris” gravy, pronounced day-bray, a salty, meaty roast beef au jus (which I ordered on the side to dip my fries). The Muffaletta (another NOLA staple) is round of focaccia piled with ham, salami, mortadella, provolone, mozzarella and house-made olive spread ($12-18).

What you’re absolutely here for, however, is the gumbo, made with chicken and Andouille in authentic Southern style with okra, tomatoes, green peppers and served with white rice ($6). Order a side of feather-light hush puppies ($4) and fried okra (which is breaded fresh, so there’s no slime, $3).

You’ll pull away from the table full, no matter what you order. It’s Lippincott and Blanchard’s mission to send you away happy.

“This could easily become a habit,” says a customer waddling out the door. But not before Lippincott hollers after him, “Come back soon, ya’ll.” 60A Mill St., Healdsburg, 431-8474.