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Budget Beat: Second Line Creole-Caribbean Cuisine

There's a wonderful new restaurant sitting inconspicuously on an otherwise dreary stretch of Broadway Road in south Phoenix. Open since late January in a tiny building that used to house Irie Jamaican Restaurant a couple of years ago, this gem is worth the trip to south Phoenix if you live in central Phoenix or Tempe or Scottsdale.
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Second Line should be a welcome addition to anyone who digs the taste of New Orleans cooking. Named after the brass band that customarily performs at a New Orleans funeral, Second Line features po' boys, catfish, jambalaya, gumbo, waffles, chicken, and a few other treats.
Owner Duma Shange is a New Orleans native who moved away from Louisiana as a youngster but never stopped eating and, later, cooking the regional cuisine of his childhood home.

Shange is a polite and friendly fellow who enjoys playing the host. And he does it well. His cooking ain't too shabby either.

The missus and I made our way to Second Line for lunch on a recent Saturday and she immediately took notice of the Saturday special: a bowl of New Orleans Creole Seafood Gumbo for $12. If you go on a  Saturday, you pretty much have to order this dish. It's the only bowl of gumbo I've ever had that contained a whole crab. Besides the crab, there were shrimp, mussels, and loads of other seafood goodies in a flavorful and spicy broth. It was a real treat. (In case you were wondering, the Friday special is a plate of New Orleans Creole Jambalaya for $7. I can't wait to try that one.)

As much as I wanted to order the gumbo, too, I felt it prudent to sample the menu, so I went for the fried fish dinner (they were out of the jerk chicken dinner, darn it) for $8.50. What I got was a large piece of Cajun-seasoned and breaded catfish, a medium-size bowl of red beans and rice, and a piece of homemade corn bread. That's a lot of food for $8.50, and it was all excellent. The red beans and rice, like the gumbo, was a little more on the broth-y side but was loaded with great peppery Cajun flavors. Mmm mmm mmm.

We also split a side of the Creole potato salad, which was outstanding. Thick, mustard-y, and  with chunks of peppers, it was some of the best potato salad I've ever had.

I mentioned the po' boys, the jerk chicken, and the seafood dishes available, so I think it should be mentioned that Second Line serves breakfast and its specialty waffles all day long. I'm looking forward to trying some of the breakfast offerings, such as jerk chicken and waffle, shrimp and cheese grits, fish and waffle, and Creole oatmeal (raisins, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar . . . doesn't that sound good?).

Shange explained that his waffles are more like cake than they are a conventional waffle. We were too full to sample any of these delicacies -- Southern pecan waffle, chocolate chip waffle, banana waffle, waffle sundae -- but we'll definitely be back.

I really hope Shange can make a go of it with Second Line. This kind of place fills a void around and serves up great-tasting homemade grub. The next time you're thinking about all dining out, I urge you to venture out of your regular rotation and check out this south Phoenix diamond in the rough.

If you know of other good Cajun/Creole food in the Valley, I'd love to hear about it. Drop me a line at jay.bennett@newtimes.com.

Second Line Creole-Caribbean Cuisine
2727 East Broadway Road
602-276-7722
Fax: 602-276-7733
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; closed Sunday.

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