The Boston Phoenix
November 19 - 26, 1998

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Highland Creole Cuisine

Light on charm, heavy on the beans

On the Cheap by Rob McKeown

From the outside, Highland Creole Cuisine is hardly charming. Faded pink tablecloths have seen one wash too many, and the light bulbs are two watts from a dark death. To make matters worse, it straddles the last (and least accessible) corner of Somerville's Highland Avenue.

But there's a certain appeal in the bilingual menu (French and English) and in the single-minded mission: Creole food, straight up. Conch ($8), a mollusk ordinarily confined to Florida and the Caribbean, takes the spotlight here. Though the accompanying sauce is somewhere between oily and gelatinous in texture, it's also smoky and sweet and a tad spicy, which makes it a fine foil for the chewy, mellow-in-your-mouth conch. "Vegetables smothered with beef" ($7.25) is a case where more really is more -- a stew, with falling-apart morsels of beef and flavor-soaked chunks of broccoli, carrots, and onions.

Here, $7 or $8 doesn't just buy you dinner -- it brings on a one-man feast. Each entrée comes with two sides and a salad to boot. The plantains are sliced thick, golden in their fried goodness, and admirably well-seasoned. At a mere four per plate, they're also underrepresented, which is not the case with a bowl of rice and beans. For sheer volume it probably surpasses the rest of the dishes put together.

Highland Creole Cuisine, located at 15 Highland Avenue, Somerville, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call (617) 625-8333.

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