CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Lively gospel music is playing on a boom box as you approach Shepherd's Café and A Taste of N'Awlins Catering, a New Orleans-style Creole and Cajun lunch and catering business on the West Side.
"It's authentic. It's the real thing," owner Antonio Lewis said in a distinctive Southern accent.
"I worked on Bourbon Street for 18 years. Mardi Gras is 14 days and I'd work 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. I worked for a whole lot of restaurants in New Orleans, and everyone had their certain style of cooking. I've just added my own style in there," said Lewis, a New Orleans native.
"A lot of people think everything from New Orleans is spicy, but it's not. Creole is when you use the seasonings. Cajun is when you use the spices. I get all my food from New Orleans, UPS or FedEx, the next day. I wanted to open a restaurant in Charleston with a different flavor. It's Creole and Cajun cuisine."
The business is in the kitchen of the Rehoboth Cathedral of Christ church, 915 Main St. A whiteboard in the driveway directs patrons to the back right side-door entrance. It opened Aug. 26.
"My cooking speaks for itself," Lewis said, as he listed recent catering jobs for a law firm, a nonprofit organization, legislators and private catering in South Hills.
"No order is too big. No order is too small" is the motto for his catering business.
"I did Taste-of-ALL in Charleston this year. It was some good exposure and everyone is asking, 'Where's the restaurant?'"
Lewis explained that a restaurant is still in the works and that it's currently all pick-up or delivery.
For his lunch business, he does daily specials. "I've got everything from foot-long hot dogs to po'boys, to red beans and rice with sausage, shrimp Creole, blackened fish and blackened shrimp. I'll start serving alligator soon. I've got a couple of ways I like to serve alligator: alligator on a stick and alligator sauce pecan served over rice. I'm going to have a crawfish boil soon."
"I won a blue ribbon in Fort Worth [Texas] for my potato salad. I do mango sweet potatoes too. Some of my other favorites are on my catering list," Lewis said.