It's always hard to quantify such things as restaurant comparisons, particularly in a town that has so many wonderful choices. Below is a list to guide you.
Best Innovative Restaurant
In a town full of shrimp rémoulade atop fried green tomatoes, and crawfish atop Gulf fish (not that there's anything wrong with that!), Stella! and Green Goddess consistently break the mold, Le Foret is blazing its own path, and newcomer Dominique's on Magazine is melding new and traditional flavor profiles.
Best Neighborhood Restaurant
Elizabeth's serves monster portions of delicious and curious food (praline bacon!) and is just flat-out wonderful. A little farther to the north is Liuzza's by the Track, contender for "City's Best Gumbo" and home to gorgeous salads and fat, perfect po' boys. Everything one could want in a neighborhood joint. Uptown, the honor goes to Joey K's.
Best Neighbahood Restaurant
You know, the old neighbahood where the locals still ask, "Hey, dahwlin', wheah y'at?" This category is a tossup between the Italian and Creole dishes at Mandina's and those found at Liuzza's though the deep-fried dill pickle slices at the latter may tip the scales.
Best Late-Night Choice
We go for the burgers and omelets at stalwart Camellia Grill and the oysters at Felix's; both are open till 1am or 2am on weekends. In a pinch, La Peniche is open 24 hours (except on Tues) with something to satisfy everyone. For hearty appetites, the insanely good steaks at La Boca are available till midnight.
Best Wine List
Brennan's, Emeril's, and Commander's Palace all cellar extensive collections, while the lists at Bayona and Meson 923 are smaller yet well-selected.
Best for Kids
Take them to Café du Monde, where getting powdered sugar all over yourself is half the fun, or the counter at Camellia Grill. For something fancy, Antoine's makes a good introduction.
More fighting words, but you can't go wrong at Liuzza's by the Track, Galatoire's, or Herbsaint.
Or "ersters," as the locals would say, and then they would insist that Acme Oyster House or Casamento's is the place. Unless you want charbroiled ersters, in which case head to Drago's.
Best Contemporary Creole
We remain fond of Café Adelaide, as well as lovely Iris and long-termer Brigtsen's, still doing it so well.
Best Contemporary Cajun
It can only be Cochon and its casual offshoot Cochon Butcher, where you won't find yo mama's Cajun; although many believe K-Paul's, the originator, still does an excellent job.
We almost hate to tell you, because it's already too crowded, but New Orleans's traditional Italian presence is best represented at Irene's Cuisine, with A Mano carrying the banner for contemporary Italian.
Best Classic New Orleans Restaurant
Of the three mainstays of New Orleans dining (the others being Galatoire's and Antoine's), Arnaud's is the one where you can count on getting a consistently good (and maybe even great) meal in the same way, and in the exact same surroundings, that generations of New Orleanians have done before you.
Desserts in New Orleans tend to run to the familiar, but some places (often run by people named Brennan) stray into more interesting territory, including the white chocolate bread pudding at the Palace Café, the banana cream pie at Emeril's, and the rounds of goat-cheese crème fraîche with poached pears at Lilette.
Best Classic Creole Soul Food
This traditional local cuisine is well represented at Lil' Dizzy's where the lunch specials draw waiting crowds, and legendary Dooky Chase.
Tough choice, given the richness of this category, but Coquette, La Petite Grocery, and newcomer Sylvain, among others, certainly rate a mention.
Best Outdoor Dining
Bayona, Martinique, and Café Amelie all have quiet, fairly secluded courtyards, delightful on starry nights or balmy spring afternoons.
Best Po' Boys
This might start an argument, but we're all about the roast beef po' boy at the Parkway Bakery and Tavern.
The originator of this olive-drenched sandwich, and still reigning king, is Central Grocery. It may be heresy, but the house-made ingredients at Cochon Butcher may have tipped our scale in its upstart favor.
This famous locally invented cocktail can be found all over the city, including the namesake Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. But we still think that French 75 tops the pack -- though the underrated Tujague's is right up there
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