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We defy anyone to say that New Orleans restaurants defy categorization. Gambit Weekly, after all, does it best. We divvy them up by cuisine (winter) and by neighborhood (fall), and in the spring, we give you a straight-up A-to-Z listing by restaurant name. This summer, after a brief hiatus, we are reinstituting perhaps our most original restaurant guide: an alphabetical tour of your favorite individual foods, literally from "alligator to zucchini."

Check out the index on this page for our categories and then, on the following pages, find about 600 metro-area eateries eager to dish up whatever it is you might be craving. No matter how well you think you know the menu of your favorite dining establishment, we guarantee a few surprise selections sprinkled throughout the good old stand-bys. Be sure to consult the directory, which begins on page 54, for important information, from addresses and phone numbers to hours of operation and price range.

Most importantly, tuck this issue of Gambit Weekly away in a safe place -- that way you'll always be prepared, no matter what munching mood hits.

Without any further ado, bon appetit and see ya later ...


Restaurant Guide Index

Alligator
Artichoke
Asparagus
Bagels
Beans
Beef
Bell Peppers
Bread
Bread Pudding
Burgers
Burrito
Catfish
Cheese
Chicken
Coffee and Dessert
Crab
Crawfish
Crepe
Duck
Eggplant
Eggs
Enchilada
Fish
Gumbo
Hummus
Jambalaya
Lamb
Lobster
Mirliton
Mixed Grill
Muffaletta
Mushroom
Mussels
Noodles
Onions
Oysters
Pancakes
Pasta
Pastries
Pie
Pita
Pizza
Po-boys
Pompano
Pork
Potato
Quail
Quesadilla
Rabbit
Ravioli
Red Beans and Rice
Redfish
Ribs
Salads
Salmon
Sandwich
Sausage
Scallops
Seafood Platter
Shrimp
Softshell Crab
Soup
Spinach
Steak
Sushi
Sweetbreads
Tacos
Tamales
Tomato
Trout
Tuna
Veal
Vegetables
Waffles
Wraps
Zucchini


Alligator

The predator of the Louisiana swamps has become a delicacy in restaurants throughout the country. Prepared like chicken, colored like pork and drenched in an aftertaste similar to halibut, alligator meat is used in a variety of Creole dishes.

Here in New Orleans, alligator can be served anytime one has a taste for it. For breakfast with a bite, for instance, Chef Andrew Jaeger's Back Kitchen serves alligator eggs: the French Quarter restaurant prepares a homemade biscuit topped with poached eggs and alligator sauce piquante and serves it with jambalaya. Coops Place on Decatur Street boasts award-winning beer-battered fried alligator bits, served with Creole mustard.

To start off an afternoon lunch or an evening dinner, local restaurants serve the delicacy as an appetizer. The Sugar House at the Embassy Suites Hotel serves an alligator sauce piquante prepared with fresh fried alligator tail and served with a Creole piquante sauce. Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe not only serves up drinks and music but also offers "gator bites" to begin a meal; the cafe prepares bite-sized, golden-fried chunks of breaded gator meat served with Cajun remoulade and Margaritaville's own Key West cocktail sauce.

For a larger bite before the entree, Arnaud's serves seasoned Louisiana alligator sausage with smoked onion and apple relish. Over at the Hilton, down a TKO, the house's special hurricane recipe, and then move on to the alligator brochette, fresh Louisiana gator fried and served with a spicy tomato basil sauce, both at Kabby's Sports Edition & Grille.

And to prove that alligator really can be served every which way, Pierre Maspero's Food & Spirits serves a smoked alligator sausage po-boy. View original lithographs by Rolland Golden as Maspero's grills the Creole country sausage and tops it with onions, peppers and gravy, all served on French bread.

Artichoke

Many artichoke lovers aren't aware of the floral pedigree of this all-around favorite -- artichokes are from the thistle group of the sunflower family, and the vegetable we eat is actually the plant's flower bud. If allowed to bloom, artichokes sprout big, dazzling violet-blue blossoms. Many people do, however, know about the nutritional benefits of the artichoke: it's rich in vitamin C and other nutrients, and it's fat-free and low-calorie, too.

Artichokes are natural for stuffing, and in the kitchen at Carmine's, they take a giant steamed artichoke and pack it with fried shrimp, fish and crawfish and top it all off with a creamy dill sauce. Another variation can be found at Corner Cafe. There, you can watch the mechanical train whistle around the restaurant as you enjoy the seafood-stuffed artichoke, which is filled with catfish, crawfish and shrimp and drizzled with Parmesan cream sauce. One of the favored side dishes at Harbor Seafood and Oyster Bar is the artichoke stuffed with a simple dressing of bread crumbs, Italian cheeses and seasonings; just pull one leaf off at a time and enjoy.

For a taste combination that never gets old, order the spinach and artichoke combo sandwich at Italian Pie. Homemade fresh-baked bread is brushed with garlic butter and piled high with spinach and artichoke, feta and mozzarella cheeses, mushrooms, onions, and fresh tomato. And the next time you're at the Contemporary Arts Center, stop by its Cyber Bar and Cafe for the artichoke panini: a mixture of artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese and garlic with fontina cheese on olive oil focaccia bread.

At Ruth's Chris Steak House, artichoke isn't the first thing that comes to mind when one is contemplating a selection of sizzling chops. But you can enjoy a light and flavorful appetizer pre-steak when you order the escargot and hearts of artichoke, sauteed in butter, white wine, mushrooms, garlic and scallions. Similarly, Saia's Beef Room saves room on its menu for the house special appetizer, Oysters Saia, pan-fried oysters topped with artichoke hearts and olive oil and smothered in "Saia's mix" -- garlic, bread crumbs, parsley and Romano cheese. And at Morton's Seafood Restaurant, you can enjoy a tangy marinated artichoke salad while gazing at the cypress and oak trees along the nearby Tchefuncte River.

The light, nutty taste of artichoke complements pasta well, as Louisiana Pizza Kitchen knows. Their artichoke ravioli is a ricotta cheese ravioli topped in pesto cream sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. At Come Back Inn II, the artichoke-stuffed chicken breast is served over angel hair pasta in an artichoke cream sauce.

Asparagus

Asparagus spears grow from a crown nestled in the soil, but that's not what makes it the king of vegetables. It's nutritious, packed with such good-for-you things as vitamins, folic acid, potassium and fiber. It's fat-free and low in cholesterol, calories and sodium. And whether it's dressing up a salad or accompanying an entree, it's usually delicious.

Restaurant August uses asparagus lavishly in its kitchen. For example, there's the jumbo white and green asparagus with a dandelion and schinkenspeck salad; the grilled lamb tenderloin with a dandelion, artichoke and wild arugula salad; and the Serrano ham with asparagus and citrus hollandaise. House of Blues offers a crab and asparagus salad with shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, prosciutto and a roasted tomato-shallot vinaigrette. At Antonio's Wine Cellar, grilled asparagus is served with either shrimp or salmon, fresh spring lettuce and sweet roasted peppers, all topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Sake Cafe in Metairie has both an asparagus sushi roll and a special chicken asparagus maki appetizer: a sauteed sliced chicken roll with asparagus, carrot and teriyaki sauce. And at Le Madeleine, the grilled pesto asparagus serves as a light and tasty cohort to such entrees as the rotisserie turkey breast, chicken provencal and spinach crepes.

Bagels

While at the turn of the 19th century, bagels were mostly confined to the delicatessens and bakeries of New York, in the mid-1980s they began appearing in grocery stores and restaurants from L.A. to LaPlace. Nowadays, instead of being served plain as they were in the Old Country, bagels are available with designer cream cheeses and a variety of meats, veggies and spreads.

La Chatelaine offers what is, perhaps, the fanciest bagel in New Orleans. Their Salmon "Rose" and Bagels are toasted minis with smoked cured salmon, thinly sliced and served with creamy Boursin cheese, capers, chopped eggs, red onions and lemon.

While Cafe au Lait's New York Classic is a bagel topped with tomato, cream cheese, lox and red onion, True Brew Cafe offers a bagel breakfast -- scrambled eggs with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage, served on a bagel with cheddar cheese.

Bayou Bagelry offers a variety of bagels -- including poppy, cinnamon apple, jalapeno, salt and honey vanilla walnut -- as well as cream cheese flavors such as smoked salmon, sun-dried tomato and fresh basil, spinach and artichoke, and garlic and herb. And Bagel Factory offers bagel sandwiches with a variety of meats, including roast beef, turkey, grilled chicken and even bologna.

Beans

One advantage to the thick, muggy air New Orleanians love to hate is that, as the Monday sun begins to wane, just about every neighborhood is steeped in the scent of ham bones, sausages and bay leaves stewing in bubbling pots of red beans. But no one ever said we had to wait for Monday, and we certainly don't restrict ourselves to the reddish, kidney-shaped bean variety in this city.

On Wednesdays at eastern New Orleans' Causey's Country Kitchen, operated alongside Causey's bus service in an old Frostop, you'll find smothered pork chops served with rice and black-eyed peas.

Also consider the crowder pea, which is similarly more bean than pea and resembles the black-eyed pea in appearance and taste. The Praline Connection's original Frenchmen Street location serves plates of crowder peas, white beans and green lima beans with rice every day of the week.

Dunbar's Creole Cooking, one of Uptown's favorite spots for soul food and massive cups of lemonade, continues the Monday red-bean tradition but also offers limas and black-eyed peas. Whichever you prefer, it will come with a salad, cornbread and your choice of smoked sausage or super-seasoned fried chicken.

Near the downtown end of Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, students enrolled in Cafe Reconcile's St. Regis Hospitality Program skip the red beans altogether. Instead, they spend the Monday lunch rush preparing and serving creamy bowls of garlicky white beans topped with sauteed shrimp.

Across town in Bayou St. John, Lola's offers a robust, Celtic-style white bean soup (fabada), which is made with ham, sausage and greens. Don't forget to BYOB to this garlic-happy, Spanish-influenced restaurant that charges no corkage fee.

Another atypical legume preparation (for these parts anyway) is the dish of lentils and rice served at Plantation Coffeehouse with pita bread and a cool, cucumber-yogurt-mint condiment. Miyako, on the other hand, joins most Japanese restaurants in serving an edamame appetizer: Who could have guessed that spring-green soybeans boiled in their shells and salted could be so habit-forming?

Black bean fans -- we know you're out there -- can order black bean nachos with a glass of Bushmills and a cigar out on the patio at Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar. These vegetarian nachos are made with freshly fried tortilla chips and housemade pico de gallo. Over at Michael's Mid-City Grill, try a cup of $3.75 black bean soup topped with Monterey Jack and chives before dropping $150 on the Big Bucks Burger, which comes with caviar and a bottle of Dom Perignon.

Beef

What can we say? It's real food for real people.

The Rib Room's Chef's Cut Bone-In, a specialty, is slowly roasted beef served au jus, with baked potato and salad and their famous blue cheese dressing. The Crystal Room's Beef Burgundy is a classic, with aged beef tenderloin tips, marinated and slowly cooked in a vintage burgundy red wine and served over buttered noodles.

For a more exotic treatment, the Imperial Beef at Kung's Dynasty has stir-fried beef cooked in orange-flavored sauce. The Fried Kibby at Babylon Cafe is a kibby meat loaf stuffed with pine nuts, onion and cracked wheat. The Red Curry at Siam Cafe comes with beef, chicken or shrimp, served with Thai red curry, fresh coconut milk, tender bamboo shoots and sweet pepper, garnished with fresh mint.

On the other hand, sometimes down home cooking is what you're after. O'Flaherty's Ulster Combo comes with a nice helping of shepherd's pie smothered in Irish beef stew. Damon's Pot Roast, at Damon's Grill, is a lean and tender pot roast in beef gravy with mushrooms and onions, piled on a plate of cheese-covered potatoes and crispy onion straws. The meatloaf dinner at the Blue Flamingo comes with meatloaf and gravy, served with baked macaroni and cheese, vegetables, a dinner salad, and bread. And Melius Bar & Cafe's hamburger steak comes with mashed potatoes, veggies and a salad.

Sweet's "Again" Bar & Grill in Metairie branches out with a brisket salad, boiled brisket on a bed of iceberg lettuce, covered in homemade Italian dressing. Carreta's Grill recommends fajitas with beef (or chicken or shrimp), served with rice, beans and a guacamole salad.

Finally, don't miss Remoulade's Natchitoches Meat Pies, which come with ground beef, vegetables and seasonings fried into a pastry, or Parasol's Restaurant & Bar's Corn Beef on Rye, which comes with Swiss cheese, two mustards and pickled potato salad.

Bell Peppers

According to the Food Lover's Encyclopedia, sweet peppers -- which are native to tropical areas of the Western Hemisphere -- were first delivered to Spain by none other than Christopher Columbus. The best known sweet peppers are bell peppers (notice their bell-like shape), which have a mild, sweet flavor. With their tops cut off and seeds removed, bell peppers are perfect for stuffing with a variety of fillings.

In the mood? Then take a drive over to Lakeview Harbor, where the stuffed bell peppers are served with homemade baked macaroni and cheese and sweet corn. Or you can catch the game and sink your teeth into plump peppers at Hobnobber Cafe & Sports Grill, where they are served with mac and cheese, plus vegetables and bread. Stationhouse Grille's daily specials include Tuesday's stuffed bell peppers, served with baked macaroni.

Bread

Bread has been a staple for so long -- since prehistoric times -- that it's basically pointless to imagine a world without it. And thank goodness. Where would we be without po-boys or pain perdu? What would Jazz Fest be without crawfish bread? What would we spread our Nutella on?

Ten different breads are baked in India Palace's tandoor oven daily, all smeared with melted butter unless otherwise requested. For just $1.75 to $2.75 per order, there's bread stuffed with minced lamb and herbs, bread stuffed with homemade cheese and raisins, and whole wheat bread stuffed with spiced cauliflower, just to name a few.

Also in Metairie, Ragusa's Italian sandwich shop is well-known for its patented artichoke bread: toasted French bread topped with artichoke heart dressing and melted mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Nearby, the kitchen at Charley G's slides flatbread onto the wood-burning grill, topping it with fried oysters, roasted eggplant, tomatoes, basil and herby Boursin cheese.

In another seafood-topped bread dish, the kitchen at Boule Prime House makes Rain Forest Bread: Italian-style garlic bread with sauteed spinach, Louisiana crawfish, housemade jalapeno cheese and melted Monterey Jack. Traveling over to Latin America (and back to Metairie), Serrano's makes an open-face sandwich by topping Cuban egg bread with black beans, guacamole, melted cheeses and pico de gallo. And the Bombay Club, a quietly hidden martini bar and restaurant just steps from Bourbon Street, is one of many restaurants serving a torn bread salad during the summer months. This one is made with baby mixed greens, grilled Gulf shrimp, torn bread, chevre and balsamic vinaigrette.

On mornings when you don't have any of your own stale bread to save, remember Pere Antoine's pain perdu ("lost bread"), the New Orleans-French version of French toast. The signature French toast at Metairie's Foodies Kitchen, modeled on a bananas Foster dessert, is made with banana nut bread and smothered in bananas Foster sauce. Stop by the bakery area at either Foodies Kitchen location for loaves of Murray the Baker's Chocolate Bon Bon bread, ciabatta, challah, spinach-feta bread and Jewish rye, among many others.

Bread Pudding

There are few things more quintessentially New Orleans than bread pudding, and the city's chefs are plenty serious about making theirs stand out.

Mulate's Cajun Restaurant does a fairly traditional version that's a customer favorite, adding raisins to a creamy pudding and topping it with butter-rum sauce. Express Deli does a sans raisin bread pudding, but exchanges the traditional butter-rum for an amaretto-pecan sauce (for only $1 a serving). Russell's Marina keeps the butter-rum sauce, but pours it over a white chocolate bread pudding. Anselmo's Restaurant & Bar puts an Italian spin on the favored dessert, also dressing it up with white chocolate.

Deanie's Seafood Restaurant mixes its bread pudding into a rich custard with a touch of coconut, then drizzles it with its special cream anglaise and sprinkles on toasted almonds. Sugar Magnolia takes a more singular path, serving a delectably rich caramelized apple bread pudding. Commander's Palace's bread pudding is so special you have to order it in advance; it starts with a traditional base that's whipped into a fluffy souffle, then a special whiskey sauce is added tableside.

Burgers

When you're hungry, hungover or feeling carnivorous, nothing hits the spot like a burger. With so many options and styles for this classic available around town, it's no wonder some folks get so worked up when discussing exactly how their spot does it.

Hero's All-American Grill provides two unique takes with the Duke Burger, which comes with bacon and cheddar cheese and a Barq's barbecue sauce, and the Goodfella Burger, with grilled onions, peppers and provolone cheese. At Tucker's Tavern -- "Home of the Stuffed Burger" -- don't be afraid to take a bite out of The Big Cheese, a half-pound burger stuffed with pepper jack, American, mozzarella, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, then buttered and fried and topped with a fried onion ring.

Port of Call has docked many a sailor in search of their burgers, where you have made-to-order options including cheese and mushrooms. At Fat Harry's, you can dance with the Jazz Burger on an onion roll, which boasts beef, hot sausage, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, and barbecue sauce.

Houston's gives the herbivores their due with the House Made Veggie Burger, with brown rice and oat bran combining with melted Jack cheese. As a companion to the steak fries, Igor's Igor Burger is a half-pound sirloin patty accented by your choice of barbecue sauce or Cajun-style sauce. Igor's Check Point Charlie has the Charlie Burger, with a half-pound sirloin served with your choice of sauce or cheese.

Hit the beach with The Beachburger at The Beachcorner Bar & Grill, a 10-oz. creation made to order with options of cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and white or wheat bun. Defying easy explanation is the No. 4 at Bud's Broiler, with the charcoal-broiled meat topped with grated cheddar cheese, chili or the housemade hickory-smoked barbecue sauce. Complement your strawberry daiquiri at Pontchatoula's Paul's Cafe with a hamburger or cheeseburger.

Stay a while at the Rendon Inn for the House Burger, a blending of beef and hot sausage topped with melted Swiss and pepper jack cheeses. Clover Grill's mushroom bacon burger begins with 6 oz. of ground beef that is later topped with a thick slice of cheddar cheese and chili. Both locations of the Red Steer Grill offer the Big Red Burger, a half-pound, certified Angus beef burger cooked to order and served dressed with French fries; every Monday and Tuesday, the Big Red goes for only $3.99 at the Severn store.

Baha's Burger, perched at the Balcony Bar & Cafe, consists of a half-pound of ground beef, tomato, grilled onions, green peppers, mushrooms, jalapeno peppers and bacon. Polynesian Joe's Da Wong Burgers are all charbroiled over an open flame and served with a 5-inch bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions.

Yo Mama's Bar & Grill has a long list of burgers probably a lot different from yo mama's, including the Burger Romanoff, featuring a unique melding of sour cream and caviar, and the Peanut Butter Burger, as the meat is topped with peanut butter and bacon. Yo Mama's Bull Fighter brings the heat with avocado, jalapenos and salsa. Weaver's also gets spicy, with the Cajun Burger containing many of the spices of south Louisiana.

All four area Lee's Hamburgers locations cook hamburgers made to order. New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Co.'s Cajun Burger is a 6-oz. burger dusted with spices and served on a regular or whole wheat bun or 7-inch French bread, with your choice of toppings from the Lagniappe Bar. Don't kid yourself with the one-and-a-half pound Belly Buster Burger at The Edge Bar and Grill. And O'Henry's follows up those peanuts with options that include the Baja Burger, which finds the beef seasoned with fajita spices and topped with grilled onions and Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses.

Finally, for an offer you can't refuse, Katie's Special Sicilian Hamburger boasts mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce.

Burrito

Blending the flavors of Texas and Mexico is the cuisine known as Tex-Mex, and burritos are the consummate Tex-Mex meal. Here in New Orleans, chefs find a way to put a new spin on the meal-in-a-tortilla. For brunch, the Red Bike Cafe and Pizzeria serves a breakfast burrito with a special touch. It consists of a flour tortilla filled with eggs, fresh spinach and cheese, topped with fresh salsa and served on a bed of ranchero sauce. The Blue Tomato Restaurant & Cantina dishes up its "big phat" burrito served with beans and rice, topped with salsa and melted cheese, and filled with your choice of beef, chicken, steak, vegetables, pork, or shrimp.

Kokopelli's adds a bit of farming in the Farmer Brown's Garden, a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with brown rice, black beans, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, grated carrots, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and a choice of four salsas. In Kenner, El Patio serves a meal for the hearty appetite with its Maximilian, a flour tortilla stuffed with beef, chicken or shrimp, deep-fried and topped with shrimp and Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce. And over on Magazine Street, Juan's Flying Burrito serves its eponymous Flying Burrito, filled with chicken, steak, shrimp, guacamole and sour cream, and served with beans and rice.

Catfish

In the last decade, the rest of the country discovered what Louisianians have known for years: that humble bottom-dweller, the catfish, makes for fine eating. And there are plenty of fine local establishments that cook up catfish just right. At Alex Patout's Restaurant, Atchafalaya River catfish is fried and served with a spicy Louisiana chow-chow. For a serious taste explosion, Barrister's Patio Bar & Grill in Chalmette stuffs catfish with crabmeat stuffing, deep-fries it and tops it with a crabmeat bordelaise sauce. The Cajun Catfish House in Jefferson serves up unpretentious, hearty fare with Doc's Catfish Burger, a helping of Cajun catfish on a bun, served with fries and salad. The lunch menu at Adams Catfish House goes a step further with its fried catfish salad, featuring chopped catfish and hardboiled egg with tartar sauce on a bed of lettuce. If high-end is more your style, the catfish remoulade at the Grill Room is topped with Sevruga caviar. Perhaps the granddaddy of catfish joints is Middendorf's in Manchac, which specializes in razor-thin fried catfish that's downright addictive. Barrow's Shady Inn serves small, medium and large platters of catfish with potato salad and toast; they must do it right because catfish is the only meal served here.

And if you just can't get enough, the Triple XXX Restaurant in Slidell is just the ticket, with a "all-you-care-to-eat-catfish" special for $9.95, offering bottomless portions of their fried or grilled catfish with lemon-pepper seasoning.

Cheese

Aside from the few restaurants that offer separate cheese courses, our options for indulging in cheese as the main component of a dish are limited. Let us provide a few tips.

At Vega Tapas Cafe, where all portions are the size of generous appetizers, you can order goat cheese baked with tomato sauce and served with roasted garlic croutons. Playing smaller roles, Roquefort cheese comes with Vega's grilled flatiron steak, feta cheese is wrapped in phyllo dough with chicken and mushrooms, and a manchego cheese gratin accompanies Vega's grilled lamb chops.

You've never seen so many men in ties bellying up to a bar at lunchtime -- for espressos -- as you'll see at Byblos' new, swank Magazine Street location. Similarly, you've likely also never tasted anything like the Drunken Halloumi appetizer. The sheep's cheese is sauteed with Ouzo and olive oil and served with tomatoes and garlic sauce.

The lunch menu at Bistro at Maison de Ville includes another vegetarian, cheese-based appetizer: smoked Gouda and vegetables rolled up in grilled radicchio leaves, then presented with roasted shallot-thyme cream. At dinnertime, there's a grilled portobello mushroom stuffed with Reggiano Parmesan, fontina cheese and sauteed arugula.

At Hugh's Wine Cellar in Mandeville, along with deli sandwiches and salads, you'll find a pate and cheese lunch plate. Composed of whatever is new and fresh in the store, the plate is garnished with caper berries, cornichons, fruit and mini toasts.

Sometimes at the end of a late night, the only food that will satisfy is a plate of chili cheese fries, like the ones sold at the Swamp Room in Metairie. More cheesy bar food is served 24 hours at Avenue Pub in the form of fried jalapeno cheese sticks. And one of the house specialties at Dino's Bar & Grill near the I-10 overpass in the Warehouse District is an unsippable fried olive martini. Green olives stuffed with Parmesan cheese are battered, fried and served in a martini glass.

Finally, Creole cream cheese has made a comeback since it was inducted onto the Slow Food ark of endangered foods last year, and since a local dairy began selling it at the Crescent City Farmers Market. But Arnaud's served the mildly sour, wet curds all along. Arnaud's Creole Cream Cheese Evangeline, "a traditional breakfast starter," consists of sugared Creole cream cheese and seasonal fruit.

Chicken

Chicken hasn't always been a familiar dish. Until after World War II, according to on's Cooking Guide, only affluent Americans and poultry farmers could afford the proverbial Sunday chicken dinner. Happily, modern production methods make the chicken more commonplace and affordable.

The World Deli restaurant serves fried boneless chicken breasts with creamed potatoes for lunch and dinner. Mama's Tasty Foods dishes out a skinless chicken, fresh cut into bite-sized pieces, then marinated and fried. In Mid-City, Dolly's Deli serves its chicken-fried, barbecued or rotisserie-style, either by the platter or by the individually priced piece.

Rascal's Deli, in the Central Business District, proffers a baked chicken dinner, served with a choice of two side dishes, including red beans and rice, veggies, macaroni and cheese. Creole mainstay Tujague's, established in 1856 and located near the French Market, is known for its chicken Bonne Femme, which is served with cottage fries. Out in Avondale, Mosca's invites you to try the chicken a la Grande, a whole chicken prepared the Italian way, with a healthy dose of garlic (and accompanied by a list of fine wines).

Lager's in Metairie recommends its Dragon Stout chicken, a grilled marinated chicken breast covered with bacon, Monterey Jack cheese and Jack Daniel's barbecue sauce -- served with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled veggies. Robo's Cafe beckons diners to the Northshore for a smothered chicken dinner -- a fresh chicken breast with onions and bell peppers, grilled and smothered with a blend of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Downman Road Daiquiri and Deli offers fried chicken tossed in a dark and spicy molasses Buffalo sauce. Robin's on Canal has a world-famous chicken and waffles breakfast.

Nirvana Indian Cuisine in Uptown dishes out the Malai Kebab, a cashew and spice-crusted chicken breast roasted over hot coals and served on a sizzling platter. The Red Star Chinese restaurant salutes summer with its General Tsao chicken, a deep-fried chicken drenched in sweet, sour and spicy tsao sauce, served with steamed rice. Over on Magazine Street, Cafe Rani offers chicken Satay, an appetizer of coconut, curry and marinated chicken tenders on a cool cucumber slaw with three dipping sauces.

In addition to St. Louis pork-cut ribs and a variety of salads and sandwiches, Saucy's tempts tasters with Buffalo wings served with a choice of 12 delectable sauces, ranging from the spicy and tart lemon pepper to the Mediterranean, a sun-dried tomato base with feta cheese.

Vesper's Bar & Grill in Metairie serves its signature chicken "drummettes" three different ways: hot, mild or "scorchin'!" And Hooters chicken wings are shaken in mild, medium, or hot "3 Mile Island" sauce or "911" wing sauce.

Coffee and Dessert

We live in an age when coffee is no longer simply served with dessert. Sometimes it is the dessert. Take Starbucks' new Coconut Frappuccino, for example. Blended with toasted coconut flakes, swirled with whipped cream and drizzled with caramel, it's difficult not to think of it as frozen pie in a cup. The added bonus, of course, is the caffeine content. CC's Coffee calls its signature frozen blended drink a Mochassippi, although purists prefer CC's traditional, cold-brewed iced cafe au lait. News and Brews' two locations serve coffee, pastries, cakes, fruit salads, muffins, bagels and cookies.

Planc Coffee & Tea in Harahan has its own blended coffee specialties. The Mochanana Freeze is an icy blend of coffee, chocolate and banana, while the Peanut Butter Blast is like sipping a cold chocolate peanut butter cup through a straw. Planc's unblended iced coffees include flavors like creme brulee and English toffee. Open since 1983, Croissant D'Or offers rich blends of coffee and a variety of French pastries and desserts, in addition to salad, soups and croissant sandwiches.

The barristas at Rue de la Course's various locations add ice cream to their blended drinks, further muddling the distinction between caffeinated beverage and sweet indulgence. Try the subtle chai tea milkshake or the super-charged Cafe Lagniappe: a shot of espresso, coffee beans and vanilla ice cream. Also remember Angeli on Decatur for another late-night, frozen caffeine buzz. Wings of Desire is a unique milkshake made with espresso, chocolate ice cream and orange juice; Gabriel's Wake-Up Call contains espresso, coffee ice cream and Coca-Cola. Down at Cafe du Monde, you can get your cold cafe au lait blended or simply iced; add as many powder sugared beignets as your conscience will allow. Morning Call Coffee Stand in Metairie also serves sugary beignets and coffee.

Asian restaurants and coffee shops are helping Gulf Coasters catch up with the bubble tea craze that the country's two main coasts have already enjoyed for years. Sweet bubble tea beverages are sometimes blended, sometimes simply iced, sometimes made with actual tea and other times with fruit juice. The one constant is a handful of black tapioca pearls the size of Mardi Gras beads at the bottom of every bubble tea cup. Frosty's Caffe has the largest bubble tea selection in town -- everything from durian to green tea with lychee to purplish taro root. Java House serves mostly fruit-flavored bubble teas, as well as smoothie-like jet teas. Made with fruit, green tea, ginko biloba and ginseng, jet teas are supposed to energize body, mind and soul.

Of course, you could say the same about Haagen-Dazs' intense coffee ice cream, which is available in hand-packed pints at any location. So are banana splits, made with coffee or any other Haagen-Dazs ice cream flavor. We can't talk ice cream without mentioning Angelo Brocato, the local Italian-owned old-fashioned joint where it could take all night to choose between blood orange sorbet, zuppa inglese ice cream and housemade cannoli stuffed with regular and chocolate-flavored ricotta cheeses.

While most of us associate Royal China Restaurant with all-day dim sum, one of Sheriff Harry Lee's favorite restaurants also serves green tea and red bean ice creams. On the Asian restaurant ice cream tip, look for tempura-fried banana with honey sauce and vanilla ice cream at Mikimoto Japanese Restaurant.

This summer, Dick & Jenny's is offering a lighter frozen fruit dessert. Along with a mint julep creme brulee and a black-bottom peanut butter pie, the seasonal menu lists an ice-cold watermelon wedge served with mango freeze.

What would a discussion of frozen desserts be without a baked Alaska? Emeril's Delmonico is filling this blank in typical, classy fashion with a baked Alaska made with pistachio-caramel ice cream and brown sugar sauce. Take the streetcar a few blocks up St. Charles Avenue to the Pontchartrain Hotel's Bayou Bar for a slice of Mile High Pie: a layered dessert of chocolate, vanilla and chocolate-mint ice creams. A frozen dessert at Bennigan's, the White Chocolate Chill-Out, is named for its vanilla chocolate chip ice cream, plus the white chocolate it's dipped in.

Now that we've mentioned the c-word, a few restaurants offer desserts that only hard-core chocoholics could wrangle after a good meal. At Outback Steakhouse, where entree portions tend to exceed weekly protein quotas, the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under is a warm pecan brownie served a la mode with chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings. The Godiva chocolate cake at Morton's of Chicago oozes a warm, molten chocolate center. VooDoo BBQ's chocolate layer cake is spiked with Dr. Pepper. Gretna's Beef Connection reports that the flourless, iced Chocolate Suicide Cake could go by the pseudonyms "Chocolate Cake to Die For" or "Death by Chocolate."

On the other hand, chocolate is only one of the many cheesecake flavors sold at Your Daily Bread Bakery. Also look for pina colada cheesecake, orange marmalade cheesecake and banana-almond sour cream cheesecake. Cheesecake connoisseurs should also drop into Cafe Pontalba on Jackson Square between palm readings for a taste of plain cheesecake dripping with praline sauce. If the vanilla flan at Country Flame or the bananas Foster prepared tableside at Sal & Sam's satisfy straightforward cravings for timeless desserts, there are multiple pastry chefs expending energy concocting original desserts. For a nibble of such sweet precision, check out just about any dessert inside the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, like the Guinness creme brulee with warm chocolate cake and chocolate sorbet served at the French Quarter Bar.

Finally, for a restaurant known for its stylish entrees, Bayona has dessert-seekers craving its new blueberry cream cheese beignet. The yeast-based dough, featuring almond flour with cinnamon, is rolled out with a filling of fresh blueberries, cream cheese marscapone, vanilla and sugar and fried in oil, and then served with blueberry compote and toasted almond ice cream.

Crab

It boils down to this -- a good crab is never hard to find in the Crescent City. A fine example is Nautical's crab meat brie dip appetizer -- crab meat mixed with velvety brie and cream cheese, served with grilled French bread; Bull's Corner Lakefront also has crab meat and brie dip.

Billy Farrell's crab meat Pontchartrain is an old family recipe of lump crab meat and shrimp in a butter baked stuffing; world famous Pascal's Manale Restaurant has the Combination Pan Roast, which features oysters and crab meat chopped in a blend of shallots and parsley seasonings.

West End Cafe's Maryland Crab Cakes are served with crawfish tomato basil sauce and potato salad; Smith & Wollensky's Shellfish Bouquet comes with raw oysters on the half shell, marinated blue crab claws, steamed Maine Lobster, boiled jumbo shrimp and colossal crab meat on shaved ice with ginger mayonnaise. For something a little different, try La Thai Cuisine's softshell crab salad, served with a balsamic and mango dressing.

Jack Dempsey's Restaurant's shrimp and crab casserole contains bread stuffing with shrimp, crab meat and seasoning, served with a cup of gumbo; Covington's City Club serves crab cakes with Louisiana macque choux and remoulade; and Brennan's Buster Crabs Bearnaise comes with baby softshell crabs sauteed in butter, then topped with Bearnaise sauce. Cannon's offers crab cake Salvatore, three crab cakes topped with the house's crawfish sauce and served with creamy fettucine and steamed vegetables.

For something really special, GW Fins offers sweet, ice-cold Louisiana stone crab claws as an appetizer.

Crawfish

Let's face it: crawfish is Louisiana. No other seafood more embodies one state than crawfish does Louisiana -- more so than Maine lobster, more so than Maryland crabs, more so than Florida marlin. And for a shellfish so often called a bottom-feeder, crawfish in New Orleans is nothing but top-notch when it comes to the many different ways it's served in local kitchens.

So how do you want it? A starter? OK, the Gumbo Shop serves up a mean crawfish remoulade (but also offers the traditional crawfish etouffee). Royal Cafe serves up a crawfish and spinach salad, where Cajun-fried crawfish tails are served over fresh spinach and tossed with the house's apple-smoked bacon, Dijon and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse postpones the red-meat attack with its version of the Louisiana crawfish cake, a pan-sauteed cake emboldened with peppers and onions and served with a roasted red pepper and smoked jalapeno aioli. Louisiana Grill has diners diving into the Crawfish Florentine Dip: fresh Louisiana crawfish baked with fresh creamed spinach and topped with melted Pepper Jack cheese and served with toast points. And the Funky Butt shakes its thing with the Louisiana Crawfish Spring Roll, with Monterey jack cheese, green onions and a homemade sauce.

As a main event? Maple Street Cafe buries the little buggers in the Maple Street Crawfish, with fettuccine and tri-color peppers, dill, seafood stock, parsley, butter and cheese. Desire Oyster Bar can go either way, with the traditional crawfish etouffee (crawfish tails in a brown Creole sauce served with steamed rice), crawfish and tasso pasta (served with tasso ham in a spicy cream sauce) or the crawfish cake plate.

As an Asian fusion event? Try China Orchid's black bean crawfish, one of the house specialties. As a pizza? R&O's Pizza piles it onto its pies, certainly, but also prides itself in its crawfish pie, marinated crawfish tails, and of course, boiled crawfish. But when people think of mounds of boiled crawfish, they often think of Sid-Mar's of Bucktown, which dumps plates and plates of the steamed version.

Crepe

A crepe is a study in simplicity -- a very thin pancake filled with savory or sugary ingredients -- yet it takes practice to produce the perfect specimen. Fortunately, several places in town have perfected the art of crepe-making with elegant entrees, appetizers and desserts.

The Louisiana crepes at Jazz Seafood and Steakhouse consist of crabmeat and shrimp seasoned and wrapped in a crepe, then topped with crabmeat and crawfish tails in a Hollandaise sauce. At Cafe Sbisa, the crawfish crepe appetizer is prepared with a filling of crawfish tails, herbs and Creole seasonings and topped with a lemon butter beurre blanc. And August Moon serves a Vietnamese crepe, the Banh Xeo, a pan-seared rice-flavored crepe filled with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts and served with Nuoc Cham sauce.

Breakfast at Tricou House is made complete with a simple crepe in a reduced cream sauce with cheddar and a choice of breakfast filling, or served with strawberries and whipped cream. And luncheon at the Palace Cafe includes the beef tenderloin crepe, with seared tenderloin sauteed with caramelized onions, mushrooms and Gruyere cheese and folded into a crepe, served with horseradish cream.

Because crepes are the name of the game at La Crepe Nanou, room should always be saved for the signature Crepe Nanou. It's a giant homemade crepe filled with toasted almonds and chocolate and topped with French vanilla, chocolate and coffee ice creams, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. Another opulent meal-ender is the Bananas Foster Crepe Flambe at Petunia's Restaurant: a crepe filled with bananas and vanilla ice cream, sauteed with rum, brown sugar and vanilla and set aflame.

Duck

These days, duck appears on the menu at fine dining restaurants nearly as often as chicken and salmon -- perhaps because the rich, reddish meat lends itself to such a variety of preparations. Many duck dishes around the city are steeped in Asian flavors, like Vietnamese Chef Minh Bui's duck at 56 Degrees, which is marinated in a Chinese five-spice mixture and slow-roasted. This duck is ultimately served semi-boneless over sesame stir-fried vegetables and Chinese egg noodles.

You'll even find Asian flavors in the Duck and Shrimp Dulac served at Paul Prudhomme's K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, the restaurant that introduced the rest of the country to Cajun cooking. Thin strips of duck breast and shrimp are cooked with leeks and crimini, shiitake, portobello and oyster mushrooms, then tossed with a sesame oil-tamari glaze.

This summer, the smart dining rooms of Stella! will witness their share of Chef Scott Boswell's Asian-influenced duck breast preparation. Boswell sears the meat and then serves it with foie gras wontons, a moo shoo pancake and a currant-cassis reduction. Over in eastern New Orleans, Dong Phuong Restaurant serves a deep bowl of noodle soup with sliced duck breast, bok choy, mushrooms and a deeply pleasing broth. At $5.50, this may be the least expensive way to satiate a craving for the web-footed bird. Be sure to breeze through Dong Phuong's adjacent bakery for moon cakes, soft raisin buns, French baguettes and sesame jelly candies.

Fruit is often used in side dishes and sauces to balance out duck's intense, sometimes gamey flavors. Duck a l'orange -- roasted duck garnished with orange segments and accompanied by an orange-flavored brown sauce -- is such a classic that it appears on page 276 of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It also shows up at brunches in the courtyard of The Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter. Plum is another natural duck pairing, which you can taste for yourself in the plum demi-glace that accompanies half a Muscovy duck and Moroccan-spiced lentils at the Hotel Monteleone's Hunt Room Grill. Down Royal Street, the kitchen at Tortorici's serves duck with raspberry-plum sauce; plum is also the main ingredient for a glaze slathered over duck breast at Kelsey's, the new stomping grounds of Chef Tait Guthrie.

A roasted duck served with both garlic-Port and ginger peach sauces is such an Upperline staple that it's one of the seven small dishes served during the bargain $36.50 Taste of New Orleans Dinner offered nightly. The Napoleon House, most famous for muffalettas and Pimm's Cups, is currently pairing duck breasts with baked polenta and Louisiana fig glaze. Not to be outdone by either the fruity flavors or the decadent combinations of other duck entrees around town, Chef Thomas Wolfe slow-roasts his duck at Wolfe's of New Orleans, then serves it with goat cheese flan, seared foie gras and dried cherry spaetzle. The romantic Feelings Cafe is known for its duck Bigarade, half of a Long Island duck, deboned, roasted and glazed with a semi-sweet orange sauce made with Grand Marnier, all served on a bed of rice. Portobello Cafe's Muscovy duck breast is touched with a blueberry duck reduction and served with caramelized sweet potatoes, steamed snow peas and honey-glazed cornbread.

Finally, in a category all its own, the crew at Mat & Naddie's does duck this way: seared Maple Leaf Farms duck breast with a summer squash gratin, bacon, and a sauce made with picholine olives and tomatoes.

Eggplant

It is neither an egg nor a plant; it has been described as a fruit, but eggplant is a vegetable commonly cooked like meat. It is not human, but it has sexes: the female eggplant has more seeds, and the male eggplant is smoother. Eggplants originated in Asia and, with Thomas Jefferson's experimentation, were cultivated in the South, but they have been perfected by Italian cuisine. This purple peculiarity has been constructed into a culinary delicacy.

Bringing the eggplant back to its Asian roots, Five Happiness serves eggplant in Peking sauce. Restaurants that primarily serve New Orleans cuisine have put their own Cajun touch on the vegetable: Tony Mandina's Restaurant serves Eggplant Dominic Jude, hand-battered eggplant layered with shrimp and crabmeat and topped with a shrimp Alfredo sauce. In Metairie, New Orleans Food and Spirits serves Eggplant Pontchartrain, golden-fried eggplant served over angel hair pasta and topped with a delicious crawfish cream sauce.

Many restaurants have taken the gourmet route in cooking eggplant. La Provence prepares eggplant flan with tomato and basil fondue, and Lillette Restaurant on Magazine Street makes eggplant crisps with skordata, tomato, basil and oil-cured olives. Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro has a signature dish called Stacked Eggplant Napoleon, golden fried eggplant rounds layered with a shrimp, oyster, and eggplant dressing, topped with oyster cream sauce and served with angel hair pasta. Located in the Park Esplanade Apartments, the Esplanade Restaurant serves Eggplant Vincent, an eggplant pirogue dipped in homemade bread crumbs, fried, filled with shrimp, oysters, crawfish and mushrooms, and topped with an herb butter cream sauce. Allegro Bistro serves their Eggplant St. Charles, which is slices of eggplant on tomato sauce with sauteed crabmeat in between them and covered in hollandaise.

Italian restaurants of New Orleans have perfected the eggplant cuisine. Eggplant can be served as an appetizer, as with Andy Messina's Restaurant, which serves Italian fried eggplant sticks, and with Petra, which prepares an eggplant cake served with crabmeat sauce. For entrees, Mother's Restaurant serves mousaka, baked eggplant, potatoes and meat sauce served with the vegetable of the day, while Tony Angello's Ristorante prepares eggplant Tina and eggplant parmigiana -- both served, of course, with pasta.

Eggs

There's nothing more beloved than a "good egg," and Yvonne's Restaurant gives you two with a choice of grits or smothered potatoes, a meatball and toast. If your egg cravings hit you at odd times, you can always sate them at the Deja Vu Bar & Diner in the French Quarter, which serves breakfast and more 24 hours a day, including the spunky Eggwich: a trio of egg, ham and cheese brought together on an English muffin. An Uptown odd-hours option is the famed Camellia Grill, best known for its chili-cheese omelette and chocolate freeze (with ice cream, oh yeah), which covers the bases with omelettes to cover tastes cravings for Western spices, vegetables, Mexican flavors and simpler fare. They're all served with French fries.

You may want to call ahead or order an appetizer if you want to taste the specialty Spanish omelette at Churros Cafe; it's not expensive ($5.95), but you have to allow 30 minutes for the egg mixed with potatoes and ham or chorizo and served with a salad or toast. You can get all kinds of egg dishes at Magnolia Cafe, but the Rajun Cajun omelette stands out: a blend of smoked Cajun sausage, ham, bell pepper and onion blanketed with Creole sauce. A more down-home version is Maw Maw's Omelet at Quarter Scene Restaurant, which blends the eggs with sausage, bacon, green peppers and onions, then tops it with hearty cheddar cheese. You can choose your own combination and watch your breakfast being cooked at the omelette station at City Energy Club's live gospel champagne brunch, the last Sunday of every month this summer (starting in July).

There are even omelettes that evoke exotic places, such as 9 Roses Vietnamese version, which stuffs the omelette with shrimp, pork, vegetables and bean sprouts. Fortuna's Dixie Gyros concocts a Greek omelette with gyro meat, feta cheese and vegetables, and served with pita bread on the side. For a no-meat version, Riccobono's Panola Street Cafe offers the Sausalito: an omelette spunked up with sauteed fresh spinach, mushrooms, garlic and mozzarella cheese.

Don't like your eggs scrambled? Check out Mande's Restaurant's Cajun Benedict, in which two housemade crawfish sausage patties are laid atop English muffin halves and tomato slices before they're topped with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce and served with home fries. The management of the Hummingbird Bar & Grill says its most popular dish is the simple Early Bird Special, featuring three eggs with bacon or sausage and grits or toast.

We would be remiss if we didn't mention the ever-popular quiche in our eggsposition, which is cooked up at The Secret Garden Tea Room and Cafe in traditional Quiche Lorraine, a seafood quiche and a chef's special of the day, all served with a salad.

Enchilada

This Mexican specialty is made by rolling a corn tortilla around a meat or cheese filling. It's served hot and usually topped with salsa and cheese. North of the border, you can find several interpretations of the enchilada at these New Orleans-area restaurants.

It isn't everywhere that you can have "Dinner with Elvis"; Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar and Restaurant says they've just puffed up his pompadour, so stop by for a combo including a chicken enchilada in fajita sauce, a cheese enchilada with salsa verde, and a hand-rolled beef burrito topped with salsa and sour cream.

The Heff-Welsson Smoked BBQ Enchilada at The Bulldog boasts two whole wheat tortillas filled with diced, marinated chicken and sauteed pico de gallo, topped with smoked hickory barbecue sauce and mixed cheeses, and served with refried beans and sour cream.

The Guadalajara at Vera Cruz comes with two chicken enchiladas cooked in salsa verde, smothered in white cheese and topped with guacamole. The chicken enchilada at Nacho Mama's Mexican Grill features two corn tortillas wrapped around a chicken breast baked with cheddar and Monterey cheeses, topped with a special sauce and sour cream, and served with a side of Mexican rice, black beans and pico de gallo. And the Enchilada Verdes dinner at Carreta's Grill comes with three chopped steak or chicken enchiladas with green salsa, rice, beans and guacamole salad.

Fish

Even with such regulars as trout and redfish dominating our seafood menus, fresh catches and good deals can determine a lot as far as what fish we can reel in. A number of choices abound, with even more ways to prepare these catches.

Ristorante Filippo prepares its red snapper filet by pan-frying it before adding toppings of shrimp, crawfish, crabmeat and mushrooms, all in a white wine sauce with pasta. Ralph & Kacoo's offers their best catch in The Ruby, with the fish filet broiled with crabmeat stuffing, topped with lump crabmeat and hollandaise sauce. A specialty of Gabrielle is the almond- and potato-crusted red snapper with braised fennel.

The fresh gulf fish meuniere selection at Rico's Bucktown usually consists of redfish or trout, with the filet sauteed and served with lump crabmeat and meuniere sauce. Odyssey Grill offers whole marinated (Greek-style with olive oil and lemon juice) and grilled octopus, served either by itself as an appetizer or with rice pilaf and vegetables as an entree. Marisol's whole fish entree is paired with an interesting array of tastes in baby bok choy, jasmine rice and ginger sauce.

Dante's Kitchen's falafel-crusted fish comes on Chinese black rice with slow-roasted tomatoes, shaved Parmesean cheese, garlic chips and a grilled green onion vinaigrette. Cappita! Italian Bistro serves up Britti Calamari, fried calamari and banana peppers tossed with fresh feta and served with mustard aioli and marinara. In addition to soups, salads, noodles and sushi, Kyoto 2, located on Citrus Boulevard in Harahan, has a variety of delightfully fishy appetizers, including barbecued mackerel, salmon, squid and yellow tail neck.

Few entrees are as quintessentially New Orleans as Galatoire's poisson meuniere amandine or sauteed poisson with crabmeat Yvonne. The grilled snapper at Rue Bourbon Restaurant is topped with crawfish pesto. Barreca's menu boasts fish beignets, with bite-size pieces of the day's catch marinated in Louisiana Hot Sauce, dripped in batter and fried.

Cafe Negril's island stylings present Jamaican Jerked Fish, with a filet marinated for 24 hours with hot peppers, Jamaican pimento and lime juice, then sauteed, and served in a sauce of tomatoes and onions. Another Caribbean connection is made at Le Petit Degarge, with a bluefish prepared in a wine sauce with onion and (a rarity here) no cream.

Gumbo

The only constant in gumbo is its base of celery, onion, and bell pepper; beyond that trio of ingredients, everything from the color of the roux to the rest of the ingredients is open to improvisation. Cafe Pontchartrain's Bourbon Street Gumbo features andouille sausage and shrimp and oysters, with hints of garlic. Olivier's offers a gumbo sampler of Creole gumbo, file gumbo and okra gumbo. If Gumbo Ya Ya whets your appetite, head to Cafe Gumbolaya, or try Mr. B's Gumbo Ya-Ya, which is a country-style gumbo packed with chicken and andouille. The seafood gumbo at Metairie's Russell's Short Stop Po-boys contains baked okra, boasting that the humble vegetable "doesn't get slimy." Mid-City Lanes Rock 'N' Bowl has the cleverly titled "Super Bowl" of gumbo, sporting seafood, turkey and smoked sausage. Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro offers a "classic" gumbo of shrimp, chicken, sausage and okra. At Dooky Chase, the temperature of their gumbo rises thanks to the inclusion of hot sausage. Chicken and andouille are the stars of Ernst Cafe's gumbo, while the seafood gumbo at Spahr's Seafood Restaurant in Des Allemands comes with a side of potato salad. For a unique twist, the gumbo at Tokyo Bistro surrounds the usual ingredients with salmon, tofu and green onion.

Hummus

In case you've been eating on Mars and missed the influx of Middle Eastern cuisine in our fair city, hummus is a pureed spread made with chick peas, tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Hummus is generally swabbed up with pita bread, but there's nothing wrong with slathering some onto a celery stalk, dipping your gyro sandwich into a mound of it or simply eating it by the spoonful. You can find variations on this chick pea spread at any strictly Middle Eastern restaurant, as well as at Magnolia Grill, Fellini's Cafe in Mid-City and Zea Rotisserie Cafe, where they pump it up with roasted garlic. Served at all Mona's locations with Mona's own pita bread, musabaha is a mixture of hummus, whole chick peas, hot pepper and garlic sprinkled with pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil. At Mona's, you can also get plates of hummus topped with chunks of spicy sauteed lamb. The Turkish-owned Midnight Express makes a reliable hummus, which is one in a long list of appetizers that you might choose to fill the appetizer plate (serves four people). Other selections include stewed okra, calamari, spinach pie and stuffed grape leaves. Located directly across the street from the Tulane University Hospital emergency entrance, Cafe Arabesque offers the Arabesque Mezze Platter: hummus, baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip), stuffed grape leaves, falafel (fried chick pea batter) and tabbouleh (bulgar wheat and parsley salad) -- all served with pita bread, of course.

Jambalaya

Country music icon Hank Williams may sing "Jambalaya" like no one else, but plenty of chefs in New Orleans boast that their individual rendition of the famous Creole dish is without peer.

Orleans Cafe graces its lunch entree menu with a chicken, shrimp and sausage jambalaya: diced chicken, shrimp, Louisiana sausage and seasonings sauteed and smothered in a red sauce cooked with rice. The Brick Oven Cafe, a popular Williams Boulevard restaurant, invites adventuresome diners for its pasta jambalaya, Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, duck and chicken morsels, tossed with spinach fettuccine.

Billy Kraus, proprietor of the newly opened Billy's Place near the Elmwood shopping center, celebrates his debut year with a chicken and andouille sausage jambalaya, featuring the chef's special Creole seasoning. On the West Bank, down Barataria Boulevard in Crown Point, Restaurant des Familles extols its fisherman's jambalaya, a spicy rice dish made with shrimp, oysters, sausage, seasonings and spices, "but no tomatoes."

Mr. Ed's Deli and Chicken Cafe on Jefferson Highway offers two jambalaya "daily specials" -- jambalaya with chicken and sausage or catfish and jambalaya. Both dishes served with vegetables and French bread. The Coffee Pot, a French Quarter fave among locals since 1894, presents a steamy jambalaya, chock full of andouille sausage, ham, chicken and shrimp.

Coffee & Company offers a bounty of lunch and dinner items beyond fresh-brewed coffees. The chicken and sausage jambalaya is a high-demand mainstay on the menu.

For a twist, River's Edge Restaurant serves the Jambalaya Omelet, which is stuffed with a blend of spicy rice sausage, shrimp and cheese then topped with a Creole sauce.

Bistro Moise in the French Quarter's Hotel St. Marie recommends its slow-roasted duck jambalaya for lunch, accompanied by a vegetable and bread.

In One Shell Square, The Jambalaya Shoppe dishes out a jambalaya dinner: your choice of pork and sausage or chicken and sausage jambalaya. Or you can take home jambalaya by the bucket, portions to feed anywhere from five to 18 people, "plus pets."

Lamb

Just so you know, "lamb" is used to define sheep meat less than 1 year old, while "mutton" is used to define meat from sheep 1-year-old and older. The Spring Lamb Rack entree at 124 Restaurant is seasoned and seared in a cast-iron skillet and served with a wild mushroom ratatouille tower and garnished with jalapeno mint glaze. Adolfo's rack of lamb is pan-roasted with herb sauce, rosemary and garlic butter.

Byblos' lamb chops come with two meaty center-cut choice chops, which are marinated overnight in an aromatic Middle Eastern spice marinade, then charbroiled to perfection. Mr. Gyros recommends the shish kebab, which skewers lamb, beef, shrimp and fish.

201 Restaurant & Bar's Rack of Lamb a la Hussard is a grilled, frenched rack of lamb served over a mushroom- and spinach -stuffed Creole tomato with goat cheese gratin and finished with tarragon demiglace and crispy leaks. The Tagine Sandwich at Jamila's Cafe is stacked with diced lamb and beef, onions, eggs and Parmesan cheese, which are baked into a crustless quiche and served with a light tomato sauce. The lamb chops at The Steak Knife Restaurant are double-cut domestic lamb marinated in teriyaki sauce and wine, then grilled and served with a demiglace sauce. Patrick has a Lamb Chop Popsicle tapas plate, served with mint demi-glace, and the Hotel Inter-Continental's Veranda Restaurant roasted rack of lamb comes in a goat cheese and persillade coat with sage reduction on a bed of ratatouille and potato gratin.

Lobster

The Maine Lobster Special at Star Steak & Lobster is meant for two, a colossal dish including two whole Maine lobsters, two baked potatoes, two salads and two bread puddings.

Shogun's Shogun Dinner includes lobster with egg sauce, served with chicken and beef skewers and fried shrimp; Lemon Grass features their Lobster Tortellini with lobster tail and ginger tomato cream sauce. Louis XVI, in the St. Louis Hotel, serves up their fanciful Homard aux Aromates, lobster with aromatic herbs in a rich crabmeat and mushroom cream sauce.

GW Fins has lobster dumplings, with fennel and tomato, while The Pelican Club serves a Jumbo Gulf Shrimp, Crab and Lobster Martini, served with eight-herb ravigote sauce, avocado and jicama salad.

Top of the Dome Steakhouse's famous Surf and Turf comes with lobster tails stuffed with crabmeat and served with a blackened filet mignon. The Royal Sonesta Hotel's Begue's has Maine lobster pulled from the shell and lightly sauteed in tomato basic butter, with potato chive cakes.

The French Market Restaurant and Bar offers lobster etouffee, with shrimp and crawfish sauce served over rice. Finally, The Beach House offers a 1-pound Maine lobster served with a baked potato and a house or Caesar salad.

Mirliton

A green, squash-like fruit, mirliton sometimes goes by "chayote" in other parts of the country. The soft, white flesh is subtle on flavor, but down here its uses are boundless: we stuff it, fry it, toss it into salads, puree it into soups and marinate it in slaws. One house specialty at La Cuisine is stuffed mirliton made with shrimp and crabmeat and served with candied Louisiana yams. Mr. Ed's Seafood and Italian Restaurant on Live Oak Street in Metairie serves a similar stuffed mirliton dinner, only Mr. Ed puts ham in his.

At Uglesich's, customers have been know to wait an hour for fried mirliton slices topped with crawfish sauce. Belly up to the short bar for a dozen raw oysters to make the wait more bearable, and ask the man who shucks them to mix up his secret recipe cocktail sauce. One of Chef Bingo Starr's most beloved appetizers at Restaurant Cuvee is a Napoleon-style stacked tower of paper-thin fried mirliton and crunchy chilled shrimp with tomato remoulade -- an appetizer as elegant as the restaurant's surroundings -- garnished with cayenne butter and bitter frisee. At Lee Circle Restaurant -- one of our newest fine dining establishments -- Chef Dennis Hutley (also of Le Parvenu) uses "New Orleans' backyard vegetable" in a mirliton bisque finished with jumbo lump crabmeat.

Mixed Grill

Few things say "summer" better than a bunch of fresh seasonal ingredients tossed onto the grill. When dusk hits, you can smell it in the air in many neighborhoods: the aroma of meat, poultry, seafood or big summer vegetables sizzling over a bed of smoking coals.

Chefs around town have put their personal touches on mixed-grill dishes. The Louisiana Seafood Mixed Grill at Le Parvenu consists of snapper, shrimp, crab and crawfish served with fresh tomato saffron broth, homemade garlic-cheese stuffed croutons and a side of "kicker Creole mayonnaise." The Gallagher's mixed grill at Gallagher's features two grilled quail and two grilled lamb chops off the rack.

Casablanca Restaurant offers the Mixed Grill Tel-Aviv with two skewers of grilled marinated lamb and chicken with bell peppers and onions. And at Tandoori Chicken, the Mixgrill Dinner combines tandoori-cooked chicken, fish and shrimp, chicken tikka, botti kebab (lamb), and sheekh kebab (lamb) with lentil rice and tandoori bread. The Rib Room offers the Roti Assorti at lunch, an English-cut prime rib, loin pork chop and grilled lamb sausage served with mashed potatoes.

Muffaletta

Philadelphia has its cheesesteaks and Maine has lobster rolls, but as far as indigenous sandwiches go, it's tough to beat a muffaletta. The king of New Orleans' time-honored tradition of Italian meats, cheese and olive salad between circular bread is still Central Grocery on Decatur Street, but other options await muffaletta lovers. Luigi's on Decatur offers its muffalettas hot or cold, while The Grocery serves its muffaletta pressed (like a Cuban sandwich). Oscar's of Metairie weighs in with the Oscalotta, served on hot French bread, while Magazine Po-Boy shop does away with the bread entirely for its muffaletta salad. City Park's Parkview Cafe cooks up a seafood muffaletta stuffed with catfish, shrimp and oysters, while Parran's Po-boys of Metairie claims it's the home of the original seafood muffaletta. And if you're hankering for muffalettas at your next party, Cellars of River Ridge makes up 6-inch and 9-inch versions for you and your hungry guests.

Mushrooms

With all the varieties of mushroom out there, it's no wonder that chefs are favoring fungi in recipes all over the city.

One tasty way to start off a meal is the wild mushroom dumpling appetizer at Cafe Indo: the dumplings are served with mixed peppercorn cream sauce and drizzled with white truffle-infused oil. Another is the stuffed mushrooms starter at Barristers Patio Bar. There, the mushroom caps are lightly fried and stuffed with crabmeat, served with a spicy remoulade sauce. At Common Grounds Coffee House and Cafe, the mushrooms St. Trey appetizer features artichoke-stuffed mushrooms in their homemade cream sauce. In Fausto's Bistro, the stuffed mushroom appetizer features seafood stuffing baked into mushroom caps and served with Fausto's special sauce.

The meaty portobello mushroom, in particular, has found its way outside the vegetarian set as a hearty taste around which to base a meal. The portobello mushroom sandwich at Etoile is served with grilled eggplant, spicy pickled cucumbers, feta cheese and curry mayonnaise. At the Hard Rock Cafe, the portobello mushroom sandwich is prepared with grilled, marinated portobellos topped with roasted vegetables and melted pepperjack cheese, brushed with a Cajun mustard mayo and served on a European roll.

The grilled portobello salad at Caffe Fresca features chargrilled portobellos over romaine lettuce, Roma tomato, red onions, mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, sun-dried tomato, sprouts and croutons, while the portobello mushroom fajita at Cafe Hola features the grilled 'shrooms served with rice and pinto or vegetarian black beans on a flour, soft corn or wheat tortilla. And the mushroom-and-pepper calzonetta at Romano's Macaroni Grill is a calzone filled with marinated portobellos, smoked mozzarella, red onions, arugula, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise.

Mussels

One of the sea's tough-to-crack treasures, the hidden goodness of mussels is found prepared in myriad ways around town. Igor's Garlic Clove steams its mussels in your pick of a garlic white wine sauce or a housemade marinara. A less traditional model is found at Asahi with the Green Mussels appetizer, coming baked in a smelt roe sauce. Another Asian styling of mussels is found at Korea House, where the Hae Mul Pa Jun starter combines pan-fried green onions with shrimp, mussels, clams, crabmeat and oysters.

Bacco's Vermouth Mussels hail from Prince Edward Island and are steamed with sweet vermouth, red onions, imported pancetta, garlic and hot-house tomatoes, served with grilled ciabatta bread for dipping. Irene's Cuisine serves mussels marinara, fresh mussels steamed in white wine and sauteed with carmelized garlic, roma tomatoes and fresh basil. Clancy's mussels are prepared with curried lentils and a roasted-tomato broth. Little Tokyo Restaurant Part II offers baked mussels in a caviar sauce.

If you like your mussels to have a little company, try Trauth's Lake House and Steamery's big-enough-for-two Big Steamer, where they are thrown into a bucket with steamed crab, shrimp, oysters, clams, lobster, corn and potatoes.

Noodles

One of the most common noodle dishes in the New Orleans area -- as opposed to pasta dishes -- is pho (pronounced something like "fer"), the brothy Vietnamese soup made with beef and slithery rice noodles, which is served with baskets of fresh herbs and mung bean sprouts. In walking distance of Tulane and Charity hospitals and the Department of Public Health, Purple Roses serves one of the quickest bowls of pho in town. You'll also find vermicelli rice noodle bowls tossed with vegetables and just about any combination of chargrilled pork, chicken, shrimp, tofu, egg rolls and lemon grass beef -- all garnished with sweet fish sauce.

Representing the cuisine of Thailand, Mid-City's Bangkok Thai offers a reliable version of pad Thai, which is made with thicker, flat rice noodles, vegetables, eggs, crushed peanuts and either chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or tofu. Traditionally, pad Thai is spicy from fresh chile peppers, tart from tamarind and lime juice and garnished with crunchy mung bean sprouts.

A couple miles Uptown on Carrollton Avenue, find the Basil Leaf where scallop dumplings, lemon shrimp salads and sauteed portobello mushrooms join the original, vegetable-happy version of pad Thai with spicy peanut sauce. Basil Leaf's phat sea siew is a rice noodle saute with filet mignon, broccoli and red bell peppers, while phat woon sen is a combination of glass noodles, vegetables, shrimp and sea scallops.

A new addition to the Chinese restaurant scene, Feng Shui offers house specialties that include crisp egg noodles stir-fried with vegetables and either beef, chicken, pork or shrimp. Feng Shui Lo Mein is another stir-fried dish, this time with soft egg noodles and a mix of shrimp, roasted pork, chicken and beef.

Like many Japanese joints best-known for sushi, the French Quarter's Samurai Sushi regularly offers five versions of brothy udon noodle soup (a thick, Japanese version of the spaghetti noodle, made with wheat or corn flour): seaweed udon, beef udon, tempura udon, udon with assorted seafood and shrimp tempura, and udon with cabbage, chicken, mushrooms, seaweed, egg and shrimp tempura.

Finally, Lemon Grass swoops in with the Viet Bird Nest: scallops, shrimp and calamari with fresh Oriental vegetables on a crispy bird nest of fried noodles.

Onions

Onions appear solo in Taqueria Corona's cebolitas, an appetizer of grilled green onions, charred from the grill and served with lime for that extra kick. Howl at the Moon will make you do just that with a starter plate of tasso and green onion beignets. Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro offers an Onion Strings appetizer with fried onions complemented by honey mustard and barbecue sauces for dipping. Jaeger's on the Lake shreds up their Fried Onion Yumm with an entire onion cut in pick-off slices and fried.

Fury's offers an appetizer everyone can agree on with the onion rings. The Blue Moon Tavern adds kick to their onion rings by using Tabasco-beer batter. (Who can argue with that?)

Oysters

If you've ever shucked an oyster, you know it's hard work. But it's worth every ounce of effort to get to those briny and reputedly aphrodisiac marvels, which New Orleans chefs love to serve in countless ways.

Everyone knows all three locations of Acme Oyster House are here to serve your oyster needs; they serve them every which way, including "Cajun sushi," a unique, Asian presentation of both raw and fried oysters eaten with -- you guessed it -- chopsticks.

Landry's Restaurant on Harrison Avenue does 'em raw, fried, broiled and sauteed, on sandwiches or platters. If you're looking to belly up to the bar and slurp down some raw oysters, Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar is a French Quarter landmark that'll shuck your oysters right before your eyes, or cook them in the classic Rockefeller or Bienville style. The Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter houses the Aft Deck Oyster Bar (and serves up oyster po-boys, too). Bozo's in Metairie has been serving up raw oysters at its oyster bar for almost 75 years.

Zeke's offers raw and charbroiled oysters, as well as Fried Oyster Almondine. Dick & Jenny's serves a corn-fried oyster appetizer, with Southern slaw and remoulade sauce. Drago's is renowned for its charbroiled oysters, cooked over an open flame. Andrew Jaeger's Restaurant in Metairie serves up an oyster pasta with andouille sausage, tossed with a spinach, herb, Pernod and cream sauce. At Belle Forche, the presentation is as appealing as the taste of flash-fried oysters "in tuxedo," with black and white truffles and watercress. Peristyle's has their own special treatment, poaching oysters in Chablis, with leeks, yukons and watercress. If you're a Jazz Fest regular, you've probably already sampled the barbecue oysters from Red Fish Grill, which are flash-fried and tossed in a Crystal Hot Sauce, and served with a housemade blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Pancakes

For comfort food, it's hard to top the sheer simplicity and fluffy goodness of pancakes. When topped with the sweetness of maple syrup, it's the stuff of childhood dreams, and that feeling can be recaptured at a number of local breakfast haunts. Bluebird Cafe has buckwheat pancakes, thick and hearty with bananas, blueberries, pecans or all three. Mo's Riverbend Cafe serves up traditional pancakes in its Trolley Special, along with two large eggs, a choice of ham, sausage, or bacon, and grits. The Columns Hotel offers another eye-opener to tide over hearty appetites, with sausage-stuffed pancakes served with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Speaking of toppings, the Le Cafe at Hotel Monteleone dresses up its Plantation Pancakes with pecans. Over on Canal Street, Robin's pairs two large eggs with two pancakes and your choice of bacon, ham, country or link sausage, and grits for the Cottage Special. At Another Broken Egg Cafe in Mandeville, the New Orleans dessert staple of bananas Foster transforms the humble pancake with whipped cream, bananas Foster sauce, pecans and fresh banana slices.

Pasta

According to popular belief, 13th century merchant Marco Polo brought the idea of pasta back to Italy from his travels in China. In fact, the popular food form existed in both places, according to Barron's Cooking Guide. Archaeologists say earliest evidence of the noodle is found in central Asia, at least 1000 B.C. Today, there are dozens of different noodles, though macaroni and spaghetti are likely the most popular, Barron's avers.

Semolina, the restaurant with locations both statewide and in Alabama, (and named for an essential wheat flour for the manufacture of pasta), invites diners to try the Semolina's Original Macaroni and Cheese Cake, baked macaroni and cheese, served in a standing wedge and covered with a creamy sauce.

Bravo! Italian Kitchen beckons summer pasta aficionados with its pasta Bravo, a toss of rigatoni with chicken and red bell pepper sauce. While Dante's Pizzeria and Italian Grille tempts diners with its fettuccine Alfredo, thin, flat, quarter-inch egg noodles made with a rich cream sauce, Impastato's prepares its house fettuccine Alfredo tableside.

Samuel's Avenue Pub, located on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, offers a black-tie pasta: blackened chicken breast served on a bed of pasta with a rich Alfredo sauce.

In the heart of Bucktown, II Tony's Italian Restaurant and Seafood sizzles this summer with its grilled shrimp pasta Mediterranean, fresh Roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, capers, calamata olives and spices tossed with capellini pasta and topped with marinated grilled Gulf shrimp.

Cavallino features spaghetti con le Gambaretti: sauteed shrimp, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, and basil in a light tomato sauce. The Stationhouse Grille burns with its Chili Mac, a "firehouse" chili served over a bed of spaghetti.

Vincent's serves up a special cannelloni, ground baby white veal, fresh spinach rolled with homemade pasta, served on a bed of Alfredo and topped with red sauce. Tony Moran's blends the best of Italy and New Orleans into a crawfish pesto pasta, sauteed crawfish tails in a sauce of fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and roasted pine nuts, served over penne pasta.

Corner Oyster Bar offers two kinds of pasta: blackened catfish pasta and the cream-sauced crawfish Corner pasta. Hell's Kitchen features a menu of Italian "bar food," including lasagna, spinach lasagna and stuffed shells.

Frank's Restaurant serves shrimp or crawfish Gagliano in a white sauce with garlic and basil over angel hair pasta. Pasta E Vino delights French Quarter diners with Moran's Meatballs, served over angel hair pasta (that's "cappelli d'angelo" in Italian) with a marinara sauce.

Schiro's Community Cafe & Bar spices up the summer scene with its penne jambalaya: oysters, shrimp or crawfish with andouille sausage, red and green bell peppers, and tomato tossed in a Creole cream of Parmesan sauce. Flight Deck Restaurant in the Walnut Room of Lakefront Airport, offers departing and arriving passengers an Italian Day buffet every Tuesday, including spaghetti and meatballs, Italian sausage, and chicken Parmesan.

Winner's Restaurant, known for Creole, Italian and seafood cooking, urges you to try its classic Italian sausage and peppers, with onions in a homemade red sauce over angel hair pasta.

Pastries

How sweet it is to live in New Orleans. Here, you can choose between the Sweet Potato Tart at Croissant D'Or, the strawberry cheesecake at La Marquise Pastry Shop, the cranberry muffins at House of Brews, the "guiltless" low-calorie cinnamon rolls at Coffee Bean European Cafe, and the variety of scones, muffins and other sweets available at Still Perkin'.

For those looking for something even more decadent, Maurice's Strawberry Grand Marnier is chocolate sponge cake soaked in Grand Marnier filled with mascarpone cream cheese and fresh strawberries, then iced with whipped cream, chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate drizzles.

Beebo's has the Michelle's Stuffed Croissant, a croissant stuffed with blueberries, strawberries and Maziar cream. And The Kungelhof cake at Cafe D'Cappuccino is a bundt cake (available in chocolate chip or blueberry) sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Pie

If there are good pies available at a restaurant, it's tough to keep them in stock. This is usually the case at Ms. Hyster's Bar-B-Q, where you should arrive early in the day for housemade buttermilk and lemon pies. The same goes for Joey K's, where the blackberry cobbler a la mode could be called food a la soul.

It's only natural that an old-school family joint like Ye Olde College Inn would offer pie along with cup custard and bread pudding for dessert; apple, pecan and peanut butter pies are available here every day. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in the French Quarter serves both a straightforward key lime pie and Alabama Mud Pie: chocolate and vanilla ice creams, crumbled Snickers bars, caramel, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and peanuts. Alonso's Neighborhood Restaurant sells a straight-up Snickers pie, with a cheesecake center and a topping of peanuts, caramel and chocolate. And last but not least, who won't admit to the occasional dream about Camellia Grill's not-to-be-missed banana cream pie?

We know from Jazz Fest -- when people buy extra Natchitoches meat pies to take home and freeze -- that not all worthy pies are sweet. Chef Randy Allen serves spicy meat pie appetizers at Pacific Cafe. Another bar-restaurant, Franky & Johnny's is known for its alligator, shrimp and crawfish pies, as well as its inimitable neighborhood vibe. At Vic's Kangaroo Cafe, where the vibe is pure Aussie, another savory pie is made with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and puff pastry.

Pita

Having gone beyond the initial food-fad phase, this Middle Eastern import is still popular in a number of styles and dishes. Cafe Beirut's Arayess (Kafta in Pita) finds ground lamb and beef, parsley and grilled onions in pita bread and topped with seasonings. PJ's Coffee and Tea locations feature a Greek Pita sandwich with feta cheese, black olives, carrots, cucumber and tomato, with a suggested spread of a vinaigrette.

Pizza

There are more than 60,000 pizza joints in the United States. While New Orleans doesn't claim nearly as many as the Big Apple, we do have our share of the pie.

Although we've chosen them for other categories, you'd do well to remember the wide variety of pizzas available at places such as Milano Pizzeria, Dante's Pizzeria and Italian Grille, Italian Pie, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen, Primo Pizza and Pasta, Red Bike Cafe and Pizzeria, R&O Pizza, and Mark Twain's Pizza Landing.

Wild horses couldn't drag you away from Mystic Cafe's Wild Chicken Mushroom Pizza, served with pesto sauce, roasted red peppers and red onion. Big Al's Roasted Garlic Pizza at Rocky's has fresh sauteed spinach, roasted garlic and feta cheese. Dino's Lakeview allows you to create your own pizza with toppings that include everything from pepperoni to pineapple. Dia Roma Cafe's Taco Specialty Pizza comes with salsa, taco seasoning, chicken, ground beef, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, black olives, jalapenos and cheddar. Lorenzo's Favorite Pizza comes with pepperoni, Italian sausage and Canadian bacon, and the Turkish Pizza at Cafe Roma is topped with ground beef, tomato, parsley and onion, served with lemon.

Warehouse District Pizza's Filet Mignon Pizza is topped with filet mignon, mushroom, onion, broccoli, mozzarella and feta. You can get a load of the Louie Primavera pizza at Mama Rosa's. This veggie-lover pie comes with artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and yellow squash. The Big Apple Pizza at New York Pizza has pepperoni, Canadian bacon, onions, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, Italian sausage and minced garlic.

Reginelli's Pizzeria takes pizza to the Mediterranean, with a large pie whose dough is covered with a garlic herb sauce and then topped with roasted garlic, sundried tomato, fresh spinach, kalamata olives and roasted red peppers. Roman Pizza's Buffalo Chicken Pizza comes with Buffalo-style chicken, hot sauce, tomato, onion and mushrooms. Spinach, feta, mushrooms and artichoke hearts adorn the spinach pizza at Couvillani's Restaurant & Catering, and Ciro's Cote Sud's Olivier's Pizza comes with basil, pesto, parsley sauce, olives, artichoke hearts, chevre and mozzarella.

Earlier in the day, remember the White Breakfast Pizza at Mona Lisa Restaurant, which comes shrouded in scrambled eggs and a variety of toppings.

Po-boys

If you ask five New Orleanians who makes the best shrimp po-boy, you're likely to get five very strong and very different opinions. (We take no responsibility for the brawl this question may trigger if the five people are in the same room when you ask.)

We can't play mediator, but we can report on more than a few po-boys available in the area. Two po-boy shops on the Northshore slice their roast beef in the thinner-than-paper style: Bear's Restaurant and Darryl's Deli. The sandwiches at both places are drenched in a thin jus-type gravy. Bear's serves several other po-boys, chips and cookies, while Darryl's also makes breakfast sandwiches and daily specials. The most popular sandwiches at Rag's Po-Boys, also located on the Northshore, are the shrimp, oyster, chicken Parmesan, meatball and hamburger po-boys.

Out in Metairie, Mark Twain's Pizza Landing makes pastas, pizzas, muffalettas and sauteed shrimp po-boys, which resembles garlicky shrimp scampi served on French bread. Across from the Clearview Mall in a former Johnny's Po-Boys location, Chef Nick Rabalais went out on a limb when he created a deep-fried po-boy; Rabalais' stuffed seafood "boudin" po-boy at Johnny & Josie's consists of hollowed out po-boy bread stuffed with spicy shrimp jambalaya; the whole is battered and deep-fried.

Three Johnny's Po-Boys still exist. At the one on Perdido Street, the Judge Bussard po-boy is made with hot, Italian and smoked sausages all between the same loaf. The Johnny's Po-Boys locations on Huey P. Long Avenue and St. Louis Street share a name with the one on Perdido Street but are operated under different ownership; several varieties of sausage and roast beef make the most popular po-boys at these latter two.

Over on Arnoult Road, the Dirty Turkey po-boy at Spitale's is made with grilled turkey, grilled onions, Provolone cheese and roast beef gravy. Traveling Uptown, there are several specialty po-boys at Guy's that have never even made it onto the menu (like the Galactic, created by the band). The chef's standard grilled shrimp po-boy, which is on the menu, is so full of spicy Creole seasonings that you may never want your shrimp fried again.

Cafe Banquette does something else with shrimp. Cooked in a spicy, garlicky butter sauce similar to traditional New Orleans barbecue shrimp, they're spooned inside the end of a hollow po-boy loaf. Shrimp is also a favorite at Tyler's Beer Garden -- this time fried and served with French fries. Domilise's Po-Boys' shrimp po-boy is fried shrimp on French bread with mayo, lettuce, pickle and special sauce; most days, you can even get one made by owner Dot Domilise herself.

As with Guy's, Liuzza's by the Track leaves its signature shrimp po-boy off the regular menu; the garlic-studded Breathtaking Beef and the butter-laden Garlic Oyster po-boys, however, are profiled under "Liuzza's Specials."

Two Uptown student hang-outs, Norby's and Ted's Frostop, both serve roast beef po-boys. Although Norby's menu changes daily, Ted's always offers the Yatwich as well: roast beef, ham and cheese on po-boy bread. The folks at Teddy's Grill are equally proud of their version of the roast beef po-boy, reporting that the beef stews overnight and is served in its own gravy. The namesake po-boy at Grand Central Station, a favorite Jefferson pit stop, is made with roast beef, ham, cheeses and all the dressings.

At the newest of his several locations, Mr. Ed's Deli on Carrollton Avenue, Mr. Ed is known for making veal Parmesan po-boys. Meanwhile, Mistretta's in Gretna serves another unique version of the regional sandwich: fried crabcakes, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and honey remoulade. And someone named Dr. Berenson is responsible for what must be one of the few strictly vegetarian po-boys in New Orleans. Located on the ground floor of the School of Public Health building, Ricca's makes this doctor's favorite with just lettuce, tomato and Miracle Whip dressing.

What better way to wrap-up a po-boy report than with a mention of Danny & Clyde's, the ubiquitous shop where you can fill up on fuel for car and body in a quarter of an hour? Danny & Clyde's po-boy selection includes catfish, ham, grilled chicken, meatball, tuna salad and hamburger.

Pompano

A small greenish-gray butterfish found near the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, pompano is one of the few sweet saltwater fish. It is most commonly poached or broiled, but a few restaurants in New Orleans have found innovative ways to prepare the dish.

Dominique's, a French restaurant that uses Louisiana and California influences, prepares seared pompano on a Louisiana crab brandade with pickled hearts of palm and haricot vert relish and a roasted fennel nage. Horinoya Japanese Restaurant on Poydras serves managatsuo miso yaki: grilled pompano marinated with miso. And Antoine's prepares pompano en papillote, a variation on a traditional Creole recipe in which the fish is baked in a paper bag with shrimp and lump crabmeat in a white wine sauce.

Pork

While there's many reasons for the long line at Mother's, the Black Ham (the crunchy shell of a baked ham) and Debris (the extra pieces and juices that fall from beef during cooking) are two of them. Herbsaint's grilled T-Bone pork chop is served with brown butter spatzle, red cabbage and Fuji apples. Martinique Bistro serves their sauteed medallions of pork tenderloin with black currants, shiitake mushrooms, pecans and Madeira demi-glace. Mike Ditka's barbecue pork is pulled pork simmered in homemade Southern Comfort barbecue sauce, then topped with pepper jack on sourdough and served with hand-cut fries.

Kenner's Cafe Ya Ya offers a cochon de lait po-boy, Cajun roast pork on French bread, dressed with mayonnaise, pickles and -- best of all -- pork gravy. The Drunken Ham sandwich at The Culinary Institute of New Orleans at the Chef's Table Restaurant is bourbon-roasted ham, served with cloves, sassafras and spices and layered with imported Swiss cheese, sweet potato hay and Creole chow-chow on toasted raisin bread. Elizabeth's South Carolina Barbecue is a whole pig, roasted in the restaurant's smoker. The meat is picked and served S.C.-style, with a vinegar-based sauce. Bywater Bar-B-Que's pulled pork sandwich is fresh pork baked until it falls off the bone, served with their specialty sauce and cole slaw.

Acropolis Cuisine's charbroiled double-cut pork chops are perfectly marinated and served on a charbroil grill. You can get a half-pound of slow-cooked, dry rub, marinated pork shoulder, topped with sauce, at the Ugly Dog Saloon. The Sunday special at Verti Mart is a delectable stuffed pork chop with Cajun dirty rice. Sara's herb-roasted pork tenderloin is tenderloin of pork rubbed with spices and pan-roasted, served with a tamarind sweet chili glaze and black bean salsa.

Gretna's Cottage Cafe serves Praline Pork, seared pork medallions topped with praline sauce and served with potatoes, Zachary's serves their Creole soul version of the pork chop grilled, and Emeril's features the grilled double-cut pork chop, a tamarind glazed chop served over roasted sweet potatoes with green chile sauce. And if you're looking for something to go, head to Logan Farms for their spiral-sliced, honey-glazed, boneless ham.

Potato

Potatoes run the gamut of the culinary spectrum -- they're the ultimate comfort food (when mashed in a pot on Grandma's stove), a perfect accompaniment to a choice cut of meat (slathered with melted butter and sour cream), a classy gourmet side dish (herb-roasted with truffle oil) or a meal unto itself (potato cauliflower soup, anyone?).

Naturally, Spudly's Super Spuds is an ideal place to pay homage to tasty tubers. We recommend the Super Duper, a baked potato filled with shrimp, crab and crawfish topped with cheese sauce, cheddar cheese and chives. Potato King is another mecca for spud lovers; there, you can get specialty dishes such as the Wimpy, a potato filled with 100 percent ground beef, brown gravy, onions, butter, cheddar cheese and chives.

One good way to kick-start a morning is with the All Da Way Hashbrowns at the Jukebox Cajun Diner. The hashbrowns are grilled with onions, bell pepper, ham, tomatoes, cheese and chili.

Potatoes take on a local flair at Royal Cafe, where the Potato Boulette consists of a spiced shredded potato and crawfish mixture, sauteed golden brown and served with crawfish nantua sauce.

At Fortissimo, sweet potato fries make a great side dish when paired with one of the specialty sandwiches. Or try one of the sweet potato hushpuppies as an appetizer at Friends on the Tchefuncte. Potatoes also go well with the entrees at Heavenly Ham, where you can order garlic mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes with pecans. And at F&M Patio Zanzibar, where pub food is the main attraction, fuel a night of dancing on the pool tables with an order of cheese fries, either regular or topped with chili.

Since meat and potatoes go together hand-in-hand, don't forget to order the "crazy potatoes," or garlic mashed potatoes, when ordering a filet mignon or barbecue prime rib sandwich at Crazy Johnnie's Steak House. Over at Crescent City Steakhouse, the potatoes come in all forms: au gratin, brabant, cottage fries, French fries, German fries and Lyonaisse.

Quail

There's nothing foul about this fowl; the simple great taste of quail has made the bird a mainstay in local cuisine. Whether it's buried deep in a gumbo's dark roux or standing alone after being tossed on the grill, quail is a frequent flyer in local dishes.

Abita Brew Pub's menu boasts the Abita Bluesberry Quail, fried quail topped with the housemade Purple Haze blueberry glaze on a bed of andouille stuffed with veggies. The Crescent City Brewhouse offers Louisiana Stuffed Quail, with farm-raised quail stuffed with tart apples, walnuts and tasso, coated with an orange balsamic glaze on warm spinach leaves and served with sweet potato chips.

MIDI South of France's Salade du Midi combines baby greens, artichoke hearts, green beans, tomatoes, quail egg and smoked duck breast. Arnaud's take comes in the Roast Louisiana Quail Elzey, with partially deboned quail filled with foie gras mousse and mushroom duxelle, served on a bed of truffle-infused bordeliase sauce.

Quail can also make an appearance on the constantly changing menu at a Willow Too Wine Dinner, which recently featured pesto-marinated quail eggs. C'est Bon Restaurant prepares the roasted stuffed quail by filling the bird with shrimp and eggplant, then baking and topping it with a roasted garlic butter sauce. Tan Dinh offers two small roasted quail served on top of sticky rice cakes with a side of syrupy hoisin sauce.

Quesadilla

A quesadilla is not so hard to make. In its simplest form it is a folded tortilla with melted cheese inside, but New Orleans restaurants have created ways to craft the simple dish into a culinary invention. Sideline's in Metairie offers chicken quesadilla rolls as a starter, but the dish is no longer just an appetizer. In Kenner, El Mescal, Vera Cruz's sister location, serves a quesadilla with grilled vegetables, white cheese and salsa verde. Cuco's menu boasts several different kinds of quesadilla -- crawfish, beef, chicken, cheese and green chiles, fajita steak or chicken, and portobello mushroom.

While the Coffee Cottage in Metairie spices up the dish with added herbs and spices filling a garlic herb tortilla with cheeses, marinated tomatoes, sour cream, and cilantro, Coops Place in the French Quarter takes the gourmet route with a smoked duck quesadilla.

There are those who keep close to tradition however. The Barracks Street Cafe serves a quesadilla with cheese, beans, purple onions, and jalapenos. And Le Bon Temps Roule, an Uptown bar that serves drinks with a side of New Orleans cuisine, makes quesadillas with chicken, cheese, pico de gallo, mushrooms and olives on a flour tortilla with a side of sour cream and salsa.

Rabbit

What's up, Doc? In this town, it's rabbit, which is not just a staple of Cajun and Creole cuisine but also has nibbled its way onto several different restaurants' menus. Alex Patout's Louisiana Restaurant's Cajun version of the wascally wabbit is the Rabbit Sauce Piquant, cooked oh so slowly in a traditional sauce piquant and served with fresh, sauteed spinach and maque choux. Brigtsen's Creole approach appears in the form of the paneed rabbit with sesame crust, spinach and Creole mustard sauce. For a naturally New Orleans version, sample Two Sister's Restaurant's smothered rabbit with red beans and rice or Michabelle Inn & Restaurant's smothered rabbit with onions, carrots and Cabernet Franc.

Zoe Bistrot goes upscale with rabbit fricassee: sauteed rabbit with haricot vert, pearl onions, carrots and potatoes finished with white wine lemon herb sauce. 827 1/2 Toulouse keeps it simple with its rabbit cakes appetizer with roasted garlic cream and sauteed greens. Diners at Crabby Jack's lighten their mood and fill their stomachs with the paneed rabbit po-boy with Creole mustard sauce. The tender rabbit is fried in Panko bread crumbs. For pure nibbling pleasure, Orleans Grapevine's Farmers pate is a coarse, ground, country-style version made with tender rabbit meat.

Ravioli

There's more to this filled square of pasta than ground beef and cheese. La Riviera's World Famous Ravioli once won Recipe of the Year at the Crab Cooking Olympics after judges tasted the enveloped lump crabmeat topped in a delicate white cream sauce and parmigiano cheese. Nuvolari's housemade crabmeat ravioli features the crustacean sauteed in herbed olive oil before it's placed inside with other yummy stuff and served with Caesar salad. Ralph Brennan's Bacco makes its ravioli fresh daily and stuffs it with Louisiana crawfish tails, peppers and onions, then tosses the pasta in sun-dried tomato-pesto butter sauce.

Veranda Restaurant takes a totally different approach, using black beans and spinach as its main ingredients and serving the ravioli in a chipotle cream with an accompanying fresh salad bouquet. At Carmelo Ristorante, Ravioli Delta Casa starts with fresh cheese ravioli covered in a light cream sauce with peas and prosciutto.

Red Beans and Rice

A major Louisiana contribution to American cuisine, red beans and rice is generally prepared with kidney beans, ham, bacon or salt pork, water, onions, and seasonings. Nearly everyone in New Orleans professes to possess a special recipe and "the right way" to make the rice. This local favorite is highlighted on many Monday menus, a nod to the traditional New Orleans pastime of putting on the pot while doing the laundry on "wash day."

Mr. E's Place in Metairie serves red beans and rice for lunch every day but Friday (closed on Sunday), with your choice of hot sausage, smoked sausage or burger patty. The Riverhouse Cafe & Bar, along Magazine Street in the Irish Channel, dishes its red beans and rice with pickled okra, fried onion rings, and your choice of grilled smoked sausage or grilled hot sausage. New City Grill has ' em on Monday (and stop back by on Friday for the fried seafood.)

All three locations of Acme Oyster House -- French Quarter, Lakefront and Northshore -- offer an intriguing variation of the local standard with the red bean Poopa, a French bread bowl filled with red beans and rice, and smoked sausage on the side.

The Palm Court Jazz Cafe on Decatur Street presents its red beans and rice with garlic chicken in an "elegant and relaxed atmosphere." Smilie's Restaurant lures native New Orleanians and visitors alike to Jefferson with a basic red beans and rice with sausage or ham shank. The Inn Restaurant, off Tulane Avenue near the downtown medical complex, offers a meaty Monday special of red beans with fried pork chops.

Baby Boomers Cafe and Pub in Metairie sets its Monday menu apart from other red beans and rice rendezvous points with an added specialty -- green onion sausage.

Redfish

It wasn't all that long ago that gourmets in other locales would snub the notion of redfish. But we've always known the great taste of the fish here, and its natural abundance helps it swim its way into a number of kitchens.

Cafe Atchafalaya floats you down the bayou with the Redfish Louisiana, a fish fillet cut in butterfly fashion before it is battered and layered with shrimp and lump crabmeat. Fried in peanut oil, feel free to pick it up with and eat it like fried chicken. Emeril's touch at NOLA finds cedar plank-roasted redfish with a citrus-horseradish crust and a lemon-butter sauce, served with a Vietnamese seafood salad.

Broussard's Redfish Herbsaint brings to the table poached redfish with asparagus, braised fennel and lemon risotto with crabmeat-herbsaint blanc. Charleston Cafe serves up a sauteed fillet of redfish with crabmeat and shrimp, topped with Newburg sauce. St. Charles Tavern offers Redfish Emily with the fish fillet grilled and topped with a housemade tangy crawfish cream sauce. Olde Nawlins Cookery indeed does it the old-fashioned way with a blackened redfish coated with seasonings, blackened on the grill, and topped with love sauce and crawfish.

Bull's Corner Lakefront serves Stuffed Redfish Fitzgerald, a dish named after the chef on whose property the restaurant is built; a redfish fillet is stuffed with crabmeat, shrimp and eggplant dressing and broiled, then topped with a shrimp and crab meat sauce.

Ribs

Talk all you want about cochon de lait, foie gras and even macque choux, but we are still living in the South, right? And there's nothing more Southern than a mess-making plate of ribs, slow-cooked to a fall-off-the-bone perfection caked with everyone's version of a homemade sauce.

Veterans Memorial Boulevard seems like an (appetite) murderer's row of ribs. The Texas Bar-B-Que Company offers a rib platter that features spare ribs glazed with barbecue sauce, with baked beans, cole slaw and bread. Just across the street, Corky's Bar-B-Q offers a slice of Memphis with its brisket dinner: a beef brisket slowly cooked and seasoned, covered with Corky's signature barbecue sauce. Tucked just off the I-10 interchange (and elsewhere) is another popular franchise, Luther's Bar-B-Que, which also slow-cooks its ribs. Applebee's doesn't specialize in ribs, but you'd think so after sampling the Applebee's Riblets: a hearty basket of tiny ribs with the chain's Original Zesty Barbecue Sauce, and served with barbecue baked beans, French fries and cole slaw.

Ground Pat'i is more known for its burgers, but the barbecued ribs also tempt diners: these baby-back ribs are slow-cooked and covered with a homemade, sweet-and-tangy sauce. There's no printed menu at Podner's BBQ, just a bunch of crucial information scrawled on its walls, but everyone by now knows to order the ribs offered with sides of baked beans, cole slaw and a salad. The tiny yellow building along Franklin Avenue just off St. Claude Avenue can barely contain the thick smoke emanating from the open pit at Adam's Barbecue Plus, where the takeout stand cranks out several slow-smoked rib combinations with sides like corn on the cob, homemade potato salad or baked macaroni, and bread.

Salad

Perhaps one of the most versatile dishes, salads can be starters or a main course. The latter is the case with Dot's Diner's no-holds-barred Super Chef Salad: lettuce and tomatoes topped with roast beef, turkey, a choice of chicken or popcorn shrimp, bacon, ham, croutons, and Swiss, American and cheddar cheeses. Friar Tuck's promises "a mountain of salad" in its Freret Street Chicken Salad, a mixture of your choice of marinated and grilled chicken breast or beer-battered chicken tenders with lots of vegetables and a choice of dressings.

Coffee Rani presents a different take with its Bluesy Chicken Salad, using a bed of fresh spinach, walnuts, carrots and mushrooms topped with grilled chicken breast. The fowl takes on a totally different taste at Pho Tau Bay, where the Goi Ga comes to life with thinly sliced cabbage and shredded chicken, spearmint leaves, yellow onion, julienne carrots and Chinese radishes, all marinated in the restaurant's special house dressing. Not to be outdone, Cafe Latte presents a curried chicken salad which uses a baked chicken breast as the crown for a salad of iceberg and romaine lettuces, cabbage, apples, grapes, raisins and walnuts that's drizzled with curried dressing and garnished with coconut.

Mr. Roo's Deli and Catering uses fried chicken in its salad, adding the usual bedding materials and adding bacon, cheddar cheese and egg. Chicken is mixed with mayo, walnuts and celery before Sophisticated Salads stuffs it into a tomato and serves it with romaine lettuce and poppy seed dressing. The bird of choice for the Thankful Salad at Expresso Yourself is sliced smoked turkey that's placed on a bed of mixed greens, tomato, cucumbers, eggs and cheddar cheese, then topped with walnuts.

It's not all about meat, however. The Apple Seed Shop offers a no-meat spinach salad with sprouts, egg, mushrooms and sunflower seeds (avocado and cheese are added by request). Or try the freshness of a sprout salad at LuLu's, which gets its sprouts from local Maras Farms and serves them up with carrots, cucumber, radishes and grape tomatoes. The creamy zing of bleu cheese vinaigrette brings together the Roquefort salad at Caffe! Caffe!, which places hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, bacon, egg, cherry tomatoes and crumbled bleu cheese on a bed of mixed greens. For a curve in a different direction, there's the fresh-fruit salad at Back to the Garden: a bowl of fresh fruit topped with banana, kiwi, strawberries, raisins, coconut and papaya puree and served, if you wish, with yogurt or cottage cheese.

Mingling the treasures of land and sea is the Fern Street Salad at Sweet Olive Cafe, a bounty of fresh asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted new potatoes and portobello mushrooms on a bed of field greens topped with shrimp and roasted red pepper vinaigrette. The chef at Ristorante de Piero in Ponchatoula makes the Gamberi Con Rugola E Grama with dressed arugula crowned with warm marinated shrimp and shards of parmesan cheese. For the more exotic taste, Sapporo Japanese Restaurant offers a marinated fresh seaweed salad (a seasonal dish), a squid salad served with sesame vinegar sauce, and the eel salad, which boasts barbecue eel, avocado, cucumber and smelt roe with a special sauce.

Salmon

With a meat so sweet and so distinct that many fish-haters will swim upstream for it, salmon reigns at many restaurants. Clocker's Stand offers salmon that is grilled with lemon butter, brown sugar and dill. Rock-n-Sake's Salmon Skin Salad consists of toasted salmon skin with cucumber and smelt roe with ponzu sauce. A starter at Feelings Cafe is the salmon mousse, featuring a creamy spread of spiced pink salmon with caviar.

A potato-crusted salmon dish is a popular choice at Rue Bourbon. Bella Luna's Salmon Tower piles high house-cured salmon with white truffle oil, cucumbers and red onions. The baked salmon selection at Artesia Manor incorporates shiitake mushrooms and asparagus in phyllo dough with a wild mushroom and roasted tomato cream sauce. At Muriel's Jackson Square, the dijon mustard-crusted salmon comes over sauteed cucumbers, brabant potatoes and a dill-herbsaint cream sauce. Aquarians offers a grilled salmon pasta, served in a fresh herb and garlic sauce.

Sandwich

The sandwich is so obvious it's not even listed in The New Food Lover's Companion. We'll skip the introduction then and get right down between this city's slices of bread.

Kosher Cajun New York Deli & Grocery is where New York transplants go to satisfy cravings for pickle baskets, matzo ball soup and real deli sandwiches. The J&N special packs on the hot corned beef, the pastrami, the mustard, the horseradish and the cole slaw -- all between slices of rye. You can also get a straight-up Reuben, of course, and turkey breast with chopped liver on rye.

Many of us first heard about Charlie's Deli when Emeril announced on the Food Network that it's his favorite place to get a shrimp po-boy. Charlie's also serves specialty sandwiches, like the Wolfie: corned beef, turkey breast, cole slaw and Russian dressing on rye. And you would have to eat at Martin Wine Cellar every day for a month to try every sandwich made there. The Nova Delight, made either on a bagel or pumpernickel, consists of smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onions and capers; petrossian salmon is available for an extra charge.

Among the very few submarine sandwiches available in New Orleans, Milano Pizzeria's Milano Sub is a combination of pepperoni, Canadian bacon, salami, ham, black olives, onions and mozzarella on French bread. Several coffeehouses carry La Spiga Bakery's sandwiches, but you can only get them at the bakery itself on Saturdays. Try the Count Basil, which is made with fresh-baked bread, turkey breast and a Dijon mustard-pesto spread. Also prepared by La Spiga, the Summer Eggplant sandwich at City Perk consists of basil pesto, black olive spread, roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers on ciabatta bread.

At another coffeehouse, Royal Blend, the Vieux Carre Bar-B-Que sandwich is made with beef brisket, barbecue sauce and a sourdough French roll. There's also a tuna melt at Royal Blend, and plenty of space on the courtyard patio for taking in some sun on your lunch break. Now that Marigny Brasserie has opened on Frenchmen Street (taking much of Cafe Marigny's menu and staff with it), owners Roland Adams and Jed Gisclair will soon re-open Cafe Marigny in its original coffeehouse identity. One sandwich on the coffeehouse menu will be built with smoked turkey breast, cucumbers, sprouts, Havarti cheese and either fresh-baked marble rye, wheat or sourdough bread.

Four panini sandwiches are offered at Uptown's Cafe Luna, where the neighbors tend to linger on the porch for entire days when the weather cooperates. Cafe Luna's most popular panini is made with artichoke hearts, garlic and Parmesan and fontina cheeses. Presto! Espresso's panini menu changes every day. At this covert restaurant in the basement of the LSU Medical School, you'll also find espresso drinks and deli sandwiches.

Sandwiches can save you from other, potentially more heartburn-inducing bar food when the need to eat strikes at a bar mid-drink. The warmed club sandwich at the Times Bar & Grill is overstuffed with ham, roast beef, smoked turkey, bacon, and cheddar and Swiss cheeses. The pulled pork sandwich at Silky O' Sullivan's is served with cole slaw and not a little Irish attitude, while The Red Eye Grill's grilled chicken sandwich comes with fries. At Cajun Mike's Pub N' Grub, the most popular grub is the Cuban sandwich: ham, roasted pork, yellow mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese all pressed together. The roast beef po-boy also has its fans. And while small burgers are the obvious draw at Krystal's, there are also fried chicken breast sandwiches and chili cheese pups (as in little hot dogs).

The 34-year-old Lagniappe Luncheonette's diner-like menu lists a scrambled egg, potato and onion sandwich, served on either sliced bread, a bun or a po-boy loaf. Maloney's Restaurant is a family place, offering breakfast, lunch and seafood buffets at varying times throughout the week. The large regular menu offers a sandwich called The Pirogue, which consists of a hollowed loaf of French bread stuffed with crawfish etouffee. Fortissimo offers the New Yorker, a third of a pound of pastrami on a 6-inch seeded Italian bun, served with housemade cole slaw.

At the end of the sandwich list comes an option that's so healthful it's called Live Food. All Natural Foods & Deli makes this all-vegan sandwich with avocado, tomato, cucumber, sprouts, carrots, lettuce, dill, miso and Bragg liquid aminos. All Natural's other sandwiches include free-range egg salad, hummus in a pita and peanut butter with jam or honey.

Sausage

Sausage: there's nary a bowl of red beans without it. Just try to find a po-boy shop that doesn't offer a hot sausage sandwich. And it's impossible to choose only one package in the sausage aisle at Dorignac's.

Perhaps the favorite sausage of area chefs, andouille is a heavily smoked, spicy sausage. At Allegro Bistro, andouille is hickory-grilled as an appetizer and served with a five-pepper jelly for dipping.

Boudin, a sausage made with pork, rice and onions, may be equally beloved, but it's generally less abundant in our urban restaurants than it is in Cajun country. Still, the self-proclaimed "hillbilly" chef of Hillbilly Bar-B-Q smokes boudin links alongside his fall-apart pork shoulder, and both Patout's Cajun Bistro and Patout's Cajun Cabin in the French Quarter offer boudin straight from St. Martinville, along with Creole mustard and live zydeco music. Over in Lafitte, Voleo's might be the only restaurant specializing in a mix of Cajun and German cuisines. Begin a meal with deep-fried boudin balls and Creole mustard sauce, or housemade roasted deer sausage with German mustard.

On the po-boy and sandwich tip, there's a hot sausage sandwich at Lucky's Bar & Grill, an alligator sausage po-boy at Mike Serio's family po-boy stop, and green onion sausage served on either po-boy bread or a bun at Sammy's Live Oak Market & Deli.

Domilise's po-boy institution sits on the well-hidden residential Uptown corner of Annunciation and Bellecastle streets. Use your map to seek out the odd-sounding pepper wiener po-boy with chili gravy. A pepper wiener is like a dense hot dog shot through with cayenne; the addition of spicy beef chili, two types of mustard and mayonnaise will have you reaching for a second bottle of Barq's.

Italian sausage is another topic altogether, as the folks at Monjuni's will attest. They make their own, smother it with marinara sauce and Romano cheese and serve it as an appetizer with garlic bread. You may also order it on a po-boy or in a bowl of spaghetti. The management at Cafe Buon Giorno inside Harrah's Casino hopes you'll spend your winnings on the housemade Italian sausage sandwich they stuff with sauteed onions, mushrooms, peppers and, if you like, mozzarella. In that vein, you can get cheese smothering Cajun sausage, onions, mushrooms and peppers on a slab of brioche bread as an appetizer at any Copeland's location.

Out at Giovanni's in Kenner, where they serve only muffalettas on Saturdays, you can get housemade crawfish sausage either prepared in a po-boy or packaged to cook at home. And Gamay Bistro is one of a select few restaurants where you can indulge in a sort of mixed grill of sausages: housemade boudin, andouille and chicken sausages, each served with its own sauce.

Scallops

They are shrimp's upscale cousin, the shell fish that, when cooked just right, belies its chewy nature and melts in your mouth. Scallops have found a happy home in the kitchens of New Orleans, matching with myriad different preparation techniques. Gautreau's serves up grilled sea scallops with a quinoa salad and black olive vinaigrette. Fuji Taipei's Japanese interpretation features two different variations: the Kung Pao scallops and the Szechuan scallops. For the Thai version, Bangkok Cuisine serves Panang Scallops: fried jumbo scallops topped with Panang curry, onions, bell peppers, broccoli and cashews.

Chinese restaurants also love to weigh in with their versions. Trey Yuen offers the royal scallops Imperial, a Cantonese interpretation where the scallops are sauteed and served with vegetables and mushrooms. The Sedare scallops at China Blossom are sea scallops sauteed in a Chinese barbecue sauce with red and green bell peppers, onions and mushrooms and served over broccoli. Metairie's Golden Dragon combines sauteed chicken, scallops and shrimp with crispy rice. One of the many reasons P.F. Chang's China Bistro rarely tastes like a stereotypical chain restaurant is Chang's Lemon Scallops: wok-fried scallops bathed in a light, lemon sauce.

Back over in our hemisphere, Taqueros Taqueria Cantina serves its Giant Scallops sauteed in butter and olived oil and served over rice and fresh spinach and topped with a poblano pepper cream sauce.

Seafood Platter

In New Orleans, the seafood platter is the platter that matters. This summer, Lama's Seafood Restaurant in eastern New Orleans presents one packed with shrimp, oysters, fish, stuffed crab, stuffed shrimp, softshell crab, fries, salad and bread. The Steak Pit on Bourbon Street serves a "Jumbo Combo," a regular pile-up of shrimp, oysters and catfish served with sweet potato fries. And then there's the "J.D. Seafood Platter for 2 People" at Jack Dempsey's: two gumbos, two stuffed crabs, shrimp, oysters, redfish and catfish,

The Corner Cafe in Metairie also dishes up a seafood platter for two: gumbo, salad, stuffed jalapenos, onion rings, crab balls, hush puppies, shrimp, oysters, catfish, stuffed shrimp, baby softshell crabs and popcorn shrimp.

Copeland's recommends Copeland's Famous Fried Seafood Platter, golden fried oysters, crawfish tails, crabcakes, and thin crispy catfish served with onion rings, fries, corn fritters and French fries.

Mike Anderson's Seafood, with restaurants on Bourbon Street and in Baton Rouge, posts a broiled seafood platter: fish fillet, crawfish, "Mike's special," crawfish scampi, seafood stuffed bell pepper, oyster Bienville, stuffed mushroom, crabmeat stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab and shrimp supreme, salad or coleslaw and a choice of potato or bread.

Desire Oyster Bar dishes out the Desire Seafood Platter: shrimp, oysters, catfish, crabcakes and homemade hush puppies. Stingray's Seafood Grill & Bar in Kenner launches into summer with its grilled combo plate: grilled oysters, fish and shrimp, topped with a butter sauce, cheese and bread crumbs.

Cafe Maspero, across the street from the Napoleon House, serves a seafood plate covered with oysters, shrimp, catfish, and calamari, golden-fried, topped with French fries and served with a salad.

At Cobalt, Chef Susan Spicer pleases the palate this summer with a shellfish and seafood platter with Louisiana oysters, pickled shrimp, marinated Prince Edward Island mussels and champagne Mignonette.

Dry Dock Cafe in Algiers, a friendly, bustling place, features a Friday night seafood steam bucket for two: lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, king crab leg clusters, potatoes and corn served with a soup and salad.

Pounded by Hurricane Georges several years ago, Brunings' closed for a month then re-opened next door to their old place at West End Park with a family favorite -- the seafood platter: softshell crab with catfish, shrimp, oysters and corn, served with new potatoes or sweet potato fries.

Shrimp

As many people's favorite "fruit of the sea," shrimp is another key ingredient in seemingly all Louisiana food. Its popularity and availability help find it prepared more ways than listed by Bubba in Forrest Gump. Well, maybe not ...

Michaul's Live Cajun Music Restaurant offers a barbecue shrimp doused in Michaul's specialty hot sauce. Half Shell's traditional New Orleans take on barbecue shrimp finds them served in the shell after being sauteed in a butter sauce with rosemary, cayenne and other herbs and spices. Toasted French bread accompanies the dish for dipping. Taj Mahal's shrimp Bhuna marinates and grills the shrimp before serving with onions, peppers, tomatoes and herbs and spices.

Fong's Chinese Restaurant dares you with Fong's Triple Treat, as roast pork, chicken and shrimp are cooked with snow peas, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Genghis Khan's shrimp Genghis Khan sautes the shrimp in ginger, garlic and lemon sauce before serving it on a bed of veggies. Chinese's Chinese pecan shrimp features stir-fried shrimp Peking style, topped with honey-roasted pecans over a bed of steamed broccoli.

Daniel's Italian and Latin Cuisine begins the shrimp Jacqueline with the shrimp sauteed in roasted garlic, crushed red pepper, oregano and parsley before it is flamed in white wine and served over linguine. August Moon's Crispy Lemon Grass Shrimp is a Vietnamese-style dish with fresh jumbo shrimp, onions and minced lemon grass, pan-seared with a touch of salt and pepper and served with soft rice vermicelli.

Joe's Crab Shack serves a coconut shrimp dish with shrimp dipped in shredded coconut batter with plum sauce. A taste of the islands is available at Wadadli Caribbean and American Restaurant with jerk chicken and shrimp finding the chicken seasoned in jerk sauce and served with fried shrimp, saffron rice and fried plantains.

Pascal's Manale's claim as "Home of the Original B-B-Q Shrimp" is substantiated by its shrimp offering and the housemade spicy sauce. Maximo's Gamberoni Amodolce features jumbo shrimp, garlic, sherry and lemon. The Egg Roll House offers a dinner special of both garlic shrimp and deluxe shrimp.

In addition to a wide variety of seafood, King Roger's Seafood will prepare your shrimp broiled, fried, in po-boy or in shrimp Creole. Boomtown Belle Casino's Bayou Market Buffet holds Shrimp Night on Saturdays, where the shrimp are served boiled, broiled, fried, stuffed in bell peppers, in shrimp Creole or shrimp pasta. Gennaro's combines several styles in the fried shrimp remoulade salad.

Softshell Crab

Competition breeds innovation as evidenced by the myriad ways restaurants prepare softshell crab. Some do it simple and add flourishes in the accompaniments, like Kenner Seafood Inc., which places delicately fried jumbo softshell crab on angel hair pasta drenched in crabmeat sauce and served with garlic bread. Mr. Tai's Hunan softshell crab dish coats jumbo fried crustaceans with the restaurant's special five-spices hot sauce.

Aurora Seafood & Steak House serves an extra-beefy entree that places two fried softshell crabs on a bed of French-fried eggplant slices, topped with hollandaise sauce, garnished with jumbo shrimp and served with a house salad. Dakota Restaurant on the Northshore also serves a spirited variation in its Halleluiah crab, which comes with Louisiana seafood stuffing and sauce creollaise. At Bon Ton Cafe, the softshell crab Alvin comes with one or two crabs topped with more crabmeat and served with a choice of parsley buttered potatoes, the vegetable of the day or creamed cauliflower.

An elegant dish, the softshell crab meuniere at The French Table is lightly battered and fried to a crispy golden before it's served with rice and vegetable terrain. The Chinese restaurant Red Palace likes to mix its seafood, offering two softshell crabs fried a golden brown, served with fresh crawfish in a spicy sauce. For those who want the taste of softshell crab without all the fuss, Galley Restaurant offers the Louisiana favorite in a po-boy, dressed any way you want.

Soup

Soup is proving ground for serious chefs, a medium with which to provoke a diner's lust at the outset of a meal. A chef might bulk up a vegetarian soup with a rich stock, spend an hour hunched over the stove stirring a roux, drizzle the finest sherry over the surface of a turtle soup, or smooth out a seafood bisque with a modest pour of heavy cream.

Cafe Degas' rotating selection of summer soups includes a warm, creamy tomato soup and a chilled crock of gazpacho with shrimp and lime -- both taking advantage of the fact that you never need to settle for a less-than-spectacular tomato during the hottest months. Nearby at Tavern on the Park, the lunch menu offers a trio of the city's favorite and most famous soups: turtle, served with a dash of sherry; spicy seafood gumbo served with rice; and the chef's soup du jour. An onion soup topped with melted Gruyere cheese is another staple here. Out at Paradise Cafe, next to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Metairie, you can buy housemade artichoke heart soup by the cup, the bowl, the quart or the gallon. Call ahead for the larger sizes and ask about the catering menu.

Chez Nous is another catering option and an Uptown standard for gourmet-to-go meals. The menu changes daily (call to receive a monthly fax) and almost always offers one soup. The June menu, for example, includes spinach vichyssoise, six-onion soup, potato-leek soup, chilled cucumber-dill soup, turkey-noodle soup and various gumbos.

It only makes sense that restaurants in a seafood-crazy city would hone in on soups made with locally fished goods and seasonal seafood. For more than 60 years, Barataria owner Ralph Pausine and his family have cultivated oysters in Barataria Bay. The restaurant's oyster milk soup, made with whole milk and whole oysters, is a by-product of this labor. Meanwhile at Gabrielle, the original and now the only Sonnier-owned restaurant, she-crab soup joined veal and okra gumbo on a recent menu. This South Carolina specialty is made with house-picked crabmeat and topped with roe. At River 127', which overlooks the Mississippi in the Wyndham Hotel at Canal Place, a creamy mushroom bisque is garnished with lump crabmeat and fresh chives. And you'll taste Latin America in all of Centroamericana's dishes, including Saturday's special sopa de res (beef and vegetable soup) and sopa de caracol (Honduras-style conch soup). Both are served with rice and tortillas.

Spinach

From the proliferation of spinach dishes popping up on menus everywhere, it's clear that this leafy, nutrition-dense vegetable isn't just for Popeye anymore. Start your meal off right at Timphony's with the spinach salad and pepper-jelly vinaigrette: fresh spinach, mushrooms, roasted pecans, raisins, red onion and bacon (and you can add chicken for a full meal). Zea Rotisserie and Brewery also prepares a spinach salad and pepper-jelly vinaigrette, but theirs is served with sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, roasted pecans, olives, sesame seeds and blue cheese. SIP Coffee Company prepares its grilled chicken spinach salad with fresh spinach, blue cheese, red onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, sprouts and a grilled chicken breast topped with a light ranch dressing.

Sandwiches are a natural venue for spinach; try the spinach and feta panini sandwich at Satora Coffee Cafe. It's served with spinach, feta and mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, herbs and extra-light virgin olive oil on focaccia bread. At Chateau Coffee Cafe, the spinach chicken wrap consists of fresh spinach, grilled chicken, boiled egg, mushrooms and hot bacon dressing rolled in spinach wrap.

Spinach is a staple in many an Italian kitchen; if you need a little convincing, just try the spinach pocket at Primo Pizza and Pasta. It's a hot calzone stuffed with spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, feta and mozzarella cheeses and served with red sauce on the side. Venezia Restaurant serves a mean spinach bread that's delicious when eaten warm with one of the restaurant's house specialties, such as the trout Cynthia or the Eggplant Vatican. And at Liuzza's Restaurant and Bar, the Pasta Spinach Lougia is a house favorite, prepared with fresh spinach sauteed with garlic and olive oil atop a bed of steaming vermicelli pasta.

Jazz Fest aficionados and local vegans may already know about Bennachin's jama-jama. Whether enjoyed at the Fair Grounds or at the Mid-City eatery, this favorite dish consists of fresh spinach sauteed in soybean oil and seasoned with ginger, garlic and onion, served with fried ripe plantains and vegetable coconut rice.

Steak

In the movie The Great Outdoors, the late, great John Candy demonstrates just how much a man can love a piece of meat when he devours a 96-lb. steak, affectionately known as "the Old 96-er." While you don't have to take it quite that far, some of the steak dishes listed below may make you ingest with the same amount of gusto.

Chateaubriand Steakhouse's Chateaubriand For Two comes with a grilled 22-oz. prime filet served with a trio of vegetables and potato au gratin. Liborio Cuban Restaurant's Liborio Steak is a thin flank steak garnished with red wine, tomatoes and garlic sauce, topped with a fried egg and served with black beans and rice. The filet Norton at Bull's Corner Restaurant & Bar is a 16-oz. prime filet served on a grilled, marinated portabello mushroom and topped with blue cheese garlic sauce.

Cafe Degas' seared hanger steak is a sauteed 10-oz. steak with a veal stock sauce, served with potatoes and veggies. The Strip Steak New Orleans at Riverview Restaurant is a New Orleans-style strip steak served over barbecue shrimp hash, with fried sweet potatoes. The filet at the Beef Connection Steakhouse is grilled and served sizzling hot, topped with drawn butter sauce. Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon's chopped steak is fresh, juicy ground steak served with sauteed onions or sauteed mushrooms. Mo's Chalet hosts Steak Night on Wednesdays, $9 for your choice of a 16-oz. ribeye or an 8-oz. filet, served with salad and potatoes au gratin.

The 8-oz. filet mignon at Legends Bar & Grill is served with red potatoes and corn. Salvatore Ristorante's Ribeye Cajun Style steak is a 12-oz. center cut ribeye, topped with sauteed crawfish tails, jumbo lump crab meat and a butter caper sauce, served with mushrooms and potatoes. Among the blue plate specials at Poppy's Grill is a hamburger steak smothered in grilled onions or a country-fried steak, both served with mashed potatoes and gravy, as well as your choice of veggies and bread.

At Charlie's Steakhouse, you can choose a small, medium or large T-bone or a 9-oz. filet mignon. G.B.'s Patio Bar & Grill offers a grilled filet mignon. Rio Mar's hanger steak comes with an oyster/chorizo dressing. The Arrachera Steak at La Carreta is a Mexican cut steak with green onions, cilantro, enchiladas verdes and frijole charros. Igor's Buddha Belly Burger Bar's Break Away Steak Sandwich is stuffed with shaved beef, sauteed onions, mushrooms and peppers, and served with fries, baked potato or pasta salad. Mr. John's Steak and Seafood House offers a shrimp steak bordelaise, an 8-oz. USDA Prime filet topped with shrimp and asparagus bordelaise sauce. And Stixx Asian Grill's teriyaki steak is a marinated ribeye, grilled and topped with teriyaki glaze, served with yakisoba noodles.

And, of course, there's the filet au poivre at Smith & Wollensky; the 18-oz. single porterhouse at Saia's Beef Room; the porterhouse for two, three or four at Crescent City Steakhouse; the New York strip at Ruth's Chris Steak House; and the bacon wrapped tournedos at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse.

Sushi

Sushi chefs might train for years to learn how to cut fish with otherworldly precision, but New Orleans diners are growing increasingly more fond of what these chefs roll up into cylinders of seaweed and vinegary rice. These sushi rolls often don't contain any raw fish at all, but instead ingredients like barbecued eel, crunchy bits of tempura batter, cooked crab and vegetables.

At Veterans Express Sushi Bar, where all sushi costs $.99 per piece, there are at least 36 different rolls offered. The Dragon Roll, artfully presented to resemble a flying dragon, is covered with avocado slices and smelt roe outside and filled inside with shrimp tempura, snow crab and cucumber. Tokyo Bistro offers a $7.95 four-roll lunch special during the week, which includes California, crunchy, dynamite and salmon rolls. If you choose from the a la carte sushi menu, you'll run across names like Cholesterol Roll and Metairie Roll. The former features salmon and snow crab, while the latter is packed with tuna, snow crab, avocado and eel sauce. Little Tokyo's specialty is sushi, but they also offer grilled beef and chicken dishes for non-sushi eaters.

Wasabi is the most recent addition to the Frenchmen Street hip strip; it's also the Faubourg Marigny's first sushi joint. While there are several Japanese-style entrees to choose from, you'll also experience Chef Phat's creativity on the sushi and sushi roll menu. For the Rice Paper Roll, he uses soft rice paper instead of seaweed, wrapping it around tuna, crab stick, avocado, cucumber, asparagus, carrot, romaine lettuce and hot sauce (no rice).

At Hana Japanese Restaurant in Riverbend, the Oyster Roll is made with fried oysters, cucumbers, green onions, smelt roe and the house special sauce; the Caterpillar Roll is not made with caterpillar but shaped like one, with salmon roe eyes and cucumber antennae. At Gretna's new Cafe Zen, entrees made at the sushi bar come with a house salad and a choice between miso and clear soups. Unagi-don -- barbecued eel over steamed rice -- is served at lunch, while tekka-don -- raw tuna over sushi rice -- is a favorite dinner entree.

Chirasi is a popular dinner entree at Osaka Japanese: a bowl of sushi rice topped with the freshest sashimi available, which always includes tuna, salmon and yellowtail. Located along the streetcar line on Carrollton Avenue, Sushi Car offers a sushi and tempura dinner, which includes tempura-fried shrimp and vegetables, plus a California roll and assorted sushi. And you'll find much of the above-mentioned sushi options at Kanpai's daily sushi buffet. Hot Japanese dishes, soups, raw fish, sushi rolls and sweet petit fours just keep coming and coming and coming ... .

Sweetbreads

One would think from the name that the following would offer a large array of the greatest pastries of New Orleans. Sweetbread is actually the pancreas of a young animal such as a calf or lamb. Only a culinary genius could make it taste so great, and luckily we have a few of those chefs right here in New Orleans.

For appetizers, Eleven 79 serves Hearts of Sweet Breads with capers and tomatoes, while Restaurant Indigo serves terrine of foie gras and smoked sweetbreads with truffled pomme puree and lolita greens, as well as sweetbread with asparagus, baby herb salad, and Meyer lemon vinaigrette. And for the main course, Gerard's Downtown prepares sauteed sweetbreads with basmati rice, lemon, parsley, and caper sauce, while Bayona serves sweetbreads with sherry-mustard or lemon-caper butter.

Tacos

This south-of-the-border favorite is a mainstay of many diets, ranging from those on a limited budget to those willing to explore its capacity with new and innovative ingredients.

Aquarians offers fish tacos as an appetizer, with grilled mahi mahi and salsa combining in the flavor. Superior Bar and Grill's menu contains a "Platillos de Mexico" section with several taco options with mesquite grilled chicken or beef, or the Tacos al Carbon, with flour tortillas with mesquite grilled beef, guacamole and pico de gallo. Casa Garcia also prepares Tacos al Carbon with two flour tortillas filled with marinated tenderloin steak and sides and seasonings. Many taco choices line the options at Fiesta Latina Restaurant, including the barbacoa (shredded beef, Mexican barbecue), al pastor (pork) and lengua (tongue).

Tamales

There are many ways to judge authentic Mexican food, but here's a tip: rate a restaurant on how it prepares its tamales. Local options include Tequila and Peppers Mexican Restaurant, which serves them large, topped with chile con carne on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes and with a side of Mexican rice. Sticking with custom, Casa Tequila (located in Kenner and Harvey) serves homemade tamales topped with red sauce. Chevy's Fresh Mex serves hand-rolled tamales filled with pork or chicken, available as an appetizer or part of a combo meal. Among Santa Fe's tamale specials is a crawfish tamale; the Marigny mainstay also makes pork and vegetable offerings, topping it all off with chili, taco sauce and cheeses. And locals all know about Manuel's Hot Tamales -- both its Carrollton location and its citywide carts -- where you can get 'em by the dozen.

Tomato

When ripened in the summer sun until its deep-red flesh begins to burst around the vine, the tomato is considered by many to be a perfect food. Lucky for us, Creole tomatoes are at their peak at the start of the summer, and modern trucking provides us access to bumper crops from northern states in July and August.

Bacco has big tomato plans all summer long. The $10 two-course lunches include (among other choices and 10-cent martinis) a light tomato and feta cheese soup thickened with olive focaccia. At Restaurant Indigo, you'll find a sauce made with yellow tomatoes in one dish and Creole tomatoes in a terrine of Louisiana nightshade vegetables in another, but they really take the spotlight in a tomato and olive bread salad with fresh mozzarella and basil vinaigrette. There's a similar-sounding salad served at the Northshore's Cypress Bistro. There's no bread in this one, but both red and yellow tomatoes, sweet onion, fresh mozzarella, balsamic reduction and basil-infused olive oil.

A yellow and Creole tomato salad at Pampy's features lump crabmeat, sweet Vidalia onions and a dressing made with grapeseed oil; also at this casual-Creole politico hang-out, pan-seared sea bass is served on top of sliced Creole tomatoes with pickled okra and Vidalia onion rings. In a tomato salad of another sort, Guenevere's Stuffed Crown Tomato at Le Petit Cafe consists of either chicken or tuna salad spooned into a whole, seeded tomato, which is placed upon a green salad with vegetables, croutons and hard-cooked egg. Start your meal at Padrino's Cafe with the tomato Basilica, vine-ripened tomatoes seasoned with lemon, garlic and sweet basil, finished with olive oil and topped with feta cheese and red onion.

Piquant green tomatoes are found in local restaurants year-round, often battered and fried and served with shrimp remoulade like the popular appetizer at Friends on the Tchefuncte. Patton's Salmen-Fritchie House in Slidell puts a crabby twist on the dish, topping it with lump crabmeat instead of shrimp, and a Tabasco-spiced Creole tomato sauce.

You might know the Rivershack Tavern for its margaritas made with fresh-squeezed lime juice, its Buffalo shrimp and its quirky decor, but you should also know that lunches at this bar out on River Road tend to get gourmet. On any given day, the lunch specials might include a Napoleon-like stack of fried green tomatoes, lump crabmeat and avocado -- all drizzled with lemon butter. And you might know Jacques-Imo's Cafe for Austin Leslie's fried chicken, the buttered corn muffins and the equally quirky decor, but you should also know about Fried Green Tomatoes Meets Godzilla. In this dish, Godzilla is played by a softshell crab stuffed with crabmeat dressing, which also comes with onion rings and a crab-chile hollandaise sauce.

Trout

For chefs and foodies alike (not to mention fishermen), summer in Louisiana means trout in all its slippery, speckled glory. Whether smothered in cream sauce, deep-fried or lightly grilled, this versatile saltwater fish has swum into many a New Orleans recipe over the years.

At Mandich Restaurant, they keep it simple with the namesake Trout Mandich, broiled to order with a crisp crust and garnished with a light lemon sauce. Also on the light side, Sazerac's lemon peppered speckled trout is dusted with lemon pepper, sauteed in virgin olive oil with brown rice jambalaya and a Creole tomato sauce. Similarly, the Trout Vanessa at Visko's Restaurant is grilled with lemon pepper and topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms, oysters, shrimp and spices.

Andrea's pays tribute to Northern Italian culinary traditions with its Trota Bayou la Fourche, speckled trout served with lump crabmeat in a lemon cream sauce. And one of the local delights at Ember's Steak House includes the trout etouffee, fresh filets of trout and crawfish tails sauteed in a creamy butter and spicy Cajun sauce.

Of course, there's always good old-fashioned fried or broiled speckled trout, the way the Landry family at Don's Seafood serves it. And over at Davis' Chicken Deluxe on St. Anthony Avenue, every day means a slate of plate lunches to choose from, but Fridays mean fried trout, green peas and potato salad.

At The Alpine, the Louisiana trout pecan is sauteed and topped with pecans and a menuiere sauce, served with garlic roasted potatoes. And trout makes a three-time showing on the menu of Riccobono's Peppermill, where the trout supreme is sauteed and crowned with lump crabmeat and bearnaise sauce; the trout amandine is fried and topped with toasted almonds and lemon butter; and the trout meuniere is pan sauteed and covered with a rich brown sauce of lemon butter and spices.

Tuna

Sorry Charlie, but the Tuna Tataki Ginzan at Kyoto will knock the mayonnaise out of your canned variety any day. Lightly seared, this tuna is sliced over a bed of shredded turnips then topped with a spicy avocado sesame sauce. Le Rouge offers the Tuna Atchafalaya -- a seasoned, sauteed tuna filet, served in a puff pastry shell with crawfish burre blanc and seasoned vegetable. The Red Eye Grill's "unbelievable" 8-oz. grilled tuna steak is served on a bun, with your choice of steak fries or beer-battered onion rings.

Sake Cafe Uptown's Montain Tuna is delicately spicy tuna bathed in tempura flakes and masago, served over a bed of greens and surrounded by medallions of lightly seared tuna dressed in their chef's unique ponzu and wasabi sauce. Victor's has a cured tuna tartare appetizer, with spiced pecan tuille and olive oil ice cream (please note that this is an ever-changing menu). Begin an evening at the Marigny Brasserie with tuna tartare, yellowfin tuna tossed in a chive-lime dressing and served with red remoulade slaw, Cajun caviar, goat cheese, pickled ginger and wasabi aioli.

At The Sporting House Cafe, the Madame Butterfly Salad comes with sashimi tuna grilled medium rare with slices of mandarin oranges, fried Chinese noodles, green onions and pimentos with wasabi vinaigrette over a bed of mixed greens. The tuna salad at Covington's Back Porch Grill comes with albacore white tuna mixed with eggs, green onion and celery on a bed of mixed greens, garnished with tomatoes and cucumbers and served with your choice of dressing.

And Sake Cafe in Metairie serves its Tuna Tataki with torched tuna and onion in ponzu sauce.

Veal

OK, here's the veal. The newest dish at Gretna's Cafe Diblasi is the veal Marsala, which comes with pan-fried veal medallions, finished with a porcini mushroom and Marsala wine sauce. Near the French Market you'll find Fiorella's veal Parmesan, tender fried veal served with Marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese over pasta.

Christian's holier-than-cow Baby Veal Christian is a pan-fried baby veal in cream sauce, with port wine and morel mushrooms. At Rene Bistrot, the Joue de Veal features braised veal cheeks with confit leeks and garlic potatoes.

Of course, Mandina's gives its veal a New Orleans spin, with a Monday special of red beans and rice, served with a veal cutlet. Cafe Giovanni's Veal LoCicero is sauteed veal, with shrimp and a lemon sauce comprised of asparagus, capers and artichoke, served with eggplant capanoto and pasta. Figaro's paneed veal is served in lemon caper beurre blanc sauce, with linguini and sauteed vegetables. Cafe Volage's osso bucco veal shank is served in a scallion, mushroom and red wine sauce, with pasta or rice.

Nick's on Carrollton offers grillades and garlic cheese grits: tender veal with onions, peppers and tomatoes, served with an English muffin.

Vegetables

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to dine out in the Big Easy without partaking in a meal that has never walked, crawled, flown or swam. It's even possible to get a good selection of meatless dishes, too.

Carnivores might do well to heed some of the innovative and tasty vegetarian selections around New Orleans, such as the Bamya at the Red Sea Restaurant. This African dish consists of fresh okra stewed in mildly spiced red pepper sauce with onions and garlic. Okra also makes an appearance at Ninja, which serves an okra and asparagus tempura.

At Lebanon's Cafe, the vegetarian cabbage roll is stuffed with tomato, onion, parsley and green beans and seasoned with olive oil, black pepper and spice. Another tasty veggie combo appears on the menu at Moonlight Cafe, where the Veggy Kabob includes squash, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, peppers (green, red, and yellow bell), onion and mushrooms, grilled over an open flame.

Black mushroom with bamboo shoots is on the extensive vegetarian menu at China Rose, and mushrooms are also the star of the vegetable Napoleon at the Marigny Brasserie. It's a grilled portobello mushroom and local vegetables layered with housemade basil-infused mozzarella, set atop an oven-dried tomato vinaigrette.

One of the popular appetizers at Protocol is broccoli balls, which is broccoli wrapped in cheddar cheese, dipped in seasoned batter and fried. And if you're looking for a primo veggie sandwich, try the Veggie Supreme at Bixby's Cafe: tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, red and banana peppers, red onions and sprouts, daubed with a schmear of light veggie cream cheese.

Even Smitty's Seafood, where most of the menu consists of denizens of fresh and salt waters, offers Cajun boiled side items such as corn on the cob, new potatoes and whole garlic.

Veggie delights don't have to come in the form of a meal: the fresh-squeezed organic juices at Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar are to die for. Mix and match a combination of orange, carrot, celery, apple, grapefruit and beet; you can add ginger and wheatgrass juice to any drink for an extra healthy kick.

Waffles

According to the Web site www.kellogs.com, if Eggo Waffles were placed side by side, it would take 471,420,000 to circle the globe. But, please, we beg of you, leggo that Eggo. After all, who needs a frozen toaster waffle when there are so many other varieties to choose from at these four New Orleans area restaurants?

The waffle bar at Marco Polo's Market offers a variety of flavors, including chocolate, oat bran, pecan, ice cream, fruit and blueberry. La Peniche's Waffle Breakfast comes with peanut butter, pecans and banana. Coffee Cove's Spiced Pecan Waffles are served with whipped cream, powdered sugar, syrup and two strips of smoked bacon. And the waffles at Betsy's Pancake House come several flavors, including strawberry, plain and banana nut.

Wraps

The 21st century cousin of the burrito, the wrap is a tortilla or flatbread filled with gourmet ingredients that range from tandoori chicken to fried oysters. Flyin' Cow Restaurant's chicken Caesar wrap is stuffed with six ounces of grilled chicken breast, marinated in Italian dressing and wrapped in pita bread with romaine lettuce, shredded Monterey Jack and finished with creamy Caesar dressing. New City Diner also has a delicious Caesar chicken wrap. The Chicken Crunch Wrap at Pete's, housed in the Hotel Inter-Continental, comes with strips of fried chicken tenders, mixed cheese, diced tomato, romaine lettuce and a roasted garlic ranch dressing in a warm herb wrap.

The rosemary chicken inside the California Wrap at Verona Restaurant is grilled on apple wood. Vaqueros' Chipotle Wrap is served with your choice of habanero-glazed shrimp or corn-fried oysters, apple-smoked bacon, roasted corn, black beans, with lettuce and tomatoes rolled in chipotle tortillas.

Columbia Street Natural Foods in Covington has a vegetarian muffaletta wrap with provolone, cauliflower, celery, carrot, green pepper, green pimento olives, back olives, apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, and Chateau Coffee Cafe's Gulf shrimp wrap comes with Gulf shrimp, sauteed with herbs and spices and topped with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato in a garlic herb wrap.

Zucchini

For many, zucchini is the quintessential summer vegetable: it's easy to grow, is at home in a million different recipes, and enhances the flavor of other ingredients instead of overwhelming them. It's a staple in a myriad of vegetarian dishes such as the Fried Veggies appetizer at The Olive Branch Cafe, where they season and deep-fry zucchini, eggplant, squash and cauliflower and serve it with ranch dressing. The Olive Garden also boasts a deep-fried zucchini appetizer with either marinara or Alfredo dipping sauce. Another side dish worth noting is Sun Ray Grill's Zucchini Squash and Pepper Saute, a light and zesty accompaniment to the menu's internationally-inspired fare.

Portofino's Restaurant is the place to go for Portofino's Delight, lightly pan-fried chopped vegetable patties -- a mixture of zucchini, green onions, parsley, carrot, red potatoes and feta cheese. And, last but not least, Cafe Picasso wins the prize for squashing the most squash into one dish: Pinakbit is a Filipino dish featuring zucchini squash, eggplant, acorn squash, butternut squash, okra, string beans and tomatoes cooked in a fish sauce.

click to enlarge Verona Restaurant serves up a little bit of everything, including this sprawling chicken shish kebab. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
  • Tracie Morris/Young Studio
  • Verona Restaurant serves up a little bit of everything, including this sprawling chicken shish kebab.
click to enlarge Good times are had by staff and customers alike at Cafe Reconcile. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Good times are had by staff and customers alike at Cafe Reconcile.
click to enlarge Chef Saul Bollat keeps his customers happy at Salvatore Ristorante. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
click to enlarge When the weather heats up, diners cool off with Mikimoto's fresh sushi offerings. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
click to enlarge Whether it's gourmet-to-go or sitting down, Fortissimo Executive Chef Timothy Bordenave has his customers covered. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
  • Tracie Morris/Young Studio
  • Whether it's gourmet-to-go or sitting down, Fortissimo Executive Chef Timothy Bordenave has his customers covered.
click to enlarge All in the family: The DeFelices -- owners Savare, Ginny and Sandy and chef David -- gather around the table at Pascal's Manale. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
  • Tracie Morris/Young Studio
  • All in the family: The DeFelices -- owners Savare, Ginny and Sandy and chef David -- gather around the table at Pascal's Manale.
click to enlarge Summer is the perfect time to sample Royal Blend's fresh salads. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Summer is the perfect time to sample Royal Blend's fresh salads.
click to enlarge Hostess Jessica Inman offers up a little 'Cajun Sushi' from Acme Oyster House. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Hostess Jessica Inman offers up a little 'Cajun Sushi' from Acme Oyster House.
click to enlarge Along with its namesake collection, Martin Wine Cellar offers gourmet-style lunches for those on the go. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Along with its namesake collection, Martin Wine Cellar offers gourmet-style lunches for those on the go.
click to enlarge Lee Circle Restaurant's Chef Scott Snodgrass shows off his Abita Springs quail stuffed with foie gras and truffles. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Lee Circle Restaurant's Chef Scott Snodgrass shows off his Abita Springs quail stuffed with foie gras and truffles.
click to enlarge The staff at 124 Restaurant & Spirits has the Northshore's number. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
click to enlarge Galatoire's John Fontenot is ready to serve you a meal to remember. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Galatoire's John Fontenot is ready to serve you a meal to remember.
click to enlarge Owner Steve McKenna greets diners with a sweet smile at his recently opened Sugar Magnolia. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
click to enlarge The Blue Tomato keeps diners guessing (and happy) with its fresh combination of Italian and Mexican dishes. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
  • Tracie Morris/Young Studio
  • The Blue Tomato keeps diners guessing (and happy) with its fresh combination of Italian and Mexican dishes.
click to enlarge Mona's owner Karim Taha is getting ready to welcome diners back to the Middle Eastern franchise's Banks Street location. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
  • Tracie Morris/Young Studio
  • Mona's owner Karim Taha is getting ready to welcome diners back to the Middle Eastern franchise's Banks Street location.
click to enlarge Jambalaya Shoppe owner Jessica Peltier really knows how to put her restaurant's namesake dish in focus. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Jambalaya Shoppe owner Jessica Peltier really knows how to put her restaurant's namesake dish in focus.
click to enlarge Over at Nacho Mama's, manager Stephen Ledet joins Courtney Gibson, who owns the restaurant with Shane Finkelstein (not pictured). - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Over at Nacho Mama's, manager Stephen Ledet joins Courtney Gibson, who owns the restaurant with Shane Finkelstein (not pictured).
click to enlarge Metairie diners seeking Italian food know they can lean on Ristorante Filippo Chef-owner Philip Gagliano. - TRACIE MORRIS/YOUNG STUDIO
  • Tracie Morris/Young Studio
  • Metairie diners seeking Italian food know they can lean on Ristorante Filippo Chef-owner Philip Gagliano.
click to enlarge Chef Donald Link invites you to Herbsaint to sample contemporary American dishes, such as his stuffed anchovies. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Chef Donald Link invites you to Herbsaint to sample contemporary American dishes, such as his stuffed anchovies.
click to enlarge Owners Danny Stansbury and Crystal Petersen cozy up in Aquarians' cozy Marigny courtyard. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Owners Danny Stansbury and Crystal Petersen cozy up in Aquarians' cozy Marigny courtyard.
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