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You've heard that New Orleans is the place to eat. Here are a few reasons why.

Pizza -- The anchor of any collegiate diet, pizza is easily available in New Orleans. Popular local franchises include Cafe Roma (French Quarter, Metairie, Mid-City and Uptown), Italian Pie (near every campus and beyond), Louisiana Pizza Kitchen (French Quarter, Riverbend, West Bank), New York Pizza (Mid-City, Uptown), Reginelli's (Lakeview, Uptown, Jefferson) and Rocky's Old New Orleans Bar & Pizza Joint (Uptown, Metairie). Venerable favorites include Figaro's Pizzeria (7900 Maple St., 866-0100) and Fresco's Cafe and Pizzeria (7625 Maple St., 862-6363), both in the Carrollton neighborhood near Loyola/Tulane.

Po-Boys -- Back in the day, lower-income kids were sent off to school or work with overstuffed sandwiches that would last them all day, hence the "po-boy." Asking someone who serves the best po-boy in town is like asking who has the coldest beer: it's impossible to tell, but good luck finding out. They're all over town, but here are five no-brainers: Domilise's Po-Boys (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126), whose roast beef po-boy has few peers; Guy's Po-Boys (5259 Magazine St., 891-5025), whose grilled shrimp po-boy is tops; Mother's (401 Poydras St., 523-9656), a tourist favorite whose roast beef "debris" po-boy is equaled only by the ham po-boy; Parasol's Restaurant & Bar (2533 Constance St., 899-2054), which, in between St. Patrick's Day parties, serves up a garlic-infused roast-beef classic; and Liuzza's by the Track (1518 Lopez St., 943-8667), which offers a barbecue shrimp po-boy loaded with butter, pepper and lemon.

Burgers -- They're everywhere, of course, but there are some spots in New Orleans where the burger has a special meaning. We doubt you'll have any trouble finding a good one, but here are ideas for quintessentially New Orleans burgers: Camellia Grill (626 Carrollton Ave., 866-9573), where a half-hour wait (late-night or in the morning) is rewarded with diner-style burgers and milkshakes courtesy of a joking staff; Ted's Frostop (6303 Claiborne Ave., 861-3615), another diner with a loyal following among workers and students alike; the Igor's franchise (multiple locations), which offers laundry services and Monday red beans specials in Uptown and in the French Quarter); Clover Grill (900 Bourbon St., 598-1010), which serves burgers grilled under hubcaps delivered by the sassiest servers in town; and Beachcorner Bar & Grill (4905 Canal Blvd., 488-7357), whose 10-oz. burgers often warrant sharing.

Breakfast -- New Orleans is sadly lacking in go-to breakfast joints, but there are some very reliable regulars. Here are just a few: Bluebird Cafe (3625 Prytania St., 895-7166), which like the Camellia Grill is known for its long morning lines (but also tasty huevos rancheros); Elizabeth's (601 Gallier St., 944-9272), where diners flock from around the city for the Carolina-inspired dishes (ask for the praline bacon); Riccobono's Panola Street Cafe (7801 Panola St., 314-1810), whose eggs Pontchartrain include crawfish; Ye Olde College Inn (3016 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-3683), which is always ready with oyster omelettes; and Angeli on Decatur (1141 Decatur St., 566-0077), which like the Clover Grill stays up late for French Quarter nightcrawlers.

Creole and Soul -- We're opening a can of worms with these two, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention two of the staple cuisines of the city. To get an idea of the true New Orleans flavor, consider: Feelings Cafe (2500 Chartres St., 945-2222), housed in old slave quarters and considered a prime date spot; the Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peters St., 525-1486), a tourist favorite that delivers on its name; Dunbar's (4927 Freret St., 899-0734), which offers exquisite and cheap specials and red beans and fried chicken, among others; Henry's Soul Food (209 N. Broad St., 821-8635), which just might have the best baked chicken in town; and Zachary's (8400 Oak St., 865-1559), owner of the soul/Creole lunch buffet.

Ethnic -- This wide-ranging category suggests that New Orleans is, indeed, a town of many cultures and flavors. Pho Tau Bay (Mid-City, Uptown, Metairie, West Bank) illustrates the city's vibrant Vietnamese community and has become a mini-empire. Bennachin (1212 Royal St., 522-1230) is that rare treat: an African restaurant (with nods to Senegal, Cameroon and Gambia) that is a favorite among vegetarians. Kanpai (4116 Canal St., 483-0880) is but one of many popular sushi hot-spots, most notably because of its all-you-can-eat buffet. Mona's Cafe (multiple locations) has built a Middle Eastern dining dynasty. Juan's Flying Burrito (Mid-City, Uptown) and Kokopelli's (3150 Calhoun St. 861-3922) are the places to go for affordable, humongous burritos.

Coffee and Dessert -- There is always Starbucks, which is everywhere, but New Orleans also has local franchises with myriad locations perfect for studying and hanging out: PJ's, CC's (love those letters) and Rue de la Course. Rue's most popular location (3128 Magazine St. ) is moving to a smaller location nearby. Stay tuned.

click to enlarge Zyde-Cajun breakfasts, burgers and comfort food draw all ages to Ye Olde College Inn. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Cheryl Gerber
  • Zyde-Cajun breakfasts, burgers and comfort food draw all ages to Ye Olde College Inn.
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