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Royal Experience 

Strolling through the French Quarter, one encounters numerous courtyards that are alive with the dreamy allure of burbling fountains, flowering foliage and vine-covered brick. Few of these private oases are open to the general public, but luckily, Café Amelie (912 Royal St., 412-8965) is an exception. Nestled in the historic, 150-year-old Princess of Monaco Courtyard and Carriage House, this 2-year-old Royal Street restaurant invites patrons to dine indoors amid genteel, period antiques and art or al fresco in its charming, landscaped garden.

Named for Amelie Miltonberger, mother of Alice Heine, who was raised in the accompanying townhouses and would later become the first American Princess of Monaco, the café has a palpable sense of history. Both its light Creole fare and lush, distinctly New Orleans surroundings are pleasant reminders that the city's rich culinary present is powerfully linked to its unique past.

Chef Jerry Mixon, who trained under the tutelage of such notable local chefs as Kevin Vizard and Terry Savoy, offers a selection of small plates, salads, gourmet sandwiches and entrees that pay homage to classic Louisiana cuisine while also reflecting his individual artistry.

"The food has Creole elegance with a Cajun, spicy, earthy tone," says Mixon, who incorporates seasonal ingredients from the farmers market and changes some of the menu every week. Among guests' favorite dishes are Amelie Oysters with spinach and artichoke cream, Louisiana crab cake with a citrus drizzle, country gumbo, a slow-roasted cochon de lait sandwich and seared salmon with horseradish cream. Amelie's popular Sunday brunch menu includes fresh baked pastries and home-style comfort foods like creamy organic grits.

"We strive to give customers what they crave from a French Quarter restaurant -- exemplary service in a gorgeous setting and great Louisiana food at affordable prices," says Mixon.

With its courtyard now at the peak of its spring blooming season, Amelie can be a calming respite for people attending April's French Quarter Fest or anyone who happens to venture into the area. The Princess of Monaco Courtyard and Carriage House, which includes 1,700 square feet of indoor space, is available for private catered events. For more information, go to www.princessofmonaco.com or visit Café Amelie for lunch or dinner Wednesday through Saturday and for brunch on Sunday.

click to enlarge Caf Amelie's chef, Jerry Mixon, offers a menu of light - Louisiana fare in a romantic French Quarter setting
  • Caf Amelie's chef, Jerry Mixon, offers a menu of light Louisiana fare in a romantic French Quarter setting
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