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Grand Openings
Taqueros/Coyoacan (1432 St. Charles Ave., 525-9996), Guillermo Peters' upstairs-downstairs fine dining Mexican restaurant and taqueria, is no longer the new kid in the Lower Garden District. Slice Pizzeria (1513 St. Charles Ave., 525-7437) has finally opened catty-corner across the avenue. I can't speak for the pizza yet, but judging from the bustle on a recent Saturday afternoon, the Cal-Mex kings from Juan's Flying Burrito have another low-budget champ on their hands. The pizza-only restaurant is shotgun-narrow and quite deep, beginning with two-person booths facing the open kitchen in front and winding up at a sharp-looking bar in back. Slice is open for pizza by the slice or the whole pie from lunch until midnight Tuesday through Saturday, and for lunch and dinner on Sunday. The sunny Blue Plate Cafe (1330 Prytania St., 309-9500) adds even more culinary clout -- and a needed weekend breakfast/brunch spot -- to the neighborhood. Pumpkin pancakes with maple cream, portobello mushroom caps filled with cheddar scrambled eggs, and a BLT made with fried green tomatoes are among the dishes I look forward to trying here. Blue Plate Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch daily.

Smoking Permitted
You don't have to wait until Jazz Fest to taste another one of Wanda Walker's sublime cochon de lait po-boys. Walker's Southern Style BBQ (10828 Haynes Blvd., 241-8227) is now smoking out in eastern New Orleans for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday.

Now Closed
Lee Circle Restaurant (Hotel Le Cirque, 3 Lee Circle, 962-0915) and Il Piatto (7708 Maple St., 861-0002), on the other hand, are no longer in business. Big Shirley's (1500 Esplanade Ave., 301-9704) was also closed at press time, but signs posted in the windows, and construction work inside, promised that it wouldn't be for long.

Through the Grapevine
Jon Smith of Cork & Bottle Fine Wines (3700 Orleans Ave., 934-1386), says that the retail store's seated wine tastings, which begin at 6:30 p.m. sharp, keep getting better and better. On Wednesday, taste The Rhone Rangers -- California wines made with grapes indigenous to the Rhone Valley in France. The cost is $18. This Friday's tasting will feature under-the-radar Burgundy wines. "One purpose of this tasting is to show that great wine makers make great wines -- tough years or not," writes Smith over email. The cost is $25. Reservations are required.


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