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Taking a bite out of the best of New Orleans cuisine

From the April 1999 ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 1999 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

By Jodi E. Knapp

The Crescent City offers some of the world's best restaurants with a variety of culinary temptations, ranging from the legendary jambalayas and muffulettas served throughout the city to the tempting beignets and praline treats that sweeten even the most discerning of palettes. Po-boy stands share the streets with five-star gourmet restaurants, offering visitors the best of both worlds. Since there is no place bad to eat and so many restaurants to choose from, according to native New Orleanians, the following highlights some of the best of the best. All phone numbers are in area code 504.

Vieux Carré (French Quarter)

One of the oldest neighborhoods in the United States, the French Quarter is considered the heart of New Orleans. This historic district offers not only great museums, galleries and shopping venues, it also has a wealth of restaurants and is within walking distance of the Convention Center.

A casual seafood favorite is Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973), serving lunch and dinner ranging from $6-$14 for entrees. In addition to oysters by the dozen, the restaurant serves such traditional New Orleans fare as po-boys, gumbo and jambalaya.

Antoine's (713-717 Rue Saint Louis, 581-4422) offers delectable fare from its … la carte French menu. The restaurant's chefs have provided the dining world with many famous dishes, including Oysters Rockefeller. A special lunch menu starts at $12.75 and dinner entrees range from around $26 up to $75 for chateaubriand for two.

World-famous Arnaud's (813 Bienville St., 523-5433) serves traditional French/Creole lunches and dinners ranging from $19-$29 in its original 1918 setting. Diners can choose to enjoy their meals in the Richelieu Room, which offers jazz accompaniment for an extra $4 per person.

Providing a cool backdrop on warm days, Bella Luna (914 N. Peters St., 529-1583) offers a riverfront vista viewed through floor-to-ceiling windows. The varied menu, which highlights seafood and pasta dishes, features fresh steamed Maine lobster. Entrees range from $15-$25.

Broussard's (819 Conti St., 581-3866) has charmed New Orleans' diners with seafood delicacies and culinary finesse for more than 75 years. Open for dinner, the French/Creole restaurant offers cuisine ranging from shrimp-and-crab cheesecakes to pompano Napoleon and veal Broussard. Prices run from $19-$32.

Sweet tooth calling? Drop by Café Du Monde (800 Decatur St., 581-2914) for a fabulous cup of the famous chicory coffee and sweet pastries, including New Orleans' official doughnut, the beignet. The caf‚, which opened in the 1860s, is now open 24 hours, seven days a week. Other locations include the Riverwalk mall, Lakeside and New Orleans Centre.

Strolling musicians complement the fare at the Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal St., 522-7261), which is one of New Orleans' most popular restaurants. Diners can choose to eat in the courtyard, complete with original gaslights and flowing fountains, or in one of three differently styled dining rooms. Dinners range from $18-$30, and the Court provides one of the most extensive jazz brunch buffets in the city every day for $21.

For a taste of the exotic, try contemporary French/Asian cuisine at Dominique's (1001 Toulouse St., Maison Dupuy Hotel, 522-8800). The restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, offers such appetizers as goat cheese wrapped in phyllo and cured salmon with toasted brioche. Dinner entrees, ranging from $20-$28, include sugarcane brochette of sweetbreads as well as Chilean sea bass. A Sunday champagne brunch is also offered.

If you've seen him on TV or attempted to recreate a recipe from one his cookbooks, you might want to try Chef Paul Prudhomme's creations first-hand at K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen (416 Chartres St., 524-7394). Lunch and dinner entrees, averaging $25, include classics such as bronzed swordfish with "hot fanny" sauce and blackened twin beef tenders with debris sauce. If you like the chef but also like trying new dishes, don't worry: K-Paul's menu changes daily.

Tortorici's (441 Royal St., 522-4295) is the oldest Italian restaurant in the French Quarter. Dinners range from $22-$25, and the chef recommends Tortorici's Trio: tender filet in hunter's reduction glaze, saut‚ed breast of chicken in crawfish sauce and fantail Louisiana shrimp with roasted garlic scampi. Enjoy piano dining nightly.

Warehouse district

The warehouse district, often called the "Southern SoHo," came into its own after the 1984 World's Fair, when preservationists and developers saw the potential of the blighted and abandoned warehouses in the district. Today, the area has been transformed into a thriving neighborhood of galleries, museums, auction houses and, of course, delectable restaurants.

Located in a renovated warehouse, Emeril's (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393) offers "nouvelle Creole" cuisine. The hottest seat in the house is at the food bar, which allows guests the opportunity to watch chefs prepare dishes such as barbecued shrimp. From the desert menu, try the banana cream pie or the chocolate pecan pie. Open for lunch and dinner, entrees start at about $25.

Diners are served in a main room that is as much a music hall as it is a restaurant when they dine at Praline Connection (901. S. Peters St., 523-3973). The fedora-topped staff works to the accompaniment of live jazz , serving up such "nouvelle-soul" daily specials as red beans and rice mustard/collard greens. Diners can try the Praline Connection platter: an all-fried mélange of okra, pickles, hot chicken wings, chicken livers, catfish, shrimp and softshell crawfish or other entrees ranging from $8-$13. The Sunday brunch, at a cost of $23.95, highlights gospel singing groups.

Central business district

The central business district offers visitors a chance to see the serious side of the Big Easy. Skyscrapers dot the area's main artery, Poydras Street, which stretches from the Superdome to the World Trade Center. But this center of commerce also provides an oasis of calm: Lafayette Square, a monument to Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette.

Located on a corner of the central business district that some say is slowly becoming a chic area, Bizou (701 St. Charles Ave., 524-4114) offers both nouvelle French and Creole dishes. The comfortable caf‚ offers lunch and dinner, with entrees starting at $18, going up to around $30. Favorites include rabbit terrine, stuffed striped bass and lamb loin with mint sauce.

Bon Ton Café (401 Magazine St., 524-3386) specializes in crawfish dishes and is nationally know for its results. The mild Cajun-style dishes include turtle soup, shrimp remoulade and crabmeat au gratin. Expect old-fashion service for lunch and dinner, with fixed menus including soup, salad, entree, vegetable and dessert ranging from $24-$27. The restaurant also offers an a la carte menu.

La Gauloise (614 Canal St., 527-6712) offers French bistro and Creole-style fare. The menu changes often, but the restaurant is more famous for its buffets, offered for breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch and Friday dinner. Favorites include the chicken curry pappadums, pecan crab cakes and seared salmon with sunflower seeds and cabbage. Entrees range from $18-$24.

The eclectic menu of Metro Bistro (200 Magazine St., 529-1900) offers classic French fare with South Louisiana overtones. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner in a quiet atmosphere. Specialties include classic Louisiana bouillabaise, Cassoulet and steak au poivre. Dinner entrees start at about $18.

Located on Lafayette Square and considered on the cutting edge of fusion-cuisine, Mike's on the Avenue (628 St. Charles Ave., 523-1709) offers a variety of Southwestern and Asian dishes with Creole influences. Chef specialties include sushi specials, barbecue oysters and shellfish stew with Creole sausage. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, with entrees ranging from $19-$30.

Mother's (401 Poydras St., 523-9656) is quite possibly one of the busiest restaurants in town. The stand-in-line, cafeteria-style restaurant, is considered a leading po-boy restaurant and offers large portions of its famous gumbos, jambalyas and corn beef and cabbage fares. Expect to spend at least $15 per visit.

The Palace Café (605 Canal St., 523-1661) represents all of the flavors of New Orleans-a blend of classic and contemporary Creole and Cajun dishes set in a casual atmosphere. Famous for its white chocolate bread pudding, the café offers entrees including grilled veal chops, audouille-crusted fish and rabbit. Serving lunch and dinner entrees ranging from $14-$24, the restaurant also offers a Sunday bunch with live jazz and entrees that range from $15-$20

Named as one of the top five restaurants in the United States, the Windsor Court Hotel's Grill Room (300 Gravier St., 522-1992) offers Continental cuisine with a French influence. The cross-cultural menu changes monthly and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and a Sunday brunch. Entrees run from around $29 to $40. The wine list, built from private collections, boasts rare vintages.

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