Christina’s is a reliable downtown staple. Open for decades, the new owners (who also own Juban’s and Beausoleil) haven’t changed much at all since owner Christina Bannister died, and that’s quite all right.

Like it was for years before, Christina’s remains that cozy spot on the corner of St. Charles Street. You seat yourself and wonder what two sides you’ll have with the Southern-style daily special as the décor takes you back in time and the window units hum.

One guest chose the traditional laundry-day standard special, red beans and rice ($9.49), which he declared solid. He feels that often this dish is prepared with too much spice and salt, but said Christina’s does it right, allowing the red beans to show their hearty, slow-cooked flavor. Served with a link of mild sausage and white rice in a bowl of beans, he found the red beans and rice filling and tasty.

On the side, he chose fruit and crowder peas. The fruit was forgettable, a canned fruit cocktail. He said the crowder peas tasted like something from his grandmother’s kitchen.

Another guest went with the chicken & dumplings ($9.49), with sides of collard greens, crowder peas and creamed potatoes (he couldn’t choose just two — the additional side was $2.20). He too enjoyed the peas and said they looked like they had been stewing for hours, and kept him reaching back for another bite. The greens were also delicious and not too bitter. He felt his dish had a blue plate special feel that could easily be described as comfort food.

Cornbread squares and butter were offered to the table. The warm side was gobbled up to sighs of mmms and ahhs.

I ordered from the menu and chose a sandwich I’d been craving for days — a patty melt. It was a rebellious act — everybody else was ordering from the specials on the white boards. And it may have been a stumbling block because our food took longer to appear than anticipated. The wait was worth it though as the sandwich hit the spot. My only complaint is that the burger came with some average fries.

What I like most about Christina’s is its atmosphere and feel.

It’s the type of place where you go and watch the steam coming from your coffee cup at the crack of dawn and then just gaze out the window. We didn’t try it on this trip, but Christina’s offers a stellar breakfast menu, too.

However, this is one of those diners, those secret neighborhood spots you don’t want anyone to know about, but of course they do, because we live in Louisiana, and all those secrets come out.