3141 Ponce de Leon St.
This new café started as a popular food truck, the Fat Falafel, and its permanent home doesn’t feel much bigger than that old rig. No matter, this small package is a quick stop for a big dose of fresh Mediterranean flavors vividly rendered. The falafel, hand-formed to order, is excellent as a pita sandwich but better as a platter if only for the opportunity to mix and match the garlicky sauces and crunchy vegetables in mini-sandwiches. It’s BYOB, and there’s a wine shop next door.
Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat. $
Avery’s on Tulane
2510 Tulane Ave.
It feels like the world is starting to catch up with this po-boy shop, which opened three years ago on the edge of a massive construction site for the new hospital complexes. As they’ve taken shape, Avery’s has gradually built a regular following, and during the lunch rush it is the very picture of the friendly, family-run New Orleans neighborhood joint. The roast beef and fried seafood are classic renditions, and the menu has distinguishing specials, like the Buffalo shrimp po-boy and oysters Rockefeller, as a dip or po-boy. The full bar feels underutilized for now, but that may change as things keep developing around Avery’s neighborhood.
Lunch and early dinner (until 6 p.m.) Mon.-Sat. $
3127 Esplanade Ave.
The patio dining room at this French bistro is built around decking, gardens and a tree trunk. Well-dressed couples share charcuterie boards and steak frites amid what feels like impromptu neighborhood cocktail parties around the tiny bar. The kitchen’s specials are as contemporary as the regular menu is classic, with pancetta-wrapped monkfish joining the quiche, omelets and crab salads on a recent visit. By keeping the attitude loose, the cooking tight and the ambience equal parts intimate and idiosyncratic, Café Degas has made itself an upscale neighborhood essential in Mid-City. Highly suitable for casually romantic dinners out, it’s also the place for friends to repair for brunch and discuss the doings of the previous night.
Lunch Wed.-Sat., dinner Wed.-Sun., brunch Sun. $$$
Katie’s Restaurant & Bar
3701 Bienville St.
If pizza doesn’t seem like a natural choice at a New Orleans neighborhood restaurant, well, this always-lively side street café has been doing its part to expand the notion of what that sort of restaurant should be. From a solid base of gumbo, fried seafood platters and po-boys (including the over-the-top pork and BBQ shrimp combo), Katie’s kitchen endorses the idea that other crowd pleasers can co-exist and broaden the appeal. So there’s pizza topped with immense amounts of garlic and roasted pork, crawfish bread “beignets” the size of calzones and bite-sized doberge cake. An expansion now underway will add a second dining room.
Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat., brunch Sun. $$
Liuzza’s Restaurant & Bar
3636 Bienville St.
The ideals of the New Orleans neighborhood restaurant are up for interpretation across town. Liuzza’s, on the other hand, is a place to see how it exists in its classic form. Dating to 1947, it is easy to conjure an image of that era when you walk in. Smaller than its reputation might suggest, it’s a crowded, colorful place for red sauce Italian dishes, excellent fried seafood, great roast beef, the Frenchuletta (a muffuletta on a daunting length of French bread) and the iciest of ice-cold beer schooners. On Friday afternoons, the pink-walled dining room can feel as rollicking and as essential to New Orleans as any of the upscale Friday lunch haunts.
Lunch daily, dinner Tue.-Sat. $$
3312 Esplanade Ave.
Lola’s is the restaurant that taught many New Orleanians about Spanish food. Today, the open kitchen still supplies the basics reliably, the prices seem reasonable and the small, intimate, somewhat tattered room fits the mode for an anytime date night or a casual outing. While the menu hasn’t changed appreciably in many years, the more recent penchant for specials always adds something worth trying. Lately it was molten Manchego croquetas spun with spinach and an arugula salad strung with smoked trout. But meals here still come back to broad pans of paella, the ineffable alioli to spread on toasted rolls and the convivial setting.
Dinner nightly. $$$
125 N. Carrollton Ave.
Milkfish has the sort of come-as-you-are accessibility of the classic neighborhood restaurants in this part of town, and a similar price range, too. But being the city’s sole dedicated purveyor of Filipino cuisine, it also has a draw quite its own. The traditional flavor profile is a mix of Chinese, Spanish, Malaysian and American (see the Spam fried rice). That translates to narrow lumpia eggrolls, homey roasted chicken adobo soaked in soy, noodle stir-fries and some exotica with oxtails smothered in garlic and peanut butter sauce. The bar pairs suitable and inexpensive drinks. This is an anytime restaurant for those times when you want something more adventurous than an anytime meal.
Lunch and dinner Thu.-Tue. $$
514 City Park Ave.
The lush broths, fresh herbs and fermented flourishes of Vietnamese cooking have made many new converts lately, and they’ve inspired plenty of chefs, too. Count Michael Gulotta in that number and look to his cool and casual eatery MoPho for the fullest expression to date of that interest worked through a contemporary New Orleans culinary perspective. Don’t come to measure his menu against your favorite traditional pho joint but rather to taste new interpretations and original dishes emanating from southeast Asian flavors. There’s a tavern-like atmosphere and a food-friendly wine list alongside spiked, frozen boba tea drinks. On Saturdays, MoPho roasts a whole pig, working the results into hybrid Vietnamese barbecue platters, and the Thursday “grill out” night offers anything from octopus to lamb from the patio’s barbecue pit.
Lunch and dinner daily. $$
1403 N. Dorgenois St.
Built in a tiny pagoda-like structure that dates to the 1930s, with all of the seating outside on a wrap-around deck and through a narrow yard, this outpost for good eats looks like something you’d find fronting a beach instead of Bayou Road. For a fast meal on the go, however, it can feel like precisely the right place. Breakfast tacos, sausage rolls with garden-fresh salads, a vegetarian banh mi bursting with beets and chutney, pressed Serrano ham sandwiches and soups are part of the line-up, and the espresso drinks are first rate.
Breakfast and lunch Tue.-Sat., brunch Sun. $
Parkway Bakery & Tavern
538 N. Hagan St.
There are plenty of restaurants where po-boys are the best option and countless deli counters for a quick fix. Parkway feels like something else altogether. To see this place in action is to witness a po-boy palace, an entire colorful campus dedicated to the city’s favorite sandwich. That’s true in the tented patio and at the snug bar where tourists arriving by cab and neighborhood steadies sit cheek by jowl over butcher paper platters of po-boy goodness. The setting is key, but what fills the seats is the consistency of essentials like fried shrimp, debris and roasted turkey and the willingness to branch out just a bit with a vegetarian Caprese or alligator sausage with bacon.
Lunch and dinner Wed.-Mon. $
Ralph’s on the Park
900 City Park Ave.
It’s immediately clear that this Ralph Brennan restaurant is the most elegant and upscale of the growing Mid-City dining circuit. It takes just a little closer look to see how chef Chip Flanagan is pointing a once-straightforward Creole menu in a more modern direction. The “new New Orleans” shrimp and grits gets an Indian edge with garam masala, oysters are first smoked then fried and there’s even a riff on yaka mein, that corner store staple, rendered as an irresistible explosion of umami. Three generations of the same New Orleans family could find culinary touchstones here. The bar makes a good rallying point for drinks and small plates after activities in City Park directly across the street.
Lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner daily, brunch Sun. $$$$
127 N. Carrollton Ave.
What started as an upscale neighborhood bistro has evolved into what feels like a major restaurant compressed into the confines of a shotgun house. It’s small enough for chef/owner Ray Gruezke to keep an eye — if not a hand — on every aspect while the tight physical footprint has put no obvious constraint on his aims. In fact, the menu has grown steadily, adding more pieces and parts as specials and one-off dishes have evolved into permanence. There’s now a whole list of bite-sized “snacks” that usually involve the fryer and some kitchen horseplay. The prime appeal remains the chef’s knack for turning broadly familiar American standards into unique standouts.
Lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$
845 N. Carrollton Ave.
If your idea of Cajun cooking stops somewhere between sauce piquant and étouffée, Toups’ Meatery will expand the possibilities. There’s nothing avant-garde going on here, but it’s the way that chef Isaac Toups brings the nuance of his fine dining background to bear on deeply satisfying rustic flavors and the traditions of his native Acadiana (see braised lamb neck, foie gras with jam, BBQ goat and shrimp stew). It’s an anytime-casual restaurant that’s equally apt for a multicourse meal with a bottle of wine from the well-chosen list or simply a Cajun style charcuterie board with a draft beer on the shady patio.
Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat. $$$