CASUAL

Spicy Meatballs

Arabella Casa di Pasta

2258 St Claude Ave., (504) 267-6108; arabellanola.com

This addition to the ever-growing array of casual dining spots along St. Claude Avenue offers a build-your-own pasta bowl prospect, with a variety of sauces and house-made noodles. Meatballs can be an add-on, the centerpiece for a classic spaghetti combo, or as a standalone starter ($6). Get them any which way you want; they’re delicious. To the usual beef and pork blend this rendition adds the X-factor of andouille. Ground into small chunks, it retains some of the link’s meaty chew and all of its smoke and pepper and makes a case for a Louisiana-style meatball.

UPSCALE

Endive Gratin

Château du Lac Warehouse Bistro

857 Fulton St., (504) 301-0235

chateaudulacwarehouse.com

It starts with endives and is served over a lacy doily, but there’s nothing at all delicate about this formidable French classic ($10), which is served on the lunch menu at the new Warehouse District expansion of Metairie’s Chateau du Lac. It arrives in the traditional, oblong gratin dish, the surface bubbling with a thick white sauce with the tang of Swiss cheese and the texture of fondue. Endives, wrapped in sliced ham, are entombed beneath, their bitterness mellowed by cooking but their texture and vegetal brightness still showing through.

WILDCARD

Fried Tofu Tacos

Ale on Oak

8124 Oak St.,

(504) 324-6558

Related to Oak, the wine bar just next door (they share a patio) this new tavern has plenty of TVs for game viewing, a first-rate beer selection and some different ideas for pub grub. For instance, these fried tofu tacos ($9) are a meatless option that can tempt even dedicated carnivores. Instead of a crumble or cubes, the tofu takes the form of a dense, moist bar fried under a durable crust and folded into tortillas with crunchy, thin-sliced carrot and pickled vegetables, in the manner of banh mi. The unusual touch of whole shiso leaves, bringing a vibrantly fresh, subtly grassy flavor, and a dab of lime crema complete a package that’s full of flavor but sits light on the belly.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.