The Blue Crab Restaurant & Oyster Bar
7900 Lakeshore Drive
Visit this waterfront restaurant on a clear, warm early evening when the boats are coming in, and it may be hard to believe that we lacked precisely this type of destination for so long. But since Blue Crab and its similar neighbor, Brisbi’s, opened in 2013, people have again tuned in to the pleasures of combining seafood gumbo, whole stuffed flounder and raw oysters with cooling breezes and the distant sunset. Check out the boat-shaped bar and patio downstairs for drinks and boiled seafood in the ambience of a dockside camp.
Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun. $$
789 Harrison Ave.
Though it opened just last year in a brand-new building, Cava feels like a restaurant that could have emerged a decade earlier.
That’s not to say it’s old-fashioned. It’s a contemporary Creole bistro for robust flavors — braised rabbit and fried green tomato remoulade, crackling-crisp cutlets of fried chicken, some of the fattest soft shell crabs around when in season. But while so many of its peers are going casual and homey, Cava is an accessibly elegant place with a look, feel and even the wine list of a much more formal restaurant. It’s well-tuned for anytime dining a click or two above the neighborhood restaurant standard, and the bar is a great perch for spur-of-the-moment meals.
Dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$
900 Harrison Ave.
Susan Spicer’s neighborhood restaurant is ideal for those occasions when you need a mid-range, comfortably casual spot but don’t necessarily want to check your culinary curiosity at the door. Some dishes have become standbys here, like the Thai shrimp and pork meatballs, the melted gorgonzola spread and pizza from the wood-fired oven. But your table can just as well see a spicy Szechuan stir-fry, an Indian-inspired special or the burger on any given visit. There’s a kids menu when it’s time for family outings, and an extensive bar with a wide-ranging wine list when downtime with other adults is in order.
Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Mon.-Sat., brunch Sun. $$$
The Munch Factory
6325 Elysian Fields Ave.
Cross a deep well of old school New Orleans flavor with the next generation’s eagerness to mix in new ideas and you have this utterly satisfying modern Creole neighborhood restaurant. Reverence is applied where it belongs — in the Creole gumbo, the shrimp remoulade, the redfish with crabmeat. But the menu also acknowledges the cravings for other types of comfort food that might compel a visit. Ordering the ribs with creamy spaghetti salad or the dueling “burger twinz” feels like getting backyard barbecue with table service; sometimes the big spicy Buffalo shrimp is just what you want; and the beignets with condensed milk are always calling at dessert time. With a full bar and comfortable cafe setting, it’s equally apt for a festive gathering or a quick bite near the lakefront.
Lunch Tue.-Fri., dinner Tue.-Sat. $$
Sammy’s Food Service & Deli
3000 Elysian Fields Ave.
Sammy’s is a Creole deli where all the expected standards are well represented. But what makes Sammy’s worth a cross-town trip, and worth bringing your out-of-town visitors to experience, are signatures like the Ray Ray (a towering Cordon Bleu po-boy), the oversized burgers and plate lunch specials that far exceed expectations for a counter service neighborhood joint. Look for trout Amandine, soft shell crab with crawfish cream sauce and stuffed tomatoes bursting with crabmeat and shrimp remoulade. The clientele runs from contractors to the cuff link crowd and feels as diverse as the menu.
Breakfast and lunch Mon.-Sat. early dinner (until 7 p.m.) Fri. $