1330 Prytania St., (504) 302-2599; seedyourhealth.com
The vegetable spaghetti ($13) at this vegan cafe seems to be defined by what it doesn’t have — no meat, of course, but also no gluten, no soy and, as a raw dish, not even any cooking. But what it does have is lots of flavor, and in the midst of holiday feasting it can be a refreshingly light change of pace. Long, spiral-cut strands of zucchini and squash stand in for the pasta, topped with a bright, chunky, caper-spiked tomato sauce in the style of a puttanesca. Fresh with herbs, cool and fulfilling, it’s like a substantial salad reconfigured into something a little more fun.
823 Decatur St., (504)-525-8676; tujaguesrestaurant.com
The changes enacted last year to nudge the city’s second-oldest restaurant a little closer to modernity now feel perfectly natural. The seafood courtbouillon ($16), served at lunch, is a telling example. It’s a traditional Creole stew of oysters, fat shrimp and a fish (drum when I tried it) with a tomato broth teeming with trinity seasoning and bringing full, garlicky, herbal warmth to it all, neatly arrayed around a rise of rice. It’s not contemporary, but that’s not the point. Rather, it’s a classic dish adding to the options at a classic restaurant.
Yucatan Nachos with Chicken Tinga
Araña Taqueria y Cantina
3242 Magazine St., (504) 894-1233
Nachos are often first and foremost a delivery system for cheese. But for the Yucatan nachos ($8) found at Araña, the Uptown taqueria that debuted last summer, cheese isn’t even among the top three flavors. First is a mild ancho- and guajillo-based chili, which spreads the earthy pulse of roasted pepper flavors between the chips. Second is the chicken tinga — an optional and highly recommended add-on ($3) — of shredded, chipotle-braised bird. And the third is a prolific scattering of white and green onions, for a bit of bite and added crunch. Cheese comes in the form of crumbled cotija sprinkled over chile and between drizzles of crema. The upshot is a sharable appetizer with all the expected exuberance of a nacho plate without all the typical grease.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.