Café Degas

3127 Esplanade Ave., (504) 945-5635; cafedegas.com

The menu is full of French bistro classics, and the proprietors converse with some of their staff and regulars in their native French tongue. But while the Gallic orbit is unmistakable, Café Degas feels essentially New Orleans. Highly suitable for casually romantic dinners out, it's also the place for friends to meet for brunch and discuss the doings of the previous night. Onion soup, modest but well-turned omelets, lush entrée salads, the mussels and cheese boards are familiar standards that join the long and reliably imaginative list of nightly specials. Most of the restaurant is a rambling covered patio (protected from the weather) that feels like dining in a covered garden and adds to the loose bonhomie that always underscores Cafe Degas. Lunch Wednesday-Saturday, dinner Wednesday-Sunday, brunch Sunday $$$

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Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Lamb chops are a traditional French bistro dish at La Crepe Nanou in Uptown New Orleans.

La Crepe Nanou

1410 Robert St., (504) 899-2670; lacrepenanou.com

The casually sumptuous Art Nouveau setting at La Crepe Nanou makes everything seem a little more attractive, and these days, the food is looking better too. Fondue, frites, mussels and, of course, crepes, remain the calling cards, while a succession of small tweaks are adding up to bring new energy to this longtime Uptown standby. That includes salads that respond to the seasons, specials like whole red snapper or pork a l’orange, the ability to make reservations. The wine list remains refreshingly down to earth, and as always the intimate dining rooms cast a low key romantic spell. Dinner daily, brunch Sunday $$$

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Staff photo by Ian McNulty - Chicken liver pate begins a meal at La Provence in Lacombe.

La Provence

25020 Hwy. 190 E., Lacombe, (985) 626-7662; laprovencerestaurant.com

The archetype of the French country inn, this Lacombe landmark makes the trip over Lake Pontchartrain feel a bit like a trans-Atlantic journey. The image is more than skin deep. John Besh’s crew has been developing the small-ag potential of the exurban property, and now you can see the actual farm beds and pens that supply some of your supper stretching back behind the handsome restaurant. Rabbit, rack of lamb and the roasted duck all fit the rustic mode well, though chef Erik Loos gives the end result a much more contemporary and composed style while pushing the freshness to the forefront. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday, brunch Sunday $$$$$

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Staff photo by Ian McNulty - The hearth and front dining room at La Provence in Lacombe.

Meauxbar

942 N. Rampart St., (504) 569 9979; meauxbar.com

The French Quarter has plenty of French Creole restaurants. This restaurant feels flat-out French. That resonates in its design style and in an approachable attitude to great food — just what you’d expect from a true neighborhood bistro. Chef John Bel has been at the helm since winter, and his menus mix classic French flavors (hanger steak au poivre, beef tartare, fish almondine, jars of pâté) with more modern renditions (scallops poached in rose, sweetbreads with cornbread puree). Sheathed in a silvery shade of moonlight, the small dining room with its cove-like booths and marble bar takes on a Noirish vibe the moment the sun goes down. Dinner nightly, brunch Sunday $$$$

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Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Bright tomatoes and herbs anchor at salad at Meauxbar, a bistro in the French Quarter.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.