Each spring and fall, we produce a new dining guide to size up your options, answer your cravings and take stock of the city's ever-roiling restaurant scene. Each edition is different. The previous one highlighted 120 restaurants, arranged by neighborhood.

This new fall dining guide is our Essential 100, and it brings a tighter focus to distinctive restaurants arranged by category.

Of course, as with any worthwhile recommendation, the selection is subjective. Still, some common qualities and considerations helped guide the recommendations here.

Is the food quality high and consistent, both from dish to dish and from visit to visit? Is the restaurant compelling and convincing? When you leave, are you thinking about when you might go back and who you’ll bring?

There are questions of character and personality. Does the restaurant have both a sense of place and a sense of welcome? Does it feel good? Do the people working there seem happy and convey that?

All of this goes into a restaurant that's not just worthwhile but worth recommending.

Often, this meant comparing one excellent restaurant with another and deciding which one I’d recommend first. Many restaurants that I admire, enjoy and frequent aren’t included here as a result.

Other considerations: New restaurants need time to settle in, so none less than 3 months old are included here. Also, restaurants that have switched chefs or seen other significant upheaval lately are on hold until we see how those changes shake out.

As with any restaurant recommendation, I hope to get a post-meal report to learn how the pick worked out. When you have feedback, you can always get in touch at imcnulty@theadvocate.com.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.