Baru Bistro & Tapas

3700 Magazine St., (504) 895-2225; barutapas.com

From the tiny dining room of a former corner store, Baru plants sidewalk tables under a high gallery and twists around a narrow staircase to an almost hidden second-floor lounge. It’s a rambling, colorful restaurant, and the kitchen follows suit with flavors that show a wide sweep of Latin American flavors. Baru’s particular foundation in Colombian cooking shows up strongly with beef dishes (the skirt steak skewers are irresistible), while the ceviches and crudos give a coastal freshness, too. Stuffed arepa sandwiches at lunchtime and tacos filled with jerk chicken transition to more elaborate presentations at dinner. It’s loose and fun when you want something different. Lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. $$

+4 

Photo by Ian McNulty - Rum-cured tuna at Cafe Carmo.

Carmo

527 Julia St., (504) 875-4132; cafecarmo.com

Carmo is quite unlike anything else in town. The unifying theme is “tropical,” though that doesn’t imply a specific region so much as a fresh, verdant style on the plate and at the bar. Some staples from chef Christine Honn’s native Brazil turn up, like the black eyed pea croquettes, though smoked pork and plantain sandwiches and Thai-style fermented tea leaf salads are on the table. A local leader in forward-thinking restaurant ideas, Carmo frequently has underutilized and delicious Gulf seafood varieties to explore across its raw menu (the chefs here are ceviche masters). Good for a quick, lighter lunch, Carmo should be top-of-mind for a dinner when you want to branch out. Lunch Mon.-Sat., dinner Tue.-Sat. $$

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.