Best New Restaurant

1. Cowbell (8801 Oak St., 298-8689;

Chef Brack May opened Cowbell just inside the parish line, and diners heeded the dinner bell. The ambience is casual and retro with some waitresses donning vintage aprons. The cuisine highlights creative comfort food, with mainstays like beef burgers and chili-cheese fries, and there's a chalkboard menu for daily specials and side dishes.

2. The Velvet Cactus (6300 Argonne Blvd., 301-2083;

3. Dominique's on Magazine (4729 Magazine St., 894-8869;


Best Metairie Restaurant

1. Drago's Seafood Restaurant (3232 N. Arnoult Road., Metairie, 888-9254; — Tommy Cvitanovich presides over the restaurant he and his family built into a local institution. It's best known for char-broiled oysters topped with butter, garlic, Parmesan and seasonings, but the restaurant offers a wide array of local seafood in everything from refined preparations to platters of fried shrimp and oysters.

2. Andrea's (3100 19th St., Metairie, 834-8583;

3. Vega Tapas Cafe (2051 Metairie Road, 836-2007;


Best New Orleans Restaurant

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; — Whether it's for executive chef Tory McPhail's modern Creole cooking or the 25-cent martinis at lunch, Commander's Palace draws a crowd to its expansive Garden District location. The Brennan family landmark has collected multiple James Beard Foundation awards for excellence and is a recurring favorite with Gambit readers.

2. Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021;

3. Restaurant August (301 Tchoupitoulas St., 299-9777;


Best Kenner Restaurant

1. Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar (3203 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-6454) — Whether you like your seafood boiled, grilled, blackened, fried, stewed, stuffed or raw, the Harbor has you covered. The casual, family-style eatery shares a wall with a related seafood market, which fills the kitchen's hugely varied roster of local finfish and shellfish. Lobster is another big draw, but no matter what they choose to eat, most customers wash it down with chilled pitchers of beer.

2. Kenner Seafood (3140 Loyola Drive, Kenner, 466-4701;

3. Ristorante da Piero (401 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 469-8585;


Best Northshore Restaurant

1. La Provence (25020 Hwy. 19, Lacombe, 985-626-7662; — The rural ambience of La Provence is so seductive, it can make the drive to Lacombe seem like a shortcut to the French countryside. Chef John Besh began his career here, and since taking over the restaurant from his late mentor Chris Kerageorgiou he has honored its legacy while broadening its horizons. Today, gardens all around the restaurant help supply a farm-fresh menu of contemporary cuisine and updated French classics.

2. Trey Yuen (600 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, 985-626-4476;

3. Dakota (629 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-892-3712;


Best West Bank Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113C Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846) — Although it's located in an unassuming strip mall off the Westbank Expressway, diners have had no problems finding this inexpensive Vietnamese eatery. The extensive menu includes favorites such as rice paper spring rolls served with peanut sauce and a variety of noodle-filled pho choices topped with anything from sliced beef or pork to seafood.

2. Hoa Hong Nine Roses (1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 366-7665)

3. Red Maple (1036 Lafayette St., Gretna, 367-0935)


Best St. Bernard Parish Restaurant

1. Rocky & Carlo's (613 W. St. Bernard Hwy., Chalmette, 279-8323; — Since it first opened in 1965 (except for a post-Katrina hiatus), Rocky & Carlo's has been a St. Bernard Parish mainstay for Creole and Italian food. Regulars head to the friendly eatery for big plates of veal Parmesan, po-boys and onion rings. The mac and cheese also is popular, and those in the know order it with gravy on top.

2. Tony's Po-boys (434 E. Judge Perez Drive, Chalmette, 271-5211)

3. Par 3 Diner (2401 Paris Road, Chalmette, 279-7273)


Best Neighborhood Restaurant

1. TIE: Clancy's (6100 Annunciation St., 895-1111; — Clancy's is a popular upscale corner restaurant that draws locals to its tiny bar and boisterous dining rooms for sharp service and contemporary Creole cooking. The menu evolves with frequent tweaks and small changes, but popular dishes include baked oysters over spinach and Brie, smoked duck and lemon ice box pie.

1. TIE: Katie's Restaurant & Bar (3701 Iberville St., 488-6582; — Since reopening after the levee failures, Katie's has expanded its former menu of Creole and Italian favorites to include gourmet pizzas and sandwiches. Regulars still head to the Mid-City favorite for fried eggplant and platters of fried seafood and chicken Parmesan, and the attractively remodeled restaurant is busy again.

2. Mandina's (3800 Canal St., 482-9179;

3. Patois (6078 Laurel St., 895-9441;


Best Hotel Restaurant

1. Domenica (Roosevelt Hotel, 123 Baronne St., 648-6020; — Located in the Roosevelt Hotel, chef John Besh's Domenica is an elegant but warm restaurant focusing on well-crafted rustic Italian dishes, imported salumi and cheeses, pasta and more casual gourmet pizzas. In a unique holiday offering, chef Alon Shaya also serves kosher items for Passover.

2. Cafe Adelaide (Loews Hotel, 300 Poydras St., 595-3305;

3. Rib Room (Omni Royal Orleans, 621 St. Louis St., 529-7046;


Best Barbecue Restaurant

1. The Joint (801 Poland Ave., 949-3232; — This Bywater hub is low on frills but big on smoky flavor. The Joint says it's "always smokin'," and diners head to the counter to order plates of pork spareribs, brisket, pulled pork, locally made sausages, chicken and homey sides like baked beans and mac and cheese. There's seating inside and in the backyard near the smoker.

2. Voodoo Barbecue (1501 St. Charles Ave., 522-4647; 2740 Severn Ave., Metairie, 353-4227; 2999 Hwy. 190 E., Mandeville, 985-629-2021; 5110 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan, 729-2442;

3. Squeal (8400 Oak St., 302-7370;


Best Chinese Restaurant

1. Five Happiness (3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935; — Five Happiness has been a Mid-City bastion of Chinese food for three decades. The voluminous menu draws dishes from an array of regional cuisines, and the list of lunch specials is a mix of the best known American-Chinese favorites. There are many big tables for large parties to share a number of plates in the traditional Chinese style, and the restaurant offers take-out and delivery as well.

2. Royal China (600 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 831-9633)

3. Jung's Golden Dragon (3009 Magazine St., 891-8280;


Best Cajun Restaurant

1. Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-7675; — Cochon's refined Cajun cooking comes from chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski, who won the 2011 James Beard Foundation award for best chef in the south. Diners enjoy house-made charcuterie and dishes like rabbit and dumplings, a peppery oyster pan roast, large boudin balls served with Creole mustard and more.

2. K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen (416 Chartres St., 596-2530;

3. Mulate's (201 Julia St., 522-1492;


Best Creole Restaurant

1. Jacques-Imo's (8324 Oak St., 861-0886; — Chef/proprietor Jacques Leonardi takes colorful and creative license in his Creole cooking at his sprawling restaurant. Murals and folk art cover the walls of the main building, a side annex and the pick-up truck usually parked in front. Diners crowd the barroom before settling in for signature dishes like shrimp and alligator cheesecake, carpetbagger steak filled with oysters, spicy bouillabaisse, fried chicken and more.

2. Dooky Chase (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0600)

3. Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021;


Best Italian Restaurant

1. Vincent's (4411 Chastant St., Metairie, 885-2984; 7839 St. Charles Ave., 866-9313; — Everything used to make a meal at Vincent's is fresh (there are no walk-in freezers on the premises), and the results have made the restaurants a favorite since the first one opened in 1989. The decor will make you feel you're back in the old country, and the service is impeccable. The house specialty is the cannelloni, but the menu has a bountiful offering of Italian dishes with Sicilian influences.

2. Venezia (134 N. Carrollton Ave., 488-7991;

3. Italian Barrel (430 Barracks St., 569-0198;


Best Japanese/Sushi Restaurant

1. Kyoto (4920 Prytania St., 891-3644; — Diners take seats at Kyoto's small sushi bar and in its cozy dining room to enjoy an array of sushi, sashimi, tempura and other cooked items. The restaurant is known for creative rolls like the Funky Margarita, combining tuna, salmon and spicy avocado sauce, and the Taco Salad, which mixes an ocean of fish in a fried spring roll shell and is topped with tangy vinaigrette.

2. Rock-n-Sake (823 Fulton St., 581-7253;

3. Sake Cafe (817 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, 468-8829; 1130 S. Clearview Pkwy., Harahan, 733-8879; 4201 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 779-7253)


Best Latin American Restaurant

1. Baru (3700 Magazine St., 895-2225; — At his cozy Uptown cafe, chef/proprietor Edgar Caro offers tapas and Latin American dishes influenced by his native coastal Colombian home of Cartagena and the Caribbean. There's everything from ceviche to his special guacabello, a blend of avocados and portobello mushrooms. Outdoor seating under the corner restaurant's wide overhang relieves demand for the handful of tables inside.

2. Mayas (2027 Magazine St., 309-3401;

3. TIE: La Macarena Pupuseria & Latin Cafe (8120 Hampson St., 862-5252;

3. TIE: RioMar (800 S. Peters St., 525-3474;


Best Mexican Restaurant

1. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200; — There's a good-times atmosphere at this lively restaurant, a favorite spot for drinking margaritas and dining on bountiful portions of Tex-Mex fare. Chef Manuel "Poncho" Cuellar makes sure all the dishes are the freshest possible; there's lots of shrimp and crawfish, tortillas are hand-rolled all day long, and meats are cooked over a mesquite grill. Dine on the patio for a view of St. Charles Avenue.

2. El Gato Negro (81 French Market Place, 525-9752; 300 Harrison Ave., 488-0107;

3. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St., 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950;


Best Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean Restaurant

1. Mona's Cafe (504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115; 3901 Banks St., 482-7743; 4126 Magazine St., 894-9800) — From its original location in Mid-City, which is a combined restaurant and grocery store, Mona's has expanded throughout New Orleans by offering inexpensive and satisfying Middle Eastern cuisine, including everything from gyro sandwiches and platters to falafel, hummus, various kebabs, tabbouleh and herbed zaater bread.

2. Byblos (Tulane University, 29 McAlister Drive, 835-8332; 1501 Metairie Road, Metairie, 834-9773; 2020 Veterans Memorial Blvd,. Metairie, 837-9777; Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 830-7333; 3218 Magazine St., 894-1233;

3. Lebanon's Cafe (1500 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-6200;


Best Seafood Restaurant

1. Deanie's Seafood (841 Iberville St., 581-1316; 1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141; — The Bucktown location of Deanie's built its reputation on local seafood favorites from boiled crawfish to seafood platters and po-boys heaping with fried shrimp, oysters and catfish to soft-shell crab dinners. The family-friendly seafood institution even tops its Bucktown Boil pizza with shrimp, crawfish and crabmeat.

2. GW Fins (808 Bienville St., 581-3467;

3. The Galley (2535 Metairie Road, 832-0955)


Best Soul Food Restaurant

1. Dooky Chase (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0600) — Legendary chef Leah Chase's charm and mastery of Creole cooking helped make Dooky Chase a New Orleans landmark, which the matriarch has adorned with her impressive collection of art. Diners still flock to the Treme restaurant for buffet lunches of traditional dishes like red beans and rice, Creole gumbo, fried chicken, shrimp and lima beans and more.

2. Willlie Mae's Scotch House (2401 St. Ann St., 822-9503)

3. Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen St., 943-3934;


Best Steakhouse

1. Ruth's Chris (525 Fulton St., 587-7099; 3633 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-3600; — The sound of sizzling butter and the smell of fine cuts of beef being cooked is enough to make your mouth water. The New Orleans-grown steakhouse perfected the art of searing steaks at 1,800 degrees and serving them on a lake of sizzling butter — and in the almost 50 years it has been in business it has become synonymous with steak.

2. Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse (716 Iberville St., 522-2467;

3. Crescent City Steak House (1001 N. Broad St., 821-3271;


Best Thai Restaurant

1. La Thai Uptown (4938 Prytania St., 899-8886; — Chefs, proprietors and siblings Diana and Merlin Chauvin grew up in a family of restaurateurs. At La Thai, they present a mix of traditional and creative Thai dishes incorporating everything from local seafood to jasmine rice and aromatic curries.

2. Sukho Thai (1913 Royal St., 948-9309; 4519 Magazine St., 373-6471;

3. Singha Thai (413 Carondelet St., 581-2205)


Best Vietnamese Restaurant

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846) — Originally opened in the mid-1970s, Pho Tau Bay is one of the senior members of Gretna's cluster of Vietnamese restaurants. Its casual dining room has been a mainstay for inexpensive Vietnamese meals, with dishes ranging from vermicelli bowls to an array of pho topped with sliced beef, pork, seafood and more.

2. Hoa Hong 9 Roses (1100 Stephens St., Gretna, 366-7665)

3. Tan Dinh (1705 Lafayette St., 361-8008)


Best Tapas/ Small Plates

1. Vega Tapas Cafe (2051 Metairie Road, 836-2007; — Chef/proprietor Glen Hogh presides over the vibrantly colored dining room and menu of refined tapas dishes at Vega Tapas Cafe. The seasonally changing menu is separated into hot and cold dishes, and there are many Spanish classics as well as some Mediterranean and Louisiana flourishes.

2. Baru Bistro & Tapas (3700 Magazine St., 895-2225;

3. TIE: Mimi's In the Marigny (2601 Royal St., 872-9868)

3. TIE: Salu (3226 Magazine St., 371-5809;


Best Food Truck

1. Taceaux Loceaux — Maribeth and Alex del Castillo are better known as the proprietors of Taceaux Loceaux, a food truck serving gourmet tacos, like the "Messin' with Texas," a soft taco filled with brisket, cabbage, radish and cilantro. Follow the truck's Twitter feed (@TLNola) for location updates or head to Chickie Wah Wah, where a stationary kitchen serves Taceaux Loceaux's popular tacos during club hours.

2. Que Crawl

3. Geaux Plates


Best Jazz Fest Food 2011

1. Crawfish BreadGambit foodies chose crawfish bread as their Jazz Fest favorite this year. The thick, doughy, crawfish tail- and cheese-filled loaves are served by Panorama Foods from Marksville, La.

2. Crawfish Monica

3. Crawfish enchiladas


Best Breakfast Spot

1. Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar (1418 Magazine St., 524-3828; 4807 Magazine St., 895-5757; — Popular among the organic crowd as well as bacon lovers, Surrey's has an inventive menu and daily specials in addition to freshly squeezed juices. Go to the original Lower Garden District location for a cozy experience inside or the Uptown restaurant for sunnier ambience, outdoor dining and a Bloody Mary from Le Bon Temps Roule next door to sip if you have to wait in line.

2. The Ruby Slipper Cafe (139 S. Cortez St., 309-5531; 200 Magazine St., 525-9355;

3. Camellia Grill (540 Chartres St., 522-1800; 626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679;


Best Brunch

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; — Brunch at Commander's Palace includes jazz, eye-opener cocktails and a menu full of indulgences from executive chef Tory McPhail. Try dishes like cochon de lait with eggs topped with hollandaise or Commander's version of eggs Sardou with artichokes, mushrooms, eggplant and hollandaise. It's a flavorful and decadent start to the day.

2. Dante's Kitchen (736 Dante St., 861-3121;

3. Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal St., 522-7261;


Best Lunch Specials

1. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221; — The best lunch deal in town may be the 25-cent martinis (with entree) at Commander's Palace, but the $16 two-course specials are also attractive. Jackets aren't required at lunch, so it's easy to relax and enjoy executive chef Tory McPhail's modern Creole cuisine.

2. Joey K's (3001 Magazine St., 891-0997;

3. TIE: Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1661;

3. TIE: Antoine's (713 St. Louis St., 525-8045;


Best Late-Night Dining

1. Camellia Grill (540 Chartres St., 522-1800; 626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679; — One of Gambit readers' favorite final stops is at the counter of the Camellia Grill. The original location in the Riverbend serves satisfying diner fare from burgers and omelets to chili-cheese fries and slices of pie warmed on the grill. The friendly and sometimes sassy service is all part of the experience.

2. City Diner (3116 S. I-10 Service Road, Metairie, 831-1030)

3. Clover Grill (900 Bourbon St., 598-1010;


Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant

1. Chuck E. Cheese's (124 North Shore Blvd., Slidell, 985-641-4878; 3701 Gen. DeGaulle Drive, 367-1214; 7000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-5959; — It's difficult to get kids to stay still long enough to eat with all the action going on: games with flashing lights and dinging bells, a ball pit and slide, rides and a music show by enormous robotic animal singers. That's OK, though, it leaves more pizza (made with fresh ingredients), sandwiches and salads for the adults. Gambit readers were rather harsh on this question, with several saying children should not be allowed in restaurants at all. Did you feel that way when you were a kid?

2. New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Company (Citywide;

3. Reginelli's (Citywide;


Best Cheap Eats

1. Felipe's Taqueria (301 N. Peters St., 267-4406; 6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776; — Quick, good and cheap is the name of the game at this popular pair of local taquerias, where most items ring in for under $6 and even people with big appetites can easily assemble a filling meal for less than $10. Burritos, tacos and platos come together quickly under assembly-line service, and customers can help themselves to a salsa bar with a rainbow of fresh and spicy garnishes.

2. Juan's Flying Burrito (2018 Magazine St. 569-0000; 4724 S. Carrollton Ave., 486-9950;

3. Camellia Grill (540 Chartres St., 522-1800; 626 S. Carrollton Ave., 309-2679;


Best Menu for Vegetarians

1. Green Goddess (307 Exchange Place, 301-3347; — There's plenty of meat on the menu at this diminutive French Quarter restaurant, but vegetarians have so many original and appealing options they may feel they've found a new culinary home. Forget the perfunctory pasta primavera. Chefs Chris DeBarr and Paul Artigues mine and combine influences from around the globe for one-of-a-kind dishes that don't rely on a slab of meat to satisfy.

2. Mona's Cafe (504 Frenchmen St., 949-4115; 1120 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-8175; 3901 Banks St., 482-7743; 4126 Magazine St., 894-9800;

3. Nirvana Indian Cuisine (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797)


Best Place for Desserts

1. Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311, Lakeside Shopping Center, 3301 Veterans Blvd., 834-2277; — The pleasantly pastel environs of this sweet boutique give shoppers a taste of its offerings, which range from gelato, to bananas Foster-flavored chocolates, to authentic French macaroons topped with gold leaf. With a new location at Lakeside Shopping Center, Jefferson Parish residents can sate their sweet tooths closer to home.

2. Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465;

3. Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro (4517 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 454-7620; 2001 St. Charles Ave., 593-9955;


Best Donuts

1. Blue Dot Donuts (4301 Canal St., 218-4866, — In its first year of operation, this cop-owned donut shop (yes, really), shot to No. 1 in our poll. Why? Dulce de leche, peanut butter and jelly and fresh strawberry and blueberry cake are just some of the flavors available at this Canal Street donuteria. Expect a wait on the weekends, but the line moves fast, and the staff is quick and friendly.

2. Tastee Donuts (Citywide)

3. Krispy Kreme (825 Clearview Pkwy., Metairie, 779-9620; 4808 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 247-0315;


Best Buffet

1. The Buffet at Harrah's (8 Canal St., 533-6000; — It's no gamble that everyone in your party will find just what they want to eat, with myriad choices of Louisiana seafood, Creole and Pacific Rim fare and French cuisine. The seven-station buffet includes traditional foods like fried chicken as well as Asian and other ethnic cuisines, and the sweets table has more than 40 dessert choices. Sweet! Just the thing for bolstering your stamina (and luck) for a night of gaming.

2. Nirvana (4308 Magazine St., 894-9797;

3. Oki Nago Japanese Seafood Buffet (2712 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, 780-8588;


Best Wine List

1. Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858; — It's been recommended by Conde Nast, New York Magazine and other travel media because of its meticulously curated, international wine list. There are 22 wines by the glass and additional choices in bottles, as well as an extensive beer list and a full bar. To seal the deal, the kitchen turns out upscale cuisine, including housemade pate, cheese plates, flank steak bruschetta and must-try pommes frites cooked in goose fat.

2. Wine Institute of New Orleans (W.I.N.O.) (610 Tchoupitoulas St., 324-8000;

3. Emeril's New Orleans (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393;


Best Chef

1. John Besh — Your favorite chef two years in a row not only claims such stellar restaurants as Restaurant August, Luke, Besh Steak, American Sector, La Provence and Domenica in his culinary empire, he's also active in local charities. Prior to the BP oil disaster, he became a national ambassador for Louisiana seafood, and this year he started the Chefs Move! program, which awarded a young minority recipient a yearlong scholarship to The French Culinary Institute in New York City.

2. Susan Spicer

3. Donald Link


Best Outdoor Dining

1. Martinique (5908 Magazine St., 891-8495; — A consistent reader favorite, the cozy patio of this French-Caribbean Uptown spot is perfect for dining al fresco — even when the weather makes it difficult to imagine outdoor dining, much less being outside for more than 10 minutes. Fans make summertime dining slightly more bearable, and lush greenery and white tablecloths combine the best of a fancy restaurant and a casual backyard.

2. Bacchanal (600 Poland Ave., 948-9111;

3. Cafe Rani (2917 Magazine St., Suite 103, 895-2500;


Best Deli

1. Stein's Market & Deli (2207 Magazine St., 527-0771; — Dan Stein famously advises patrons at his Garden District deli that if they want a po-boy they should go somewhere else. But those who come for a convincing New York-style deli experience are very much in the right place. Shelves are lined with specialty groceries, while behind the counter, Stein's crew assembles towering pastrami and tongue sandwiches, bagels with lox and regional specialties from Philly cheese steaks to Chicago Italian beef.

2. Martin Wine Cellar (500 Magazine St., 894.7420; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; Village Shopping Center, 2895 Hwy. 190, Suite A-1, Mandeville, 985-951-8081;;)

3. Butcher (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-7675;


Best Seafood Market

1. Big Fisherman (3301 Magazine St., 897-9907; — It's like a treasure chest from the ocean for seafood lovers. This Uptown fishmonger stocks fresh fish fillets, mussels, calamari, shrimp, crawfish (in season), oysters and crabs. It packs and ships seafood to loved ones around the country, and if you don't feel like cooking, it'll boil your seafood and stuff your crabs. In addition, Big Fisherman has turtle and alligator meat, andouille and alligator and boudin sausages — and if it's the right time of year, crawfish boudin.

2. Whole Foods Market (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119;

3. Westwego Farmers & Fisheries Market ( 484 Sala Ave.; corner of Sala Avenue and Fourth Street, Westwego)


Best Burger

1. Port of Call (838 Esplanade Ave., 521-0120; — A perrennial winner in this category, Port of Call's success comes from understanding what makes people love burgers: beef that's fresh-cut and ground daily, formed into half-pound patties and cooked to order. Another key is keeping it simple; there are only four burgers on the menu, and when paired with a fully stuffed potato, they make more than a full meal. Tropical cocktails are the house specialties and make the inevitable wait outside more enjoyable.

2. Phil's Grill (1640 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 305-1705; 3020 Severn Ave., Metairie, 324-9080;

3. Yo Mama's Bar & Grill (727 St Peter St., 522-1125;


Best Gourmet To Go

1. Martin Wine Cellar (714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7300; — A full slate of sandwiches, gourmet salads, house-made dressings, cheese plates and daily hot lunch and dinner specials (including dishes such as rum jerk grilled pork chops or chicken wings) that change weekly give hungry customers lots of options to take home. You only have to walk a few steps to find the perfect wine accompaniment, with hundreds of bottles from around the world as well as a full stock of liquor and beer. There's also seating in the bistro if you can't wait until you get home to take your first bite.

2. Gott Gourmet (3100 Magazine St., 373-6579; www.

3. Chez Nouz Charcuterie (5701 Magazine St., 899-7303;


Best Grocery Store Prepared-Food-To-Go Section

1. Whole Foods (3420 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 888-8225; 5600 Magazine St., 899-9119; — With organic salad bar offerings, prepared foods like jambalaya, stuffed mirlitons, vegetable fried rice and kung pao tofu, and hot line items like cochon de lait and macaroni and cheese, Whole Foods' food-to-go section leaves customers sated, whether they are vegan, locavore, macrobiotic, gluten-free or simply enthusiastic omnivores.

2. Rouses (citywide;

3. Langenstein's (800 Metairie Road, Metairie, 831-6682; 1330 Arabella St., 899-9283;


Best Gumbo

1. Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St., 525-1486; — This New Orleans institution has won the Best Gumbo category in the Best of New Orleans poll every year since 1999. Instead of a house gumbo, this restaurant offers seafood, okra and chicken-andouille versions of this indigenous soup as well as file gumbo with chicken. They are offered as sides or starters for a full menu of Creole cuisine served at the restaurant or in a variety of sizes to take home for dinner or a party. And the Gumbo Shop's roux always comes out right.

2. Mr. B's Bistro (201 Royal St., 523-2078;

3. Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221;


Best Muffuletta

1. Central Grocery (923 Decatur St., 523-1620) — Generally accepted as the originator of the muffuletta in 1906 (other restaurants also claim its invention), it's the only sandwich served at the deli of this Old World Italian grocer. The sandwich is enormous (the diameter of a small pizza, but you can order a half) and is served with ham, Genoa salami, provolone cheese and chunky olive salad stacked in a crusty split loaf of Italian bread. Grab a handful of napkins, you'll need them.

2. DiMartino's Famous New Orleans Muffulettas (700 S. Tyler St., Covington, 985-276-6460; 1788 Carol Sue Ave., Gretna, 392-7589; 3900 Gen. DeGaulle Ave., 367-0227; 6641 Westbank Expwy., 341-4096;

3. Nor-Joe Import Company (505 Frisco Ave., Metairie, 833-9240;


Best Pizza Restaurant

1. Slice (1513 St. Charles Ave., 525-7437; 5538 Magazine St., 897-4800; — With more than three dozen toppings on the menu, it's easy to dream up the perfect pizza — and you can get it by the slice or a whole pie. Pizza's not the only thing special about this restaurant. You can complement your meal with mussels, bruschetta, salads, sandwiches, pasta and desserts. And check out the menu of specialty cocktails, wines, beer and espresso.

2. Reginelli's (Citywide;

3. Theo's Neighborhood Pizza (4024 Canal St., 302-1133; 4218 Magazine St., 894-8554;


Best Red Beans and Rice

1. Popeyes (Citywide; — Do we really have to spell it out? Popeyes' version — in that nice hot cup— is creamy, spicy and the perfect food for chilly Mardi Gras parades. It's a New Orleans food group all to itself ... and, yes, it doesn't taste the same at any Popeyes outside the metro area.

2. Ignatius Eatery (4200 Magazine St., 896-2225)

3. Joey K's Restaurant (3001 Magazine St., 891-0997;


Best Bar Food

1. The Bulldog (3236 Magazine St., 891-1516; 5135 Canal Blvd., 488-4191; — There's something about the combination of cheese fries and beer that casts an irresistible spell, whether this magic comes together at happy hour, in the wee hours or on game day. The local Bulldog taverns have this formula down pat, serving mounded baskets of waffle-cut fries quilted with cheddar — plus burgers, salads and Tex Mex grub — while suds flow from their innumerable beer taps.

2. Cooter Brown's Tavern (509 S. Carrollton Ave., 866-9104;

3. The Delachaise (3442 St. Charles Ave., 895-0858;


Best Barbecue Shrimp

1. Pascal's Manale Restaurant & Bar (1838 Napoleon Ave., 895-4877) — Most New Orleanians know that barbecued shrimp has nothing to do with traditional barbecue sauce. It's all about the pepper, spices and butter used to make it. This 98-year-old family-run neighborhood restaurant serves a quintessentially New Orleans version of the dish with shrimp swimming in peppery butter sauce — and lots of French bread for dipping.

2. Mr. B's Bistro (201 Royal St., 523-2078;

3. Mosca's Restaurant (4137 Hwy. 90 West, Westwego, 436-9942;


Best Oyster Po-boy

1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047; — Parkway is a standard for po-boy fare in New Orleans — it also won Best Shrimp Po-boy and Best Roast Beef Po-boy. Parkway is never greedy with the oysters, either. The restaurant isn't serving oyster po-boys right now, but the memory of bivalves of the past made a lasting impression with our readers.

2. Domilise's Po-boys (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126)

3. Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville St., 522-5973; 1202 N. Hwy. 190, Covington, 985-246-6155; 3000 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 309-4056;


Best Shrimp Po-boy

1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047; — It's like a miracle from the Gulf. The shrimp are fried golden and piled high on your choice of bread — French, hamburger bun, hot dog bun, sliced white or rye bread — and dressed with mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles. The large size is for the voraciously hungry and is served on French bread.

2. Domilise's Po-Boys (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126)

3. TIE: Crabby Jack's (428 Jefferson Hwy., 833-2722)

3. TIE: Mahony's Po-Boy Shop (3454 Magazine St., 899-3374;


Best Roast Beef Po-boy

1. Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave., 482-3047; — A carnivore's dream, the roast beef is cooked in house, piled onto French or your choice of bread, doused with gravy and finished with lots of luscious debris. It's drippy, messy and delicious — just like we like it.

2. Tracey's (2604 Magazine St., 897-5413;

3. Domilise's Po-boys (5240 Annunciation St., 899-9126; )


Best Banh Mi

1. Pho Tau Bay (113 Westbank Expwy., Gretna, 368-9846) — PTB has been a New Orleans' go-to spot since long before pho became as familiar a staple as gumbo. The banh mi menu here is extensive, with about a dozen choices of the sandwich. Go for the basic with the banh mi pate thit or try a version with fresh shrimp or tofu.

2. TIE: Pho Nola (3320 Transcontinental Drive, Metairie, 941-7690;

2. TIE: Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery and Restaurant (14207 Chef Menteur Hwy., 254-0296;

3. Tan Dinh (1705 Lafayette St., Suite A, Gretna, 361-8008)


Best Place to Get a Specialty Sandwich

1. Stein's Market & Deli (2207 Magazine St., 527-0771; — The Jewish and Italian deli carries an array of cured meats and salamis, as well as more than 50 cheeses from around the world — perfect sandwich-making tools. Its specialty sandwiches include selections made with imported prosciutto, pastrami, Nueske's bacon and ham, house-made mozzarella, Delice de Bourgogne specialty cheese from France, and fresh fruit and vegetable toppings that give the sandwiches an extra shot of flavor.

2. St. James Cheese Company (5004 Prytania St., 899-4737;

3. Mahony's Po-Boy Shop (3454 Magazine St., 899-3374;


Best Tacos

1. Taqueria Corona (1827 Hickory Ave., Harahan, 738-6722; 3535 Severn Ave., Metairie, 885-5088; 5932 Magazine St., 897-3974; — Roberto Mendez opened his first Taqueria Corona on Magazine Street in 1988 as a two-table taco stand to bring fresh, authentic Mexican food to New Orleans, and it has been an enduring hit ever since. The menu has expanded a lot, and the restaurants now offer a diverse array of Mexican fare — all made with fresh, hand-cut produce and lean meats. To keep things festive, it stocks top-shelf tequilas for margaritas and manzanitas, domestic and imported beers, and has traditional Mexican desserts to finish.

2. The Rum House (3128 Magazine St., 941-7560;

3. Felipe's Taqueria (301 N. Peters St., 267-4406; 6215 S. Miro St., 309-2776;


Best Cup of Coffee

1. PJ's (Citywide; — PJ's may be as ubiquitous in the greater New Orleans area as Starbucks is elsewhere, but that national coffee giant pales in comparison to our homegrown brewer. Besides Louisiana, coffee lovers in Mississippi and even New Jersey can enjoy the store's signature frozen granita, Velvet Ice or iced coffees.

2. CC's (Citywide;

3. Cafe Du Monde (Citywide;


Best Iced Coffee

1. PJ's (Citywide; — Iced coffee is an art form at PJ's, where the potent stuff comes in a constantly rotating variety of flavors, including everything from wedding cake to tiramisu to bananas Foster. The store even sells Toddy Coffee Makers for anyone who wants to replicate iced coffee at home, although — let's face it — yours probably won't be as good.

2. CC's (Citywide;

3. Starbucks (Citywide;


Best Place to Get Ice Cream/ Gelato

1. Angelo Brocato< (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465; — Frozen dessert trends are ephemeral — Gelato is the new ice cream! Frozen yogurt is the new gelato! — but Angelo Brocato has shown staying power with its menu of reliably good treats. No matter what next summer's trend is, it is certain nothing will beat a Brocato gelato or Italian ice.

2. TIE: Creole Creamery (4924 Prytania St., 894-8680; 6260 Vicksburg St., 482-2924;

2. TIE: Sucre (3025 Magazine St., 520-8311;

3. La Divina Gelateria (621 St. Peter St., 302-2692 3005 Magazine St., 342-2634; Loyola University, Carrolton Residence Hall, 6363 St. Charles Ave.;


Best Frozen Yogurt

1. Pinkberry (300 Canal St.; 5601 Magazine St., 899-4260; — There seems to be a frozen yogurt shop opening on every corner in New Orleans, and last year's arrival of the celebrity-endorsed fro-yo chain is certainly to blame. Now both locations offer delivery, so you don't even have to leave your house for a fix of the sweet-and-tart treat that's called "Crackberry" for a reason.

2. Tutti Frutti (Citywide;

3. TCBY (701 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-2983; 2222 S. Clearview Pkwy., 887-0771, 1660 Hwy. 59, Mandeville, 985-626-4770; 70488 Hwy. 21, 985-892-9000;


Best Sno-ball Stand

1. Hansen's Sno-Bliz (4801 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-9788; — Lines at the legendary Uptown stand are long, but as soon as you dive into a creamy, pillowy Hansen's sno-ball you realize it's worth the wait. The perpetually cheery Ashley Hansen runs the shop started by her great-grandparents Ernest and Mary Hansen (Ernest invented the ice-shaving machine). The shop itself is like a museum, with the original Sno-Bliz machine, vintage paper clippings and other memorabilia on display.

2. Williams Plum Street Snoballs (1300 Burdette Ave., 866-7996;

3. Sal's Sno-Ball Stand (1823 Metairie Ave., Metairie; 666-1823)


Best Coffeehouse

1. Fair Grinds Coffeehouse (3133 Ponce De Leon St., 913-9072; — Fair Grinds has lots of qualities to love. It's a locally owned independent coffeehouse, serves Fair Trade and organic coffees and will grind and French Press any bean it has to provide you the freshest brew possible. It's funky enough to be interesting and small enough to be comfortable, with free Wi-Fi (for "working coffee breaks") and sweets from local bakeries. As a community coffee shop, it hosts a variety of events, including music nights, yoga and more.

2. Mojo Coffee House (1500 Magazine St., 525-2244;

3. CC's (900 Jefferson Ave., 891-4969;


Best Restaurant That Delivers

1. Reginelli's Pizzeria (Citywide; — With seven locations covering both sides of Lake Pontchartrain, Reginelli's has a restaurant in almost everyone's neighborhood. Its reputation for inspired hand-tossed specialty pizzas and tasty baked pasta, calzones, salad and sandwiches has pushed the restaurant into this category numerous times over the years. And you don't even have to get dressed and leave home to get its gourmet tastes; the restaurant will bring them right to your door.

2. Five Happiness (3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 482-3935;

3. Mikimoto Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar (3301 S. Carrollton Ave., 488-1881;

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