Fall Dining Guide 2015: Answers for cravings that draw New Orleans to table _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Shrimp Magazine, photographed Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, at Joey K's Restaurant and Bar on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

What’s the best restaurant in New Orleans? To answer that question for you, we have to start with more questions.

Beyond pure matters of preference, there’s your mood and the sort of day you had. There’s the season, even the weather; there’s the occasion that brings you to the table and whom you’re sharing it with. These can all point to different answers, sometimes radically so.

That’s why this dining guide, like its predecessors, is designed to help you make your own decisions, and give you different ways to cut into the culinary riches we enjoy here. Consider it an avid eater’s owner’s manual for the New Orleans restaurant scene.

Click here for the Fall Dining Guide.

That starts by narrowing a huge and growing field into a comprehensible guide of 120 selections, arranged by cuisine (our last guide, released in April, selected restaurants by neighborhood). Throughout, you’ll see some familiar names, and I hope you’ll also learn about new finds — whether they’re brand new or just new to you (though none are less than 3 months old, my criteria for consideration).

I choose them for the diversity of ways they can answer your cravings and for my confidence that each can consistently deliver on the promise of its particular niche, whether it’s a sandwich shop or a romantic bistro.

For this edition, I’ve added more categories to put a finer point on their specialties. For instance, this time around modern Southern restaurants stand on their own, apart from the modern American, as their ranks have grown. And you’ll find separate sections for Italian and Creole Italian, since the craving that draws us to Domenica or Marcello’s is different from the one that inspires a road trip to Mosca’s or Sunday dinner at Mandina’s.

And there’s much more Creole, the defining culinary identity of a city that cannot be defined by a single category. This guide includes separate picks for traditional Creole, contemporary Creole and laid-back neighborhood Creole — each pointing to very different types of restaurants that all express a sense of New Orleans.

And as in the past, you’ll find a two-page spread of quick-reference picks and other lists for best bets that go beyond restaurant type.

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.