The line between restaurant and bar can be hard to distinguish, but it’s easy to see why places in this category are so appealing right about now.

As December ticks closer to the new year, it's crunch time for all those plans to get together during the holidays.

You should make it happen. It feels good when you do. Outings to socialize and reconnect with friends have a way of stretching time, adding a different kind of fulfillment between the family gatherings and assorted obligations that fill our “free time” at the holidays. 

Meeting out relieves the pressure to make it a big to-do. The restaurant that feels like a bar and the bar that can reasonably double as a restaurant are the right kind of venues for get-togethers like this.

Here are a few in my wheelhouse right now, arranged by neighborhood and with happy hours noted where applicable.

Algiers

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Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Fried stuffed olives are a specialty at Tavolino Pizza & Lounge in Algiers Point.

Tavolino Pizza & Lounge

141 Delaronde St., (504) 605-3365

Just across from the Algiers ferry landing, here’s a family-friendly pizzeria with the style of a modern lounge. The menu is centered on thin-crust pizza, salumi and a handful of Italian style small plates (try the fried olives stuffed with meat). The bar behind swinging doors provides a kid-free den. If the weather cooperates, take a go-cup and stroll the levee top. Happy hour: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, $5 off pizzas and bottles of wine.

French Quarter & Marigny 

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A new holiday cocktail list at Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29 has Christmas-themed drinks in distinctive vessels, including, from left, Hawaiian Milk Punch, Holiday Lei and On Christmas Island.

Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29

321 N. Peters St., (504) 609-3811

This lushly detailed Tiki bar and island-themed eatery is now wearing its cheeky Christmas attire. For the impressively thorough annual holiday installation called Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, you’ll find holiday-themed cocktails in specialty mugs; ornaments and tinsel hanging from the bamboo lanterns; and Christmas tunes drifting over the thatched-hut booths. It’s like a Tiki sendup of the hotel holiday lobby, and it’s always a lot of fun.

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Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- Cane & Table in the French Quarter oozes old New Orleans ambiance and adds modern cocktail style.

Cane & Table

1113 Decatur St., (504) 581-1112

The island-inspired food has taken a significant step up here since chef Fredo Nogueira took the helm, though at its heart, Cane & Table starts with cocktails. Flickering with candles, layered with patina and anchored by a smooth marble bar, the place oozes old New Orleans ambiance. Happy hour: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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Small plates are served at The Elysian Bar inside the Hotel Peter & Paul in the Marigny. 

The Elysian Bar

2317 Burgundy St., (504) 356-6769

An intricately detailed den inside an old church rectory, the style of this bar inside the new Hotel Peter & Paul can feel enveloping. While unmistakably upscale, decked in drapes and antiques, it is also walk-in casual. The menu from chef Alex Harrel (recently of Angeline) is a progression of small plates mixing the hearty (confit chicken leg) and the exuberantly fresh (whipped ricotta, mussels escabeche).

Kenner

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Porch & Patio Wine and Beer Garden in Kenner is a modern eatery and bar built using elements from an old produce depot.

Porch & Patio

512 Williams Blvd., Kenner, (504) 282-9113

A historic building recast as a tavern with lots of refurbished and outdoor spaces — it sounds like the next cool spot in Mid-City or Uptown. Instead, it’s filling a needed niche in Kenner’s Rivertown. Sliders, debris fries, onion rings and nachos set the bar for social noshing. Happy hour: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily, $2 off wine, beer and cocktails. 

Lakefront

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Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Steamed mussels with grilled baguette are part of the menu at Sala.

Sala

124 Lake Marina Drive, (504) 513-2670

Known for their neighborhood eateries, the Riccobono family added this more modern rendition by the lakefront with a menu of bar snacks, tacos and sandwiches and heartier fare, along with craft cocktails and wine. Happy hour: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, drink and food specials. 

Mid-City

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Advocate photo by J.T. BLATTY-- Built in a former church, Vessel has tall stained glass windows throughout the bar and dining room.

Revel Cafe & Bar

133 N. Carrollton Ave., (504) 309-6122

World-class cocktails from barman Chris McMillian are the calling card of this unique cafe, where serious craft mixes with a down-to-earth aesthetic. Longtime local chef Chris Debarr has taken the substantial menu in new trajectories, with his distinctive sense of culinary glee.   

Vessel

3835 Iberville St., (504) 603-2775

It still looks like an old Mid-City church on the outside, but (once again) people convene under its open rafters to eat and drink. Ranks of liquor line the high stained-glass windows, over a bar stretching the length of the room, where people share mussels and cheese plates and smoked fish dip. Happy hour: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily (and 10 p.m.-till Thursday-Sunday) $6 cocktails, $5 wine.

Uptown

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Chais Delachaise opened on Maple Street as a new wine bar and restaurant.

Delachaise and Chais Delachaise

3342 St. Charles Ave., (504) 895-0858; 7708 Maple St., (504) 510-4509

These wine-soaked siblings have their own niches, and neighborhoods, but each start with the idea of wine bars with food worth a trip in its own right. The original on St. Charles Avenue becomes more of a nightspot as the hours progress. On Maple Street, Chaise Delachaise serves a more extensive menu. Happy hour on St. Charles Avenue: Noon to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, $5 wines. Happy hour on Maple Street: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday, drink specials

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Garlic-chili shrimp pairs with a draft beer at the Freret Beer Room in New Orleans.

Freret Beer Room

5018 Freret St., (504) 298-7468

Beer is right in the name, though this upscale/casual Freret Street spot fields a bistro-worthy menu between the taps. Updated Southern regional staples and beer-friendly flavors are the specialty (boudin balls, fried headcheese, garlic-chili shrimp). Happy hour: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, drink and food specials.

Warehouse District

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Chef Mike Brewer serves an array of shareable plates at Copper Vine.

Copper Vine Wine Pub

1001 Poydras St., (504) 208-9535

Pulling a 180-degree turn from its past life as Happy's, this new "wine pub" has design-magazine style, a patio for the nice weather (it could happen), a bank of wine on tap and chef Mike Brewer's menu of updated comfort food.   

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Customers share flatbreads from the wood-burning oven at Meril, an Emeril Lagasse restaurant with a popular happy hour.

Meril

424 Girod St., (504) 526-3745

The bar occupies half of the house at Emeril Lagasse’s most casual local restaurant, and its spirit seems to inform the whole operation. Chef de cuisine Wilfredo Avelar renders a global range of flavors as small plates built for sharing. Try the pastas and anything from the robata grill, and don't miss the jamon Iberico. Happy hour: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, drink specials.


Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.