Each year, our Essential 100 dining guides takes the measure of New Orleans restaurants, showcasing the homegrown flavors, new influences, rejuvenation and continuity that makes dining out in this city so fulfilling.

Lists like the one below break down the 100 picks in the overall guide to more specific recommendations I often field.

You can find more here, and the complete Essential 100 here.

Dining Solo


Chef Jason Goodenough, right, and his staff prepare the dining room of Carrollton Market restaurant in New Orleans.

Carrollton Market

8132 Hampson St., (504) 252-9928

Why: The best seats in the house are at the kitchen dining bar.

The dining bar looks right into this quietly efficient kitchen, but any seat in the house gives a vantage to contemporary New Orleans cuisine at its best. Snug and intimate, the performance at chef Jason Goodenough’s Riverbend bistro is tight, too. It shows in delicate pasta, the elegant and robust fried oysters napped with hollandaise in the shell, the hard crusty sear on sheepshead or snapper and the balance of warmth and professionalism across the room. Dinner Tue.-Sat., brunch Sat., Sun. $$$$


Chef/owner Eric Cook serves a dish at the bar at Gris Gris.


1800 Magazine St., (504) 272-0241

Why: An open kitchen like an upscale-casual diner

The open kitchen and dining counter here was once center stage for the highly ambitious Square Root. Today, as Gris-Gris, taking the same seats feels like pulling up around the home kitchen while your host cooks. That could be Eric Cook, the chef who made this striking spot into an approachable den for modern New Orleans and Southern flavors, to the tune of seafood-stuffed crabs, redfish courtboillion and chicken gizzard grillades. Downstairs feels like an upscale-casual diner; the second floor is like a Creole tavern, and Gris-Gris feels right as a neighborhood spot. Lunch and dinner daily, $$$


The raw bar of Elysian Seafood is part of Auction House Market, a food hall in the Warehouse District.

Elysian Seafood

2381 St. Claude Ave., (504) 609-3813; 801 Magazine St., (504) 372-4321

Why: Oyster bar and seafood counter for quick, one-on-one food hall dining

The modern food hall is a natural for an oyster bar, as Elysian Seafood has demonstrated twice now at St. Roch Market and the related Auction House Market. No frills, step-right-up service is just right for raw oysters, and this outfit sources an impressive regional variety. More than oyster bars, though, these are seafood counters with menus of ceviche, crabcakes, chilled seafood salads and sandwiches that sync with the casual vibe, too. Lunch and dinner daily (breakfast at St. Roch Market) $$


Chef/owner Hao Gong combines Chinese and Japanese influences at LUVI.


5236 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 605-3340

Why: A dining counter is the centerpiece, dishes are captivating on their own

People who like sushi will love Luvi, though it’s not a sushi bar. Artful compositions of raw seafood are the signature, while just as important to the overall picture is the menu of traditional and contemporary Chinese dishes. They are often steeped in the family history of chef Hao Gong, who oversees his intimate dining room while working from a counter that looks like, yes, a sushi bar. The ideal Luvi meal should have an array of raw dishes, the dan dan noodles, dumplings and a bit of sake. Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sat. $$$


Advocate photo by J.T. BLATTY --The bar is a prominent feature at Meril, an Emeril Lagasse restaurant built to accentuate casual, bar top dining. 


424 Girod St., (504) 526-3745

Why: Emeril Lagasse’s neighborhood-style eatery is half bar anyway

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. Whether at the wrap-around bar or the dining room facing the open kitchen, meals here can be robust romps through shaved Spanish ham, wood oven flatbreads, pastas and Korean short ribs. The drink list is deep. It’s no wonder Meril is a top destination for the events and outings that bring people downtown. Lunch and dinner daily. $$$

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.