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The French onion grilled cheese at Meauxbar.

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.


Late night dinner 

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Cleo's Mediterranean Cuisine has a modern arabesque design worked all across its French Quarter dining room.

Cleo’s Mediterranean Cuisine

117 Decatur St., (504) 218-5874940 Canal St., (504) 522-4504

Why: Middle Eastern 24/7, with attached imported food shops

Cleo’s built a following with well-composed, inexpensive Arabic standards and became one of the best options for quality food after midnight. The second location in the French Quarter greatly expands the range with stylish design, a broader menu and an in-house pita bakery. Hummus augmented with fried cauliflower or za'atar shrimp and tagines, Egyptian seafood soup, steak and koftes join the familiar wraps and dips. At either location, check out the collection of imported candy and sodas. BYOB. Both locations 24/7 $$ (Canal) and $$$ (Decatur)


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Hanger steak with garlic fries at La Boca.

La Boca

870 Tchoupitoulas St., (504) 525-8205

Why: Steaks and fries through midnight, Thu.-Sat.

Adolfo Garcia’s downtown steakhouse is a darkly seductive, refreshingly straightforward showcase for the Argentine way with meat. It can be an adventurous alternative to the familiar American steakhouse or the go-to choice for those who have developed a taste for this style, marked by lower heat, slower cooking and deep-set flavor. There are double-crisp fries to dip in chimichurri, bubbling skillets of provoleta cheese and empanadas sealed with neat braids of dough. Malbecs and a finale of amaro wash it all down. Dinner Mon.-Sat., late-night Thu.-Sat. $$$$


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Meauxbar on North Rampart Street serves contemporary bistro cuisine in an upscale/casual setting.

Meauxbar

942 N. Rampart St. (504) 569-9979

Why: Romantic neighborhood bistro, til midnight Fri., Sat.

The notion of the cozy French bistro gets a timely and stylish update at Meauxbar. It is perhaps the most intimate upscale restaurant in the French Quarter, an area calling out for just this type. The menu lets you know you’re in New Orleans, with fish almandine and the unusual addition of yakamein soup. But chef John Bel’s menu of pâté and tartare, steak frites and even the mercilessly addictive French onion grilled cheese all put more French in the French Quarter. Passing streetcars seem like an extension of the dining room ambiance. Dinner daily, brunch Fri.-Sun., late night (midnight) Fri., Sat. $$$$


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Melba's is a busy, 24/7 eatery for po-boys, boiled seafood, hot plates and daiquiris, with a laundry attached.

Melba’s

1525 Elysian Fields Ave., (504) 267-7765

Why: Your 24/7 po-boy, boiled seafood, daiquiri stop

Down home New Orleans food at home is the ideal. Down home New Orleans food at a quick, inexpensive, all-night hot counter is Melba’s niche, and that can be pretty close to ideal when you need it. The loose vibe, the good prices, the all-hours access draws nearly every walk of New Orleans life for po-boys, plate lunches, gumbo in a cup, crawfish in season, daiquiris and even their laundry, with an attached washateria humming away under the same roof. Located at a junction of changing neighborhoods, this is a crossroads spot in more ways than one. 24/7 $



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