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.


Outdoors and Dining with a View

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The courtyard dining room has a retractable roof at Avo restaurant in New Orleans.

Avo

5908 Magazine St., (504) 509-6550

Why: Upscale Italian Uptown, with a retractable roof patio

The courtyard setting at this intimate Uptown restaurant can transport you to a piazza, while chef Nick Lama’s menu can show you both the foundations of Sicilian cooking and the creative potential of contemporary Italian cuisine. This comes through with a blend of homey flavors — the meatballs, the many house-made pastas — and standards reworked in distinctive ways, like the octopus, the carpaccio, the artful cioppino. The key factor uniting it all is the way Avo makes a stylish, ambitious restaurant still feel personal and familial. Dinner Mon.-Sat. $$$$


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The charming Cafe Degas, located in Mid-City on Esplanade Avenue. 

Café Degas

3127 Esplanade Ave., (504) 945-5635

Why: A mostly outdoor patio near City Park

This is the romantic French restaurant for those who embrace romance with all its quirks and character. Most of the restaurant is a rambling covered patio with a tree trunk rising through it. It can feel like half the neighborhood breezes through the tiny bar, just to say hello (and maybe have some wine). Onion soup, modest but well-turned omelets, lush entrée salads, the mussels and cheese boards are familiar standards that join the long and reliably imaginative list of nightly specials. When the waitress brings the dessert board to the table, who could say no? Lunch Weds.-Sat., dinner Weds.-Sun., brunch Sun. $$$


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Clesi's Restaurant & Catering on Bienville Street in Mid-City specializes in a niche dubbed "Southeast Louisiana tailgate" food.

Clesi’s Restaurant & Catering

4323 Bienville St., (504) 909-0108

Why: Boiled seafood on the patio, facing the sunset

Short of scoring an invite to someone’s house, Clesi’s is the optimal place to feast on crawfish. Like a backyard boil itself, this eatery is mostly outdoors, and it’s social. The bar, kitchen and small dining room are all in a building that feels like a base camp for the main area of operation. That's the terraced stretch of patios, lined with tables and overlooking the boil rig. There’s a sense of fun extending from yard games to the tailgate-casual menu of fried seafood, po-boys and jambalaya cheese fries. Lunch and dinner Tue.-Sun. $$


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Felix's Restaurant & Oyster Bar added a lakefront location in New Orleans, with a deck facing the sunset.

Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar

7400 Lakeshore Drive, (504) 304-4125

Why: Oysters on the lakefront, with an elevated view

This longtime landmark of the French Quarter is as good as I’ve ever seen it, and it vaulted into new territory by planting a large oyster bar on the lakefront last summer. Take a seat at the counter here with a view toward the sunset and the aroma of the chargrilled oysters sizzling at the grill beside you. There just aren’t many places in the city that combine natural beauty and delicious bounty like this. New Orleans needs more opportunities to reconnect with the lake. Another dozen sounds like a great idea start. Lunch and dinner daily. $$


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Down a 9th Ward side street, the wine bar and eatery N7 evokes a French style.

N7

1117 Montegut St., no phone

Why: A patio that feels like a trip to wine country

Push open the stockade gate and you see a covered patio clung with grapevines and the ambiance of a tasting room in wine country. Instead, it’s in the 9th Ward, with the clang of nearby freight cars drifting over. Though it first turned heads for specialty European seafood served from their tins, N7 is now much more about how chef Yuki Yamaguchi elegantly blends French classics and Japanese touches in this garden setting. See the savory tarte Tatin, the coq au vin with riesling, the duck a la orange and soy sauce crème brulee. The wine list is full of the kind of fascinating bottles you go to wine bars to try. Dinner Mon.-Sat. $$


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The gallery at Dickie Brennan's brasserie Tableau overlooks Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Tableau

616 St. Peter St., (504) 934-3463

Why: Classic Creole with a gallery facing Jackson Square

There’s nothing small about Tableau, including the stakes. Holding down one corner of the Jackson Square, Dickie Brennan’s Creole brasserie is a grand-scale validation that visiting the French Quarter can revolve around taste and heritage. Attached to Le Petit Theatre, with rambling rooms, wraparound gallery and a courtyard within, it is a showplace when its many doors are open, drawing curious eyes from the busy street. The kitchen has gradually tightened its approach, with a menu of French Creole classics that leaves no doubt you’re in the center of New Orleans but also in the 21st century. The first-rate oyster bar is a clutch addition. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat., Sun. $$$$



Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.