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Returning to the Table

Even as a food-obsessed writer, I enjoyed few meals immediately following the events of Sept. 11. With so many lives either lost or on hold, eating for reasons other than the biological seemed inappropriate. Life moves on without consulting us in the wake of tragedy, but priorities do shift. Evidence of such a shift sits in empty restaurant seats throughout the city. Conventions have been cancelled, tourists are staying home, and I envision many New Orleanians, like me, keeping a tally of their pennies as they dine in front of the news at night. Still, the hospitality industry is one of our greatest hopes of keeping the local economy alive. I encourage everyone to continue supporting our local restaurants -- from the big houses to the smallest neighborhood joints to the many Middle Eastern-owned places in danger of suffering discrimination during a time when understandable anger too often is turning into misplaced hatred. Participating in "Restaurants for Relief" on Wednesday, Sept. 26, is a good place to start (see p. XX).

Filling Up on Frenchmen

Slanting up from the bottom of Esplanade Avenue into the Faubourg Marigny, Frenchmen Street is fast transforming from a modest row of worthy restaurants (Marisol, Adolfo's, Praline Connection, Santa Fe) to a thriving culinary hotspot. When Mona's Café (504 Frenchmen St., 949-4114) moved in late last spring, the flurry of activity began to pick up speed. Now Old Dog New Trick (517 Frenchman St., 943-6368) is open in a bigger, brighter space than its French Quarter digs (the original location is closed for an indefinite "vacation"). Owner Marlene Paulson and staff have added fresh fruit drinks and vodka to the vegetarian-only menu, including tomatillo Bloody Marys. Brunches on Saturdays and Sundays now offer tofu rancheros, potato fritattas and espresso drinks. Café Negril (606 Frenchman St. 944-4744) also has arrived, featuring Jamaican eats like curried goat and jerked fish from Chef Cecil Palmer. Belle Forche, a collaborative project between Chef Matt Yohalem, most recently of Santa Fe, N.M., and a group of investors that includes Robert De Niro, will open its doors later this month. French and Spanish food prepared under the influence of Creole cuisine is slated for Belle Forche's menu. Finally, before the end of the year, Café Marigny plans to move a few steps from its current location (1913 Royal St., 945-4472) to the former home of dance clubs Rubyfruit Jungle and Velocity at the corner of Royal and Frenchman streets (604 Frenchman St.). Along with approximately 40 more seats, the new location will -- finally -- afford a liquor license. -- Roahen

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