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Sweet and Lowdown
Local writer Ian McNulty and a few friends and colleagues from New Orleans City Business raked the city for its least expensive restaurants and bars to compile Hungry? Thirsty? New Orleans: The Lowdown on Where the Real People Eat and Drink (Glove Box Guides, $12.95). The 283-page book is tall and thin, like the cards you slide into time clocks (or like a book that fits into a glove box), and it's the most comprehensive guide currently available for chow-hounding. It covers places you've always wondered about, like Cafe Verdict on Tulane Avenue and The House of Popagee on Rampart Street (O.K., maybe I've wondered about them). Each entry is a quick read -- a few food picks, two sentences on ambience and half a paragraph of insider tips, like this one on Mandina's: "The place is usually busy but gets especially packed around holidays, when wives and mothers throughout Mid-City order the men out of the kitchen while they cook." I guess we know where to find McNulty this Thanksgiving Eve.

Sign of the Times
A sign in Luigi's (915 Decatur St., 529-4975) window advertises a new pork-free muffaletta, made with three cheeses, olive salad and turkey. Luigi's standard muffalettas are less expensive than the competition's and at least as good.

Thinking Big

Chef John Harris doesn't think small. He landed on the cover of a national magazine within 18 months of opening Lilette (3637 Magazine St., 895-1636) last year. Last month, he closed for renovations; two weeks later the kitchen had moved and grown, a waiting area had been carved out, there were 31 more seats in the dining room and the backyard had transformed into a landscaped patio with outdoor seating. Fortunately, his short menu still exhibits the restraint of a cook who knows you'll like whatever he feeds you.

Profitable Venture
Jennifer Page of Cafe Reconcile (1631 Oretha Castle Haley, 568-1157) reports that the profits from last month's Celebrity Chef Night totaled more than $3,020. That doesn't include the roughly $2,000 in donated wine and donated time and materials for renovations. Chefs from Chateau Sonesta (800 Iberville St., 586-0800) and Royal Sonesta (300 Bourbon St., 586-0300) hotels, along with volunteers from the corporate training team of Sonesta Hotel International, coordinated the event and the renovations.

Fresh Waters
Red Sea Restaurant (7838 Earhart Blvd.) is closed, and owner Sammy Tewelde is on the hunt for a new space in which to serve his pancake-like injera bread and Eritrean food. Tewelde suffered a broken jaw in an attack during business hours recently, but he's on his feet and eager to meet his regular clientele elsewhere soon.

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