What's in a name? Or, more specifically, what's in a label? In New Orleans, labels are a sticky wicket, particularly when it comes to the culture and its cuisine. Surely, there are some blurred lines that separate Cajun and Creole from something as nebulous as "Louisiana Contemporary." Can't we just call it "food" and move on?
We could, but then we'd be denying all those differences that make dining in New Orleans so very special. More than labels, the cuisine listings that mark the Winter Restaurant Guide are guidelines -- ways to comb through many different ways we break our bread, whether it's French or naan -- in the Crescent City.
Of the seasonal guides we produce, this is the one to use if you're feeling in a particular mood for a particular food. Here's to a perfect match ... ..
More than just burgers and not exactly diners, our American is as down-home familiar as all-day breakfasts, chunky blue-cheese salads and super-stuffed potatoes.
This is where fusion takes familiar ingredients into unimagined realms of flavor, such as salmon served with sauerkraut, scrambled eggs on pizzas and chipotle Caesar salads.
If it's round and boiled with a hole in the middle, you're in the right place.
Bar & Grill
Where more drinks come from the tap than from a sommelier and where food tastes better in a pair of blue jeans
Sticky and sweet, meaty and smoky, a pile of cole slaw and a ladle of beans ... you get the picture.
It's homebrew with a legitimate label and contemporary American eats to match.
All-American, all-beef, all day
They simmer a soup and build a sandwich as well as they pull an espresso and pour on the froth.
The Acadiana roots show through in dark roux, while a Prudhommian flair for blackening counts, too.
Jerk chicken, curry goat, ackee and salt fish
The many ways of China are represented, from straight-up stir fries to dim sum for dinner.
Coffee & Dessert
A cup of java (or several) and a pastry make even Mondays and exam weeks bearable.
With many Cajun-Creole hybrids in the bunch, gumbos, turtle soups and paneed meats tend to rule the roost.
There's only a counter between you and the sliced meats and cheeses, plate lunches and prepared foods, olive salads and cheesecakes.
American-style eats with an attitude, often served late into the night
Coq au vin, moules, pate, Champagne ... bon appetit
Bring 'em in, pack it up, move 'em out in gourmet fashion ... unless they'd like to stay and eat for awhile.
Sun-drenched salads and spit-roasted meats
Try a mango lassi or steamy chai tea while you wait for heady curries, peppery lentils and soft, stuffed naans.
Not exactly fusion cuisine, these restaurants tend to feature one continent per plate, but a worldly variety on the menu.
It would take years to taste all the red sauces, antipasti plates and wedges of tiramisu.
Bring on the wasabi; sushi takes the day.
Opera singers and whole roasted fish, or tableside grilling for the wary
Guanabana juice, black beans with rice and tres leches cakes
Creole traditions meet cutting-edge ingredients and today's techniques, like foie gras with lobster cream, Brie-stuffed duck breast and crabmeat with lemon confit
The cuisine of garlic and capers, lots of olive oil and roasted peppers
Mexican and Southwest
Tacos, burritos, flautas and quesadillas, all washed down with an ice cold Corona
Vegetarians adore this category of fried chickpeas, stuffed grape leaves and tangy yogurt dips.
Music & Food
Where the music might be the reason for eating
Those places where red beans on Monday and a perfect brisket is sacred and where your father might have eaten before you.
From caviar and capers to the plain cheese pie -- they're all here.
Sandwiches & Po-Boys
The heart and soul of comfort food
The prime suspects are the swimmers, the bottom trollers and the shell dwellers -- grilled, broiled, boiled or fried
What real soul does to food: fried chicken, turkey necks, smothered okra and ham hocks
Let the meat speak for itself.
While paht Thai might have the final say, don't forget the coconut soups, the minty beef salads and that orangey bittersweet tea.
Vegetarian & Health Food
For the meatless, or when the rest of you have had your fill of cream sauces and can't eat another fried morsel
Steaming bowls of pho, stretchy spring rolls, tangy fish sauce, icy coconut desserts