French Quarter Stella! (1032 Chartres St.; 504-587-0091; $29-56), with its menu that changes daily, outstanding friendly staff, and white-glove service, is perfect for an upscale romantic dinner. Chef/owner Scott Boswell serves up some of the city's most inventive culinary twists, blending local foods with international flourishes.
Bayona (430 Dauphine; 504-525-4455; $24-29) is well known for using local ingredients to create eclectic Mediterranean cuisine under the unerring direction of Susan Spicer. Try the fresh fish and the beautifully executed desserts.
Muriel's (801 Chartres St.; 504-568-1885; $15-35) -- a grand, upscale restaurant right on the corner of Jackson Square -- smacks of Southern elegance and is resplendent with antique furnishings. Muriel's features classic, French-inspired food with a touch of NOLA.
Gay-owned Petunia's (817 St. Louis St.; 504-522-6440; $8-16), with its kitschy-pink d?cor, draws kudos for its giant crepes. Fun for Sunday brunch.
Coop's Place (1109 Decatur St; 504-525-9053; $8-17) is a local haunt, with pure, honest bayou cuisine at reasonable prices.
If you've got a hankering for beignets but not for the mob scene of Caf? du Monde, swing by the aptly named Caf? Beignet (334 Royal St.; 504-524-5530; $6-11), which has a full menu of tasty breakfast and lunch dishes as well. Plus, they make a mean cappuccino.
Bayona's Susan Spicer is also co-owner of Herbsaint (701 St. Charles Ave; 504-524-4114; $24-28), a hip and popular dining option featuring fresh, acclaimed American cuisine.
Yes, we've all heard of Emeril, but don't miss Chef John Besh of the classy Restaurant August (301 Tchoupitoulas St.; 504-299-9777; $27-46) and the eponymous Besh Steakhouse (228 Poydras St.; 504-533-6111; $23-57) in Harrah's casino. The latter is top-notch casino dining (and definitely not low-cal), but it does come with flashing lights and whistles in the background. Unless you're into gaming, experience Besh's cuisine at Restaurant August, where his innovative concoctions are complimented by the elegant exposed brick and paneling of the dining room. The seafood dishes are particularly delicious at both locations.
Harrah's has plenty of flashy restaurants, which makes it easy to overlook the less flamboyant Bambu (228 Poydras St.; 504-533-6000; $15-24); but Chef Toy's impressive sushi and Asian-fusion dishes don't need extra bells and whistles to deliver the wow factor.
Sip a martini at the inviting central bar before dining on eclectic seasonal dishes under the high ceiling of The Marigny Brasserie (640 Frenchmen St.; 504-945-4472; $16-28), an off-the-beaten-path gem that's tr?s gay.
Feelings Caf? (2600 Chartres St.; 504-945-2222; $13-24.50), housed in plantation buildings dating to 1795, is where the boys go for Sunday brunch.