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$$ NINJA SUSHI 8433 Oak St., 866-1119 Ninja's army of devoted disciples makes it one of the busiest sushi restaurants in town. $ ONE RESTAURANT & LOUNGE 8132 Hampson St., 301-9061; isn't a bad seat in the house at this intimate Riverbend café, but a special treat for couples or solo diners is to sit at the tiny food bar looking directly into the open kitchen. In addition to chicken, turkey, shrimp or veggie wraps served on tomato basil or spinach tortillas, the café offers pizzas and seafood pasta dishes. A native of Hong Kong, Chan presents regional Chinese cooking that ranges from the fancier presentations of Hong Kong to the spicier Szechuan dishes. $ REFUEL COFFEE AND NOSH 8124 Hampson St., 872-0187 Refuel Coffee and Nosh ventures well beyond the world of pastries. Lunch options include burgers, salads, red beans and rice and daily specials like hamburger steaks and fried catfish. Or try the .99 lunch-special sandwiches from 11 a.m. $$ PEPPERONI'S CAFÉ 8123 Hampson St., 865-0336 Pepperoni's has moved across the street to a larger location, but this Riverbend mainstay retains its popular menu. $ PHILIP CHAN'S ASIAN-CAJUN BISTRO 8400 Oak St., 522-4964; Chan cooks a range of inspired Chinese and fusion dishes. $ RICCOBONO'S PANOLA STREET CAFÉ 7801 Panola St., 314-1810 You can always get a hearty standard breakfast at Riccobono's, but unique options include the crawfish omelet or the crab cakes Benedict. Dinner entrées include lasagna, chicken with Alfredo sauce over pasta and a variety salads.

Charles Ave., 585-4383 Local flavors light up the menu at the flagship restaurant of downtown's Hotel Intercontinental. Carrollton Ave., 862-9001 Basil Leaf is a favorite destination for fans of Thai cuisine. $$ BRIGTSEN'S RESTAURANT 723 Dante St., 861-7610; in a converted Riverbend home with several small, separated dining rooms, Brigtsen's is perfect for a romantic dinner or an intimate gathering. $$$ BRUNO'S TAVERN 7538 Maple St., 861-7615; popular hang-out for both college students and those who shelved their textbooks long ago, Bruno's has been slinging drinks and helping students blow off steam since 1934. Entrées include chicken or veal Marsala and cacciatore, eggplant parmigiana and calzones. Also good are Camellia's milkshakes, called freezes, which come in a variety of flavors like strawberry and chocolate cherry. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, late-night Fri.-Sat. $ CARROLLTON STATION 8140 Willow St., 865-9190 You don't have to leave this Uptown live music club just because you are hungry.

The twice-proofed dough takes an hour to cook, but it's well worth the wait. The legendary Chef Special Omelet is stuffed with bacon and cheese and topped with chili and French fries.

$$ BESH STEAKHOUSE AT HARRAH'S 4 Canal St., 533-6111; into chef John Besh's steakhouse, the din of slot machines fades and the focus turns to serious steak and other high-end culinary trappings. The crawfish etouffée is a study of Louisiana crawfish tails smothered down in traditional Cajun seasonings over parsley rice. Hungry gamblers can fuel up for a round at the tables with Southern favorites, Chinese dishes and pizza. Unlucky players can drown their sorrows in the flow of the chocolate fountain. The sandwich options include a Cuban sandwich, cochon de lait, shrimp and oyster po-boys. Desserts include such standards as pecan pie, créme brulee and cheesecake. The gyro sandwich is a traditional blend of pressed lamb and beef wrapped in grilled pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce. At lunch, the café becomes a sandwich shop with a variety of panini sandwiches like the Buffalo chicken, Philly panini and the club sandwich. It's easy to conjure the scene with the Cuban décor and the aromas emanating from the kitchen. To complement the cuisine, there is a German-style beer crafted for LÜke by Heiner Brau and wine is offered by the glass, carafe and bottle. The Spud Max is stuffed with ham, bacon, turkey, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, green peppers and black olives. The chef's signature slow-roasted duck with sautéed wild mushrooms, roasted red peppers, duck drippings and an orange sherry sauce, is not to be missed. There's also seafood gumbo, shrimp Creole and spicy chili dip. For an extra-special indulgence, try Restaurant August's five-course tasting menu. For entrées, the smoked duck breast and confit leg or the upscale version of chicken and waffles are memorable choices.

$$$ BON TON CAFÉ 401 Magazine St., 524-3386; Cajun cooking finds a downtown home at this refined café. $$$ THE BUFFET AT HARRAH'S 8 Canal Street, at the River, 533-6000; odds are good that there's something for everyone here, with buffet items running from New Orleans to Asian favorites. For sides there are choices like corn bread and creamy potato salad. Patrons can graze on wings, Texas toothpicks (onions and jalapenos fried in onion ring batter), poppers, seafood gumbo and quesadilla rolls. The dinner menu has a wide selection as well including rib-eye steaks, chicken Le Pavillon and paneed veal. Sandwich options include gyros, souvlaki, falafel, koufta kebabs and hot sausage (stuffed into a pita and topped with diced salad and tahini sauce). Breakfast includes breakfast tacos, freshly baked muffins and cinnamon rolls. $ LIBORIO'S CUBAN RESTAURANT 321 Magazine St., 581-9680 Pass through Liborio's Central Business District doorway and into Creole version of a Havana café. Chef Jared Tees presides over a kitchen employing everything from Gulf fish and shrimp to German-style sausages, sauerkraut, veal and spaetzle. Signature sandwiches include the Patriot (turkey and Swiss on wheatberry bread with orange/cranberry sauce), the classic Reuben and the Big Nasty (open-face roast beef with gravy and melted cheddar and Swiss cheeses). Mother's also serves breakfast all day as well as Creole dishes including crawfish etouffée, shrimp Creole, Jerry's Jambalaya and seafood gumbo. The Louisiana crab cake "chops," complemented with a Haas avocado and mango salsa, are a perfect beginning. At breakfast time, grab a wheat croissant sandwich with eggs, cheese and a choice of meat. For lunch, feast on a po-boy or one of the daily specials like red beans and rice, fried shrimp or catfish. The refined restaurant serves Besh's signature dishes like crabmeat truffle gnocchi, speckled trout Grenobloise and rabbit cooked two ways with muscadine reduction. Start with preludes like Kobe meatloaf sliders or try the spicy shrimp Napoleon.

The Founder's Favorite is sweet cream mixed with brownies, pecans, fudge and caramel. Breakfast, coffee and frozen drinks are available all day long.

Orders are blended on a cool granite slab with items of your choice such as candy, nuts and fruit. Fried seafood, burgers, wings, grilled alligator sausage, sandwiches and oysters on the half shell are also available. The Trifle Crepe is a sweet mix of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, chocolate chips and angel food cake sprinkled with brown sugar and cream. One mainstay is always the redfish on the half shell prepared skin-on with crabmeat and soft herbs, while the Trois Mignons delivers a trio of tournedos topped with portions of pork debris, stilton cheese sauce and marchand du vin.

The al pastor tacos are filled with pork marinated in spices and roasted with pineapple and onions and have two per order. The paella features slow-cooked saffron rice studded with shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, chunks of chicken and peas. Try the chicken portobello stromboli with mozzarella, portobello mushrooms and a spicy red pepper sauce, or the popular Italian stromboli with meat sauce and cheese. Salads and daily lunch specials round out the menu. You can always challenge the sushi chef to surprise you with his own creations. Roasted duck breast is served with Napa cabbage, Spanish chorizo, picholine olive jus and rosemary honey. The shrimp and alligator cheesecake is a slab of savory Creole cream cheese studded with peppers and further enriched with smoked gouda. The merguez lamb sausage and refreshing zucchini and crawfish bisque are house specialties. The mushroom glass noodle soup combines mushrooms, tofu and cilantro in a warm broth.

Miro St., 309-2776; up to the counter and call the shots as the cooks assemble fresh Mexican specialties like tacos, burritos and quesadillas to order. But the menu will remain largely the same, with an emphasis on Spanish cuisine. $$ FRESCO'S CAFÉ AND PIZZERIA 7625 Maple St., 862-6363; is the hallmark here, but don't forget about Fresco's Middle Eastern specialties such as the Greek salad or the spinach and feta triangles. The Western burger is a pound of beef with pepperjack cheese and all the fixings. Panini sandwiches are served on grilled ciabatta bread and include the Caprese with tomato, mozzarella and basil and the portobello with gorgonzola. Hana is known for extra-large special rolls using combinations of salmon, tuna, snow crab, cucumber, avocado, egg and shrimp tempura. The baby octopus salad mixes grilled octopus with tatsoi rabe, radishes, shaved fennel and pea shoots in a citrus vinaigrette. $$$ JACQUES-IMO'S CAFE 8324 Oak St., 861-0886; Utterly casual and immensely popular, Jacques-Imo's continues to draw crowds for decadent, highly seasoned takes on contemporary Creole cuisine. $$$ JAMILA'S MEDITERRANEAN TUNISIAN CUISINE 7808 Maple St., 866-4366 Mediterranean and Tunisian specialties abound at this intimate café in the university area. Carrollton Ave., 866-9301 Asian accents inspire this Riverbend restaurant's menu. La Madeleine offers an enticing selection of breads and pastries, plus a cafeteria-like service of specialty breakfast plates, salads and sandwiches like the croque monsieur.

He's heading up a steakhouse franchise that has the kind of ingredients that make for a Super Bowl of a meal. Those looking for something other than red meat can sink their teeth into lobster, barbecue shrimp and succulent desserts like the chocolate soufflé for two or the Mountain Lava chocolate cake. Entrées include pad Thai and many rice and noodle dishes with beef, chicken or shrimp. The bacon and cheddar burger is a hefty half-pound of Angus beef grilled to order and topped with a mountainous pile of grated cheddar. Specialty plates include the crab cake and shrimp salad with wasabi soy and Asian shrimp curry. There are many options for vegetarians and health-conscious diners. For drinks, there are coffee drinks, Italian sodas and teas.

$$ SHULA'S STEAK HOUSE 614 Canal St., 586-7211; hall-of-famer Don Shula is no longer prowling the sidelines. The menu includes popular dishes like spicy coconut milk soups with chicken or tom yum koong with shrimp and lemongrass. Try Steve's specialty salads or forget your diet and try the fried catfish pecan, served with pecan-brown-butter sauce and two home-style side dishes. Choose from meatball, shrimp, oysters or bronzed chicken. The chicken curry, chutney shrimp, vegetable korma, garlic naan and mango lassi are popular items. Salad choices include everything from spinach to chef, shrimp remoulade to chicken curry. Though the menu changes frequently, chef Roberto Bustillo blends Old-World French techniques with Louisiana ingredients in dishes like Gulf Coast Crustacean Shooters, which pair crabmeat, shrimp and oysters with flavored vodkas. Patrons can bring their own wine; there's no corking fee.

$ MOTHER'S RESTAURANT 401 Poydras St., 523-9656; star of Mother's menu is the debris po-boy. $ ROSEY'S DINER 444 Common St., 598-4839 Rosey's offers breakfast all day and daily lunch and dinner specials.