During a rare cool eve in New Orleans, we found a restaurant tucked away off the French Quarter that perfectly embodied everything good about outside dining: an open-air brick patio, lush plants and a huge, wood-burning brick oven where racks of golden-brown chickens and ducks rotated slowly over a thick bed of coals. If only something like that could be replicated here, in our equally hot and humid city! It is -- at King Louie's restaurant, situated in part of the old Union Brewing Company on the ugly corner of 39th and Chouteau. We already love King Louie's, the quaint, upscale restaurant that serves innovative cuisine and boasts an extensive wine list. But L'Etoile d'Or Grille takes it a step further with its own menu of "fruitwood grilled, spit-roasted, hearth baked" food and a beautiful outdoor garden, reserved solely for hardy souls who like to eat outside in the summer, West Nile virus be damned. All meats and produce are from local and regional purveyors whenever possible, and none of the seafood is endangered. Cynics may snort at the menu's claim of "Simple, Sustainable and Healthy" food as a mere marketing gimmick for holistic wannabes who read Real Simple
. But a forkful of spit-roasted free-range chicken and wild rice with spice fruit, mushrooms and Swiss chard will cure anyone of that notion. From May to October, L'Etoile d'Or sets the gold standard for outdoor dining.