Spring has sprung and while this will not be the year I bust out at Jazz Fest (or anywhere) in a bikini, I will continue to plow through New Orleans’ culinary landscape; always willing to take one for the team …

RESTAURANT INSIDERI’m not bitter, really I’m not Anyone who has ever waited tables (and yes, that means me) knows how important it is to tip and tip properly. Apparently some celebrities (some regular folks, too) are notoriously bad tippers. Bitterwaitress.com is a site chronicling the shocking celebrity stories of stiffing, even right here in New Orleans.

Getting all crunchy Granola has come a long way from the days of a mass of cardboard box-flavored shards. While NYC’s eponymous Balthazar Bakery makes a $15 bag of crunchy granola, we here at home do it better and for less dough. Laurel Street Bakery’s lightly sweet, freshly baked granola is chunked with apricots, raisins, cranberries, coconut and other goodies, all toasty delicious. A one-pound bag is $5 and for more petite appetites, there’s the $2.25 breakfast of plain or flavored yogurt that comes with a small tub of their signature granola. 

RESTAURANT INSIDERMuffin Sigh While we’re on the subject of Laurel Street Bakery, check out the hilarious “hottest muffins” signs posted all over Uptown. Sense of humor required.

RESTAURANT INSIDERFrankly Stein’s Dan Stein, a cheese and beer guru fondly remembered from his days at Martin Wine Cellar, has opened a New York-style deli called Stein’s Market and Deli that features a slew of salads, pickles (my fave was the half sour), cheeses, meats, bagels and loads of foodstuffs both prepared and for retail. The Matzoh Ball Soup was of the chunky variety with diced chicken, carrots and celery amid a rich chicken broth and swirling around several smallish-sized “sinker” (as opposed to the light and fluffy “floater”) matzoh balls. Also standouts were the knishes, especially the corned beef hash knish (a sort-of rounded meat pie that can be filled with meat, veggies or potatoes). The pastry dough exterior was flaky and golden, with a nice crispness that offered textural contrast to the softer corned beef hash interior.     

Lovely lunches Jin Jean’s Restaurant and Lounge has opened for lunch Mon.-Fri. from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. The menu is Creole soul, plate-lunch heaven. Daily specials include hearty meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs, beans and pork chops with salad and bread for under $10. Take note of the back wall papered in pages from The Times-Picayune’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and other major happenings.

A tapas lunch from Rio Mar will satisfy your appetite and your wallet. On a recent visit, two of us ate for $35 including tip and had easily sharable portions of ceviche (we had the lime-juice tart, habanero hot, Panamanian version), mussels and chorizo in a spirit-laced broth; hangar steak with yucca fries and herby chimichurri sauce; fish escabeche (fresh grilled fish atop a warm, vinegar/broth sauce studded with soft red and green bell peppers, green olives and capers) and a fat slice of simply to-die-for Tres Leches cake rich with three milks (including condensed) and topped with a mound of whipped cream. “Two spoons and two espressos, please.”