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Donald Link may not be a Food Channel staple like Emeril and John Besh, but he’s right up there in terms of modern New Orleans restaurant royalty. His sweet, window-lined bistro, rooted in French, Italian, and Creole traditions and helmed by Rebecca Wilcomb, is one of New Orleans’s best restaurants. It’s usually packed and always lacks elbow room but it’s uphill from there. As if to prove his mettle, the James Beard Best Southern Chef winner creates some of the city’s best gumbos, including a meatless, herb-based gumbo z’herbes version that we crave. The winning signature starter of homemade spaghetti with a creamy, guanciale-spiked sauce is topped with a batter-fried poached egg (yes, you can—and should—double it as an entrée); a watermelon gazpacho with lump crab is a simple little cup of summer. For heartier fare, a slow-cooked lamb neck is astoundingly sized, equally tender, and rich with flavor and arrives on a well-paired bed of saffron fideo. Desserts here are terrific—try whatever they put in a tart shell. A bistro menu served from 1:30 to 5:30pm features light entrees from both the lunch and dinner menus. Reserve well in advance.