The tradition-bound French Quarter was surprisingly devoid of cool restaurants until Sylvain opened, with its side-alley entrance, resident ghost, and literary heritage (provoking one local to call it “So Vain"). Now speckled, reclaimed wood floors and a Civil-War-meets-Soho vibe aren’t unique, and the original chef has moved on. Fortunately, the downright delicious recipes and talented sous chef remain, as does the straight-up friendly service. So this ultimate gastropub is shockingly unpretentious, even when packed and loud. The beef cheeks are absurdly tender; the “Chick Sylvain” fried chicken sandwich has become a signature item for good reason; the lightly dressed shaved-apple and Brussels sprout salad is a bright delight. The lush chicken liver crostini and the “Buffalo” style sweetbreads are worthy starters. The menu doesn’t skew light, so you might be forced to share the chocolate pot du crème. On a nice evening, the discreet back-alley tables have their own cool vibe (a quieter one).