Best Appetizers: La Costa

Best Appetizers Runners-Up: Aubrey's, Downtown Grill & Brewery, Sapphire

The La Costa menu from the always-ingenious chef Anthony Fowler (who earned his chops at Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts) may not be quite as close to Southern/Latino fusion as its Gregg White-owned forerunner, but it's very fine fare, creative but not fussy, fancy but flavorful. Just a few of the standouts among the small plates/starters include tilapia fish tacos, smoked duck breast quesadillas, and cornmeal-dusted calamari with romesco and chimichurri. Vegetarians get royal treatment, too, with a wide selection throughout the menu and appetizers like the oven-roasted sweet potato burrito with roast eggplant, pecans, blackened tofu, goat cheese crumbles and pumpkin seed vinaigrette.

La Costa still has $10 pitcher Sangria Sunday (and Sunday brunch), an exceptional list of tequilas, and fixed price multi-course special dinners like April's Francis Ford Coppola Wine Dinner. They've experimented with beer-tasting meals and plan to do more. And they have made one other much-needed change: serving lunch Monday-Saturday.

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