Many travelers have a misconception that the Mardi Gras atmosphere always pervades in New Orleans. In fact, if families head there after festival season, they’ll be greeted with a much mellower atmosphere and a bounty of kid-friendly opportunities – from the Audubon Zoo and Storyland sculpture garden to riverboat cruises and a stroll through the historic Garden District. Plus, there are plenty of restaurants perfect for parents traveling with little ones, offering everything from Cajun and Creole cuisine to modern Israeli and forward-thinking Italian. Here are 10 kid-friendly restaurants in New Orleans for little diners.
After a history-rich, appetite-spurring walk through the Southern Food And Beverage Museum in the Central City neighborhood, step next door to this salute to Mason-Dixie cuisine from chef Isaac Toups. There’s an emphasis on comforting classics, so make sure to come hungry. Ask for one of the high seats at the counter of the exposition kitchen where can watch your meal unfold and chat with the friendly staff.
Best bites for tykes: Fluffy sourdough biscuits with briny crab fat butter, Smoke Sticks (think of them as homemade Slim Jims), and the three-napkin, two-hand burger topped with bacon, barbeque sauce, pickled jalapeños, and cheddar.
Who would have thought that one of the best restaurants in NOLA would be a modern-minded Israeli concept on Magazine Street? Though founding chef and namesake Alon Shaya has left, it continues to soar under the stewardship of executive chef Michael Wilson. Everything is designed to be shared and combined, so diners can mix and match a meal to their liking. With so many vibrant flavors at play it can be difficult to decide what to eat next, but that’s not a bad problem.
Best bites for tykes: Salatim (salads and spreads, like tabouli pepped with preserved lemon vinaigrette and thick labneh topped off with peppery rounds of radish) and hummus, all scooped up with the puffy, pillow-like pita bread that arrives warm from the oven.
You’ll be able to take it easy at the iconic chef’s namesake restaurant. It attracts a loud crowd, so no one will notice any noise your kid creates. The dress code is casual – though they draw the line at men wearing sleeveless shirts – so you don’t need get fancied up. And moms and dads can unwind with some suggestions from sommelier Ray Gumpert, who presides over a beyond impressive wine list nearly 1,900 varietals strong.
Best bites for tykes: Duck wings, chicken and waffles, and decadent desserts, like the Reese’s-inspired chocolate peanut butter pie with an Oreo crust.
Situated in a corner of the Ace Hotel – which is so beyond hip that each room comes stocked with a record player and full vinyl collection, as well as an epic minibar that will cause cocktail enthusiasts to high five themselves with excitement – its lunch and dinner menu from chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman favors Italian standards with an emphasis on housemade pastas. In the morning, there are the usual suspects that kids love: a short stack of buttermilk ricotta pancakes dusted with confectioners sugar, housemade yogurt sporting granola and honey, and a towering fried chicken biscuit.
Best bites for tykes: Cacio e pepe, gemelli with “maw maw’s gravy,” and meatballs sitting on a field of melted parmesan.
The sister spot to Commander’s Palace makes its home inside the sleek and chic Loews Hotel on Poydras Street in the Central Business District. There are plenty of booths, so parents can contain their kids while they eat. The menu focuses on classic Nawlins fare and more contemporary interpretations of old-time favorites. Ask nicely and the staff will bring you a board game – such as chess or Scrabble – to amuse the family while the meal unfolds.
Best bites for tykes: Shrimp and tasso ham corndogs, Louisiana strawberry salad with roasted pecans and sherry-balsamic dressing, and the Cajun brownie accompanied by coconut sorbet.
A cornerstone of the French Quarter and one of the city’s great dining institutions, the iconic restaurant has been wowing diners for nearly seven decades. Though it features white tablecloths and dapperly dressed staff, it’s still fit for families. Save room for the Banana’s Foster, which was invented there, because it involves a fiery tableside preparation that will awe everyone.
Best bites for tykes: The kid’s menu features grilled cheese, fried shrimp, and grilled chicken with mash potatoes and green beans, though adventurous eaters may want to tackle crawfish cannelloni or Gulf-sourced, Almandine-style fish from the main menu.
The extensive menu lets seafood lovers dive into an ocean of possibilities – from char-grilled oysters topped with a layer of melted parm and Romano and crawfish mac ‘n’ cheese to pecan-crusted drum fish and shrimp and grits. Portions are generous and the waitstaff are easygoing, so it’s a good place to camp out and fuel up after a long day exploring the city.
Best bites for tykes: A special menu for children features fried fish strips, grilled shrimp and fries, and pasta alfredo with grilled chicken, and there are plenty of pleasing dessert options, such as profiteroles and carrot cake.
Set in a historic home on a prominent corner in the French Quarter, the ever-bustling establishment casts an elevated eye on classic cuisine from New Orleans. Sample their thoughtful takes on iconic dishes galore, including seafood gumbo, turtle soup, shrimp and grits, strawberry salad, and bread pudding. For those intrigued by the paranormal, the property is supposedly haunted, so make a visit to the Séance Lounge, where strange knocks on the wall and disembodied female voices have been heard.
Best bites for tykes: Featuring fried shrimp and French fries, rotini pasta with cheddar cheese sauce, and chicken tenders, the dedicated kid’s menu comes with crayons, so they have an activity to amuse themselves while they wait for their food.
Settle down in this 150-year-old courtyard with lush landscaping for a relaxing bite and a glass of wine (or three). The historic space boasts a romantic ambiance that not even a child in tow can completely ruin. (If the weather isn’t cooperating, the Carriage House offers a rustic alternative.). There are plenty of traditional treats to reward well-behaved kids who don’t muck up the vibe, like nine-layer doberge cake interspersed with levels of pudding.
Best bites for tykes: Roast salmon with horseradish cream, lamb meatloaf sandwich, and goat cheese-slathered fruit and nut bread topped with fig jam and golden raisins.
Pizza is always a safe bet for the pint-sized crowd. The Neapolitan-inspired rounds at this restaurant in the Central Business District will be just as popular with adults, who will appreciate the winning topping combos, like salami, bacon, and fennel sausage with an egg, and prosciutto accompanied by mozzarella and a forest of fresh arugula. Not in the mood for ‘za? There are molto bene housemade pastas and small plates to focus on instead.
Best bites for tykes: Pizza, ricotta with strawberry and walnut agrodolce, and hefty lasagna layered with béchamel, mozzarella, and pork ragu.
What are your picks for kid-friendly restaurants in New Orleans? Let us know here in the comments or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, remember to snap + share your #dishpics with us on Instagram for a chance to win in our weekly giveaway.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Randy Schmidt (Domenica and Shaya); RBRG (Brennan’s).