No visit to New Orleans would be complete without indulging in the iconic and authentic Cajun and Creole dishes that are found only in Louisiana. Although New Orleans’ bars and parties get an abundance of publicity, there are countless amazingly great, family-friendly restaurants that dot the city. Here is our family’s list of the best restaurants in New Orleans that shouldn’t be missed when in the Big Easy.
OUR FAVORITE FRENCH QUARTER RESTAURANT
The Original Pierre Maspero’s occupies one of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter, dating back to when it was built in 1788. Originally a slave exchange, the weathered bricks and untold stories that seep into its mortar definitely add character to your dining experience, but the menu is the star here.
The restaurant offers almost every local specialty like red beans, gumbo, étouffée, alligator, crab cakes, muffulettas, and New Orleans barbecue shrimp. They also make an outstanding traditional roast beef po-boy. It’s messy, delicious, and everything a true roast beef po-boy “with debris” should be.
From the chicken and andouille gumbo, red beans and rice, and blackened jambalaya to the po-boys and shrimp, everything we tried here was amazing. There is definitely something for everyone on their diverse menu, and while they do offer a great kids menu, two of our three girls ordered from the regular menu and licked their plates clean. Our other daughter, the picky eater, even found happiness in side dishes like cheese grits, mac and cheese, and white rice.
To top things off, the Original Pierre Maspero’s also makes an amazing Bloody Mary. I have done my fair share of Bloody Mary taste testing around the Big Easy, and this one is by far my favorite and undoubtedly the best Bloody Mary in New Orleans. Maybe it’s the olive and vegetable infused vodka paired with their delicious homemade spice blend or perhaps it’s the nice array of pickled accoutrements in the glass; whatever it is, it’s wonderful. I always grab one to go so I can sip on it as we tour the city, as New Orleans has quite lenient liquor laws and open containers are permitted.
The Original Pierre Maspero’s is very kid-friendly and actually worth the wait, so don’t be afraid of the oftentimes daunting wait list.
FAVORITE GUMBO IN NEW ORLEANS
Asking about the best gumbo in New Orleans is like asking about the best BBQ in Kansas City: every local claims “their” place is the best. Gumbos are like art; every chef has a different preference for their roux, and because of this, no two gumbos are exactly the same.
A local friend recommended the Gumbo Shop located in the French Quarter and we absolutely loved it. While it was very kid-friendly, it hands down has the best Chicken Andouille Gumbo in New Orleans. After eating bowl after bowl of gumbo all over town, our family of five unanimously voted that this is the absolute best (and by far our favorite) Chicken Andouille Gumbo in New Orleans.
Gumbo Shop’s Chicken Andouille Gumbo is a little thicker and darker than other restaurants in the area, and I personally appreciate the large chunks of andouille sausage that swim around in the perfectly seasoned dark brown roux-thickened goodness. The Seafood Okra Gumbo is also insanely delicious. With a completely different roux, this gumbo chock full of shrimp and crab has a distinctly unique flavor profile and texture that is heavenly.
When we visited the Gumbo Shop, we purposely avoided the main lunch crowd; however, there was still a queue out the door when we got there. While that long queue that cluttered the sidewalk of St. Peter Street looked intimidating at first, our wait was relatively short at around 20 minutes and it was worth every second.
Their fantastic Creole eats, Gumbos and Red Beans and Rice with Cajun sausage were all devoured and loved by our kids. We ended up ordering an additional entrée bowl of Red Beans and Rice, as our girls emptied their bowls in mere minutes and begged for more. And again, we ate our weight in fresh warm French bread. When I say our bowls were eaten clean, I mean it. Their delicious bread sopped up any remaining morsel to be had.
AWESOME NEW ORLEANS LUNCH
Cochon Butcher is a butcher shop and sandwich counter right around the corner from the Louisiana Children’s Museum. I know what you’re thinking: Is she crazy? A butcher shop? But don’t let the little thoughts that reside in the back of your head influence you away from the idea of eating at this butcher shop.
While it is a touch hipster, the food is fresh, thoughtful, real, and some of the most delicious in New Orleans. I’m not lying. Cochon Butcher offers a fantastic menu that includes the best warm muffuletta in New Orleans, a not to be missed southern play on grilled cheese with the Buckboard Bacon Melt, plus house cured ham, pulled pork sandwiches, and mac and cheese that our kids all loved.
While there are some very attractive adult libations and more complex culinary pairings, the menu and ambiance are still very kid-friendly. You can get anything to go or you can eat at the tables there, but realize the bulk of the tables are tall pub-style with bar stools, meaning that it’s a little tricky to keep younger kids seated.
Our 8-year old still talks about Butcher’s perfectly pickled homemade bread and butter pickles, and our picky eater is quick to mention her love of their Cajun pork dog and the soft pretzel bun it rests on. We enjoyed our lunch so much that we are already planning to check out their Nashville location next time we go home to visit family in Tennessee.
THE BEST BEIGNETS IN NEW ORLEANS
We spent part of every day while in New Orleans walking around the French Quarter just enjoying the unique sights along the quaint streets and slipping into the charming shops that are tucked away between the tourist traps and legendary bars.
These daily outings were also a convenient excuse to stop by Café Du Monde to grab some beignets and chicory coffee from their to-go take away window that sits on the back side of the dining area. The warm, powdered sugar coated pillows of freshly made fried dough come three to a little white waxed bag, and the chicory coffee is a great afternoon pick-me-up.
Located on the eastern corner of Jackson Square, Café Du Monde is easy to find and is open 24 hours. It is also a good place to find a clean, available restroom in the French Quarter, which can be rare. Just don’t be surprised to wait around 20 minutes to make it to the window to order and get your goodies.
While we waited in line, our girls glued their noses to the windows of the café to intently watch the beignet dough get rolled out, cut, and thrown several feet into bathtub-sized fryers while the café servers waited eagerly nearby with powdered sugar filled bags to throw the hot beignets into.
These beignets are worth every minute of the wait, and after trying many other beignets around the city, we think they are by far the best beignets in New Orleans. Upon trying Cafe Du Monde’s beignets for the first time, our 2-year old managed to eat her entire bag in mere minutes. My advice is to remember to grab extra napkins and always buy more than you think you should because they’ll disappear quickly and no one ever wants to share!
THE BEST KING CAKE IN NEW ORLEANS
King cakes are almost as big of a deal as a parade and are thus a huge part of Mardi Gras tradition. Because we visited the Big Easy a few weeks before Fat Tuesday, we tried as many king cake varieties as we could.
Our family’s overall favorite came from Haydel’s Bakery in the New Orleans suburb of Jefferson. Compared to all the other cakes, Haydel’s traditional Da Parish and pecan praline filled king cakes were the least sweet, and their firmer dough seemed to be touched with a hint of citrus. This made for a cake that we could not stop eating regardless the time of day. However, I must note that our kids preferred the cloyingly sweet traditional and pecan praline filled offerings from local grocery market, Rouses.
Manny Randazzo’s king cake was my personal favorite, as the dough’s softness and cinnamon roll taste and mouthfeel were utterly delicious, but the super thick icing makes it über rich. After the first bite, I wanted to eat the entire cake in one sitting, but it was quickly apparent that it was just not possible; this was a cake better suited for portion control!
And the best part of all of the king cakes? Getting to be the person to find the baby tucked away inside of the cake and exclaiming, “I got the baby!” to everyone else’s chagrin. Tradition states that whomever finds the baby inside their slice of king cake has to furnish the next king cake and or throw the next king cake party. For our family, it’s more of a token of pride and sheer excitement, so we bought several extra king cakes to take home to keep the kid-friendly spirit of Mardi Gras alive 500 miles away.
The good news with Haydel’s Bakery king cakes is that they are available year round compared to other bakeries that only sell them in the weeks prior to Mardi Gras. Randazzo’s also offers king cakes periodically throughout the year around major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the bakery tends to be closed from Mardi Gras until the fall. On a side note, Randazzo’s opens in the wee hours of the morning to a long line of folks and closes when they sell out, oftentimes before noon. If you want to get your hands on their cakes, make sure to figure this important detail into your acquisition plans!
THE BEST SUBURB EATERY
If you make the short drive out to either Haydel’s Bakery or Manny Randazzo’s in Metairie, you should stop at nearby Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop for lunch. While there are no tourist thrills, flashing lights, or Michelin Stars that adorn the walls, the food in this quaint kid-friendly eatery is utterly outstanding.
Chef Ron is exceptionally nice and the food coming out of his unpretentious kitchen is top-notch and some of the best in all of New Orleans. His Mumbo Gumbo is chock full of fresh shrimp, crawfish, crab, sausage, chicken, and okra and is not to be missed, and his Chicken and Sausage Gumbo is so delicious you have to order the biggest bowl.
And while the Gumbo Stop’s gumbos are award-winning and spectacular, their Poor-Boys are undeniably the best. Forget the bone dry beef or what seems like mushy beef stew poured on top of French bread that many New Orleans restaurants try to serve up. Chef Ron’s Roast Beef Poor-Boy is a masterpiece of tender freshly sliced seasoned roast beef perfectly laden with a delicious scratch-made gravy in between crisp yet chewy french bread making for a sandwich with the perfect bite every single time.
The Gumbo Stop offers an outstanding lunch special for less than $10 where you can get a bowl of gumbo and a half of a Poor-Boy that will fill you up for the whole day. There is also a kids menu with house-made chicken tenders and hand battered fried shrimp, not the pre-made frozen stuff from a box or bag. The Gumbo Stop’s Poor-Boys, Gumbos, Red Beans and Rice, and comfort food favorites are legit eats and undoubtedly offer up the best meal in the New Orleans suburbs.
EASY NEW ORLEANS PIZZA TO GO
After eating wonderful but large lunches, we sought out something easy to enjoy back at our hotel room for dinner a couple of nights, as the kids wanted to swim and splash around the hot tub, and admittedly, we were happy to comply. Slice Pizzeria was easily accessible on the St. Charles street car line and they had a wonderful menu.
We really liked that you could order so many different pizza varieties by the slice. This allowed our kids to stick with pedestrian options like white pizza, margherita, and pepperoni but us foodies could test out some of their specialty slices like the Muffaletta and Creole Country.
Every slice we tried was sublime and quite large. The crust is perfectly crispy and perfectly flavorful and the distinctive topping combinations are well devised and wonderful. And if you are vegan or need gluten-free crust, Slice has delicious options for you. They do have a small seating area, but we found that getting slices to go is best with young kids.
WHERE TO STAY IN NEW ORLEANS
When we stayed at Hilton New Orleans / St. Charles Avenue, this option was perfect because I could watch the kids swim and play in the pool while my husband ran to pick up dinner the nights we ate in. We also picked up a couple of craft brewed beers from the Hilton’s John Besh restaurant, Lüke, and enjoyed those with our meals in the room.
The menu options at Lüke are masterfully crafted and can be enjoyed as room service, if desired. This is both mind blowing and well appreciated, as Lüke offers some of the best fine dining in all of New Orleans. Despite kids being welcome inside Lüke, we didn’t feel it was respectful to the other patrons or casual enough to parade our circus into the primarily adult crowd. So, while the ambiance of one’s room isn’t the same as the intimate dining area of Lüke, the ability to enjoy such remarkable food like the crawfish bisque, Flammenkuchen, and the creative Lüke Burger at our convenience and in mere minutes was a welcome option for our family with three young kids.
Hopefully these restaurant suggestions will help you have a fantastic family and kid-friendly visit to the Big Easy without falling prey to the tourist trap eateries that offer mediocre food at sky high prices. We love to eat. And we love to run. But the authentic, fresh, real, homemade, scratch-made, and locally sourced meals are the ones that are worth running extra miles for…and all of these meals, eats, and treats I’ve mentioned fit that bill.
As a side note, I did NOT receive any compensation, reduced or free meals from any of these restaurants, establishments, or bakeries. I mention them because they are simply my family’s favorite and most memorable meals and eateries in New Orleans and I hope you enjoy them too!
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.