Feedith NOLA: A romp through fine restaurants
There are few things that I love more in life than dining out in New Orleans: The rich aroma that washes over you as you walk through the door. The hum of patrons laughing, silverware clanking on plates, and music playing in the background. The rush of endorphins that you get when you take that perfect first bite. A good restaurant can transport you to a distant time or place, and somehow still feel so familiar that you think you're sitting at your own kitchen table. When our daughter, Edith, was born, we refused to exile ourselves to our literal kitchen table or only venture to (gasp!) chain restaurants by the mall. Instead, armed with a bottle, a burp cloth, and Sophie la Girafe, we charged full steam ahead for food writer Brett Anderson's Best New Restaurants of 2015.
In the early days, we could get through an entire meal with Edith sound asleep in her carseat. I learned quickly to always have Edith on my left so I could rock her and continue eating with my dominant hand. Now, at 7 months, she's wide awake. Luckily, New Orleans knows how to entertain. In a town built around meals with friends, nearly all restaurants, from picnic table to white linen table cloths, embrace dining with your whole family. From our list, Shaya, Brennan's, and Compère Lapin all have high chairs. On another pragmatic note, be sure to do a diaper change before you leave the house, as very few NOLA restaurants have changing tables.
But forget the practical! Edith finds joy in details that someone over 3 feet tall might overlook. The framed butterfly on the wall at Balise. The brightly colored art at Compère Lapin and the retro-cool conveyer belt fans spinning overhead. The contrast of bold colors on every beautifully plated dish at Shaya. The player piano and festive birdcage lights above the bar at Brennan's. The big mirrors behind the booths at Angeline, a huge hit with Edith, who could spend hours cooing at her own reflection. (If only we all felt so secure...)
There was one major meltdown: At Brennan's, mid-entree and before we ordered dessert. Because we consider other patrons' experience above our own, Edith barely made it back in time to see the Bananas Foster go up in flames. For a split second, I missed the days when she napped quietly in her carseat. But far more often, eating out with our baby is actually fun. People smile more when she's around. (Apparently an infant starring with her mouth agape for long periods of time is charming.) We show her new places as a family, and as she gets older, we will introduce her to new foods. And of course, we get to try the best new restaurants in town without springing for a babysitter!
Tips for Eating Out with Baby
- Get a reservation. When your bedtime is 7:45, you don't have time to wait for a table.
- Experiment with time. If dinner falls during the witching hour, try a different meal! Most restaurants in town, including all 5 of the Best New, are open for lunch or brunch.
- White noise is your friend. A noisy dining room will help tiny babies sleep and cover up the screeching as older babies test the range of their vocal chords.
- Bring back-up. Extra food, bottle, small toys. We have 2 Sophies just in case one falls on the ground in the Quarter...
- Have fun! In some towns, other diners might shoot you a dirty look if your kid has a meltdown. New Orleanians are more likely to pull out their phones to show you pictures of their kids.
Kim Frusciante is an educator, Tulane alumna, and new mom who loves all things New Orleans. Though she wishes she could claim to be a native New Orleanian, she will happily settle for raising one instead. Kim is passionate about enjoying the culture of our city with her daughter, Edith, and helping others to do the same with their little ones. Let Edith be your test-baby: Email Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kim (well, Edith…) on Instagram @feedithnola.