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Where Y’Eat: In New Orleans, a New Frontier for Family Dining Emerges Just Outside

Ian McNulty
Acorn is a City Park restaurant developed within the Louisiana Children's Museum.

Children, they’re precious. They’re worth everything we do for them. They are the future. But let’s face it, sometimes children are aggravating, especially when they’re at a restaurant where you just want to unwind and they’re just revving up.

But lately, I’ve found more New Orleans restaurants managing this tension by embracing outdoor space. In simple, thoughtful ways, this is opening new frontiers for family outings.

Consider Acorn, a new restaurant in City Park. It’s an integral part of the Louisiana Children’s Museum, so kid-friendly dining is built into every corner. But Acorn is also built over a lagoon, with a broad covered deck with a view of water and wildlife and the calming effect of wide-open space. It also has a menu with dishes, and drinks, geared to adults too.

This idea is central to the aptly named Lakeview restaurant the Backyard, where parents wash down brisket sandwiches and burgers with beer pints and juice glasses of rose while kids dash between sloppy joes and jungle gym. Hemmed by fences, secured by gates, it’s like a dog park for kids, as adults watch from a measured distance. 

Across the lake in Old Mandeville, I found another example at Hambone. Inside, it’s a cozy, romantic cottage for date night, outside, it’s picnic tables and play area for what eventually happens when date nights go real well. Hambone has chef-driven food but also acknowledges that sometimes kids drive family dining decisions.

Craft brewery taprooms, open to all ages, have created their own family-friendly niche. In the Bywater, Parleaux Beer Lab shows the potential. Adults kick back, kids cut loose in a free range play area and, all around, there’s the social relaxation of a space where families can go out as families without feeling cordoned off into specific family zones.

All this is can change on a dime with the weather of course. But when it comes to something that makes everyone happy, most young families I know are happy to roll the dice.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.

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