It’s New Orleans — LET’S EAT!

Brennans Restaurant in New Orleans

Locals joke that they start thinking about their next meal before they’ve finished the current one and it’s easy to see why. New Orleans of course has a tradition of great food — and more than 900 restaurants to sample it – more, officials here are proud to say, than before Hurricane Katrina.

I think New Orleans is a great city to encourage kids to sample food they might not have tried before (Turtle Soup, or fried alligator anyone?) Every restaurant has its own version of gumbo, the rich seafood stew. But there are also plenty of places to get a burger, pasta or chicken fingers. Here’s just a sampling of the good eats I enjoyed in my few days in New Orleans recently. And I certainly left my diet at home (unfortunately).

BREAKFAST AT BRENNAN’S : the New Orleans institution that was packed on a weekday morning. There was a line out the door before the 9 a.m. opening. Make a reservation! This is the place to go and linger. New Orleans guide and retired education professor Mary Lacoste (email her at edprofno@aol.com for a terrific kid-oriented tour) said traditionally, locals would eat these huge three-course breakfasts AFTER partying and BEFORE going home to bed. The sea food gumbo was outstanding and there were a dozen different poached egg dishes (how about with oysters, trout or roast beef hash! The kids of course can ask for something simpler but they’ll love the Bananas Foster — especially when the waiter flambes the bananas sautéed in brown sugar cinnamon and yes a little liqueur and served with vanilla ice cream. But breakfast at Brennan’s is not cheap (the three course breakfast is $36) nor should it be hurried. www.brennansneworleans.com 417 Royal Street (504) 525-9711) LUNCH AT RED FISH GRILL (also great for dinner). The kids will love all the fish mobiles hanging from the ceiling and the fish sculptures. There is also a kids menu where they can try fried shrimp or opt for pasta, grilled cheese or a burger. This is a big noisy place so you don’t have to worry about noisy kids. The food is great. Try alligator sausage and seafood gumbo, crab cake coconut, crusted shrimp, a BBQ oyster Po-Boy (New Orleans sandwiches made with all kinds of oysters, shrimp, etc served on a roll with lettuce, tomato, onions, etc.) Also, you’ve got to have the double chocolate bread pudding — dark chocolate bread pudding with white and dark chocolate sauce and chocolate almond bark. It is sinful — and delicious. Did I mention the fresh oysters? The BBQ oysters served with house made blue cheese dressing are also terrific And this place isn’t too pricey. www.redfishgrill.com 115 Bourbon St, 504-598-1200.

LUNCH at ACME OYSTER HOUSE in the French Quarter. This is another New Orleans institution (since 1910) and is the place to introduce the kids to freshly shucked oysters (or char grilled, fried or in soup), jambalaya, gumbo or Po-Boy sandwiches. Be prepared to wait — there is usually a line out the door! www.acmeoyster.com 724 Iberville St, (504)-522-5973.

SNACK at Café duMonde, where you all will get a sugar rush from Beignets, the fried square donut-like pastry that is covered in confectioners’ sugar. YUM! This place started in 1862 in the French Market and is open today 24 hours a day. It is the place to sit and watch the crowds go by. You can also watch as the beignets are made. You are in the heart of tourism country here — right near the river, the aquarium, Louisiana State Museum and all the shopping you could want. www.cafedumonde.com 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, La, 504-525-4544.

DINNER AT COCHON for southern for Cajun southern cooking. The place has been discovered — written up now in the New York Times and other national publications — so make a reservation! The menu is full of dishes chef Donald Link grew up eating- Only bring kids if they are adventurous eaters (crawfish pie or fied pig ears anybody? Rabbit and dumplings, pickled pork tongue salad, lima beans and grits…) Seriously, the food is excellent- don’t miss the red velvet cake and the cobblers! www.cochonrestaurant.com 930 Tchoupitoulas Street 504-588-2123.

DINNER AT THE PALACE CAFÉ. Go before seven for three course dinner under $30. This is a place you can bring kids and certainly teens along with things like chicken and sausage gumbo, turtle soup, crabmeat cheesecake (a signature dish that tastes kind of like an excellent quiche duckling (a house specialty, there is chicken, grilled fish , steak and more…the kids will love the desserts—Mississippi mud pie, white chocolate bread pudding and amazing strawberry shortcake with freshly baked shortcake and double cream. MMMM. www.palacecafe.com 605 Canal Street, 504-523-1661.

Local kids also love Camellia Grill or burgers and milkshakes and big breakfasts. It just reopened last year after Katrina. Camellia is a classic diner and is close to the street car and a great place for a stop on the way or after a trip to Audubon Zoo. www.Auduboninstitute.org 626 S Carrollton Avenue, 504-309-2679.

I’ve been afraid to get on the scale since I got home.

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