Getting dinner with your parents is tricky, especially if they’re visiting from out of town. They want to be able to hear themselves talk, and even though your mom hasn’t gone full Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, she’s asked to eat somewhere “kind of cool.” It’s a tough line to straddle, but you want to show them a good time. We can help. Here are 10 ideal places to have dinner with your folks.
East Austin might not be a part of town you usually associate with a quiet night with your parents, but Chicon is a good reason to reconsider. This is the second spot from the people behind one of Austin’s favorite places to eat and drink and hang outside (Contigo), but the setting here is even better suited for parents. It’s mostly indoor, the crowd skews a little older, and the overall effect is a place that feels grown-up but not stuffy. Convince them to share the grilled octopus with you, but then go ahead and end with a milk and cookie, for old time’s sake.
Going to dinner inside a power plant is about as Dad-approved a move you can make. Plus, yours watches the Discovery channel to go to sleep at night. Which is why you should take him to Boiler Nine, located inside the Seaholm Power Plant. Your choices are to hang on the roof deck, do a full dinner in the restaurant, or go down into the basement for a cocktail - or all three if you guys somehow manage to avoid that inevitable conversation about what you’re doing with your life.
Pretty much everyone will enjoy the approachable and very good Italian food you’ll find at Italic, you parents included. This modern Italian spot is located in the heart of downtown just a block away from Congress, which will makes it feel like real Austin experience. Their wine selection is great, so be sure to hook everyone up with a glass of Pinot at the bar if you have to wait a few minutes for a table. Pizza, pasta, and all things covered in cheese run the show here but there’s a great half-chicken situation as well.
Vinaigrette is a place to take your parents to prove to them that you know how to make responsible choices in life. The thing here is big salads stuffed with things that actually make them very enjoyable to eat, and the giant backyard under the Oak tree is exactly where you’ll want to eat them. Show them what a Turmeric Tonic is and they’ll either be mystified or horrified or some combination of the two.
Maybe you’re having dinner with your parents to celebrate something. If that’s the case (and you think there’s a high probability that they’ll be paying for your dinner), you should most certainly consider taking advantage at Jeffreys - the least steakhouse-y steakhouse in Austin and one of our city’s greatest places for a fancy, impressive (but not in the least bit uncomfortable) meal. Come during happy hour to experience the place with a little more bang for your buck, or make a reservation in the dining room for the full experience.
On the other side of the fancy spectrum, if you’re an Austin transplant and it’s your parents’ first time in town, Chuys is always a good idea. The Austin stable was born on Barton Springs Road back in 1982 which makes it the ideal spot to give your parents a good taste of the town (that also happens to be easy on their bank account, since you plan on “showing them around” via many, many meals while they’re in town). This place helps keep Austin weird, and if your parents can’t appreciate that, they’re beyond our help.
Another Texas experience your parents (locals or not) will appreciate: BBQ. Make it BBQ in a place that won’t make Mom’s clothes smell like smoked meat for daysand they might appreciate it even more. Lambert’s is all about “fancy BBQ,” which is a concept we’d hate if the food wasn’t so good. Here’s how you’ll want to fill your table: spicy deviled eggs, chicken fried oysters, mac and cheese, and ribs. Lots of ribs.
If you’re looking to take your folks out for an evening of people watching and good food, any spot on South Congress would work, but Central Standard comes through with the kind of upscale-but-not-boring setting and crowd-pleasing menu that will both be winners. Located on the bottom floor of the South Congress Hotel, you have your choice of swanky cocktail bars for afterwards (and the prime family photo opportunity with the “i love you so much” mural).
Maybe you have the kind of parents who are the adventurous types. Dad does heli-skiing and Mom is very into transcendental meditation. And they also like interesting food. You can always count on Odd Duck to throw a curveball - like kale salad with lamb heart, pretzel and pig carnitas, and chicken fried fish head. And it doesn’t hurt that the environment couldn’t feel more welcoming (get a table outside if you can). Your parents will be thrilled.
So let’s just be frank: you’ve been dreading this meal. You and your parents haven’t gotten along well since Bush was president, and they don’t understand your startup job, and they pretty much hate your girlfriend. But it’s time to have dinner. So you might as well pick somewhere that’s going to put everyone at ease. And that place is Olive and June, a modern Italian restaurant inside a restored craftsman house with a beautiful back patio. Situate your meal there (or dine upstairs for easy bar access), order a table full of shareable food, and things might even start to feel like 2003 again.