Getting dinner with your parents is tricky. Parents like places that aren’t too loud, and you like places that aren’t lame. Sure, your parents deserve some consideration because they technically raised you - but they didn’t raise you to be lame. So, on a deeper level, you’d really just be letting them down if you chose a boring, quiet place to eat dinner. Try one of these restaurants instead. They’re cool, and they aren’t too loud for old people.
If your parents have ever worn matching ensembles involving khakis, fleece vests, or both, Cafe Cluny is perfect for them. It also isn’t terrible for you. For starters, the West Village location is convenient for an after-dinner outing with friends, and the restaurant is classy and comfortable in a timeless (and non-age-specific) way. You probably aren’t going to feel compelled to start a Tumblr in order to express how the food made you feel, but it’s good and solid and there’s something for everyone. And if you need a not-insane place for brunch in the Village, go here.
If you can get your parents out to Brooklyn, take them to Olmsted. They’ll love the urban-farmhouse vibe, and everyone will be into the food that’s weird (in a good way). Try a carrot crepe, the scallops with creamed corn, or a savory Japanese egg custard called chawanmushi. The food is fun to eat, and some of the ingredients are grown in the backyard. Get a drink out there before dinner, and your parents will be somewhat more convinced that you’re a functioning adult person.
These guys specialize in udon, but you they also do stuff like sushi, tempura, and rice bowls. TsuruTonTan is a small, successful chain in Japan, and this location on 16th Street is their first outpost in the states. The dimly lit dining room has a dark, modern, streamlined vibe to it - but this is still Union Square, and it’s calm enough that your parents won’t feel like they’re at a party past their bedtime.
The whole concept of Atoboy is cool, and the fact that the food is actually good is an added bonus. There’s only one choice here - and it’s that you have to make three choices. Pay $36 and pick three dishes. They’re modern-Korean small plates like octopus with kimchi or green beans with smoked eel and grapes. Unless you’re really into concrete, this isn’t the most attractive space, but there’s a good amount of distance between tables, so your parents will be able to hear everything you say (for better or worse).
Say your parents insist on checking out Williamsburg or Greenpoint. Finding a cool (and not crowded or noisy) place to eat out there can be difficult. Older folks don’t want a line or a scene, and, fortunately, Cherry Point has neither. It’s a new-ish bistro with an emphasis on meat where the service is friendly and the vibes are Brooklyn-casual. The space is small and quaint, but it isn’t cramped and, if you want to ditch the older folks and get a drink afterwards, there are about ten different bars within a five minute walk.
Hanjan isn’t trendy, and maybe that’s because there just isn’t enough room for there to be a scene. The restaurant is small and somewhat hidden on a stretch of 26th Street that doesn’t get a huge amount of foot traffic. Inside, it feels like a really nice pub, and your parents will be happy as long as you avoid the communal table. The food is Korean (it has the same owner as Danji), and the deep-fried squid and scallion pancake is a must. Also, get some cloudy rice wine called makgeolli. It used to be for farmers, but now Korean rappers drink it. Obviously, you should do the same.
At Narcissa, your parents will feel comfortable and fun will remain a possibility. Narcissa is in the bottom of the Standard East Village, so it’s reliably lively but still a lot tamer than the restaurant at the Standard across town. It’s also easy enough to get a table here, and there’s always a good energy to the place. Grab a booth in the main dining room for maximum privacy and optimal people watching. There’s a slight emphasis on vegetables, but a carnivore can still have a great meal here.
Dinner here is a prix fixe, and it’s $58 per person. The food is uncomplicated, locally sourced stuff like beef cheeks with parsnip puree (which sounds like something your parents would be like), and the restaurant itself isn’t quite as cool as some of the other places in Williamsburg. And that’s a good thing. It’s nice, but it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be trendy, and you won’t have to elbow a 19-year old wearing Yeezys in order to get a seat.
Your mom likes Freek’s Mill. And that’s not even a burn. Granted, we don’t know your mom, but she’s probably into stuff like corn custard with chanterelles and duck with fennel and rosemary honey. And there’s a good chance she’ll like the reasonable decibel levels in the dining room as well. Come here if you end up around Gowanus and you want some good food (cooked in a wood burning oven) and an atmosphere that’s grown-up without being stuffy.
If your parents watch Top Chef and bought a sous vide machine they never use, take them to High Street on Hudson. Breakfast and lunch are straightforward (and excellent), but, at dinner, you can get some original, ambitious cooking without having to deal with a long wait or a host whose first assumption is that you’re lost. Go eat some interesting food, and talk to your parents. Ask for the wine list first, if that helps.
Houseman has special sound-absorbing panels on the ceiling, and it’s on a block of Soho that not a lot of people wander down - so it doesn’t get annoyingly busy. For dinner, there are some reasonably priced small plates that wouldn’t seem out of place on a tasting menu, and they serve a pretty great burger as well. Come here for relative peace and quiet in a restaurant that would be five times busier if it were in Nolita.
Virginia’s is a little place in Alphabet City that feels like it should be in Gramercy or the part of the West Village where you sometimes run into Brooke Shields. Come to think of it, that seems to be a theme of this guide (minus the Brooke Shields thing). Here, it should be quiet and calm enough for your mother to enjoy her caramelized romanesco while you enjoy the very good burger that you selflessly ordered in order to assure her that you're still her little baby. Although you can only get the burger at the bar - so maybe ditch the parents and sit over there.
Hearth isn’t trendy, but it’s good - and a lot of people know it. It draws a steady crowd, but it doesn’t get too crazy. The menu is mostly healthy stuff like vegetables and whole-grain rigatoni that your parents (with their inferior metabolisms) will enjoy, but you can always get some gnocchi or a pork chop. Also, the East Village location means there are plenty of after-dinner options, and it’s just pricey enough that you’ll actually prefer going with your parents.
Deviled eggs, fluke crudo, steak tartare, and octopus. You’ve heard this song before - but Tuome plays it a little differently. This is a little, Asian-influenced restaurant in lower Alphabet City where the deviled eggs come crispy and the chicken liver mousse has a pool of maple syrup on top. Come here for high-quality food in a neighborhood setting that won’t overwhelm your parents’ delicate earbuds. And be sure to get their signature feast of pork belly and sesame noodles.
Your parents like wine. Which is helpful for you, because they’re a lot less judgemental of your freelance career and ten-years-older boyfriend when they’re a couple glasses of Zinfandel in. BKW is the restaurant behind the people that opened Brooklyn Winery, and as you might guess, they have a nice selection of wine - your parents will get especially excited about ordering a flight. Beyond that, the high-ceilinged space is attractive, and the vibe is low-key enough that should they pick a fight about Zack again you’ll be able to do it in relative peace.