People often ask us where to take their parents to dinner, and the list of needs is usually pretty specific. Somewhere with great food, but where the seats won’t be eight inches wide made out of rickety rusted metal. Where you can hear each other and not just the N.W.A. soundtrack that every other restaurant plays on repeat. But without being stuffy.
Because you all apparently eat dinner with your parents a lot, we’ve updated our guide with even more comfortable restaurants that’ll keep everyone happy. Lots of round tables and big booths ahead.
If your parents generally never leave Manhattan, but feel like checking out Williamsburg, get dinner at Leuca. It feels like something you’d find in Soho, and it’s from the same people behind The Dutch, Bar Primi, and Lafayette. The food here is Italian, and, while it isn’t especially new or mind-blowing, no one will be upset with their pizza or pasta. The space is also pretty large, so feel free to bring as many parents as you can find.
Maybe your parents suddenly decided to come to town, or maybe you failed to make a reservation despite having ample notice that your parents are coming to town. Either way, it’s good to know about Casa Apicii. This place is an Italian restaurant in a townhouse in Greenwich Village, and it sort of feels like a millionaire converted their second home into a supper club. We like the pastas and small plates, and we also appreciate the fact that it’s usually easy to get a reservation here. After dinner, show your parents the semi-secret bar upstairs. They’ll think it’s cool.
Union Square Cafe is, in many ways, the ideal parent restaurant. It’s fancy without being uptight, the service is excellent, and everyone will find something to eat here. They do fish, grilled chicken, a bunch of pastas, and a lot of different vegetables - and that pretty much covers all of your bases right there. Your parents will also appreciate the space, which looks like the dining room at a very nice country club. Although be sure to make a reservation. Those tend to be tough.
Let’s say that it’s Friday night at 7pm and your parents are set on eating in the West Village (and don’t handle waiting well). Go to Boucherie. It’s a huge French brasserie on Seventh Avenue where you can eat steak au poivre, duck confit, or a burger. Everyone will be into the casual, old-school French atmosphere, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating if that’s what you’re looking for. It isn’t cheap, but it should be easy enough to get a table here, and your parents will be probably be somewhat enthusiastic about French food.
Much like Union Square Cafe, Loring Place is an American restaurant with a lot of options. If you’re a vegetarian, great - you can eat a full meal here. And if you’re gluten-free, same deal. And if someone just wants a pizza or a burger, they can have that too. And while it might get a little loud (and very busy) in here, your parents should still be comfortable. Just remember to make a reservation several weeks in advance, because apparently everyone wants to eat in this attractive Greenwich Village space.
Midtown is a desert. Instead of sand, however, there are office buildings and tourists, although it’s equally hard to find good food. That’s why we like L’Amico. It’s just a few blocks south of Penn Station, and it’s a comfortable place to eat crowd-pleasing things like tuna crudo and pasta. It’s even kind of cool (for the area at least). Plus, it’s not impossible to get a table here, and it’s big enough for you to bring a group.
If your parents play tennis and/or own multiple biographies of Winston Churchill, take them to King. It’s a kind-of-fancy place with white tablecloths, although it isn’t corporate or uptight like a place you’d find in Midtown. The menu constantly changes, but tends to involve things like steak, lobster salad, and rabbit. So come here when you’re looking for something calm and slightly fancy, but you want to stay downtown.
When people ask us where to take the people who birthed them for a meal in Manhattan, Maialino is often top of the list. It’s between uptown and downtown, the service is always good, and the pasta is even better.
All of a sudden, your parents want to go to Williamsburg. Why? Because they heard about Lilia. This Italian restaurant in a former auto body shop is easily the most grown up restaurant in Williamsburg, and also one of the very, very best. The whole thing is the brain child of Missy Robbins, who is known as the former chef of A Voce and as the Obamas’ favorite chef. One of those things is definitely going to make your mom want to come here - and you should definitely make that happen.
Consider the following: Untitled is in the Meatpacking District, but it’s also IN AN ART MUSEUM. The new Danny Meyer spot in the base of the Whitney Museum is big, bright, and delicious. And you’ll be culturally enriched just for entering the building.
One great thing about New York is that you can also get cultured without going to a museum. (Go to museums though, they’re good). In places where you get to eat breakfast for dinner. Russ & Daughters is emblematic of the Jewish Lower East Side, and even though the cafe isn’t the original location, it still feels historical. The cafe, which is open until 10pm every night, makes for a fun break-in-the-routine dinner.
So, your mom wants to order a “nice piece of fish.” Your dad would be happy with a steak. (Or vice versa!). Your brother is now a vegetarian. Your sister would prefer not to stray too far from the East Village. Good news: there’s something for all of them at Narcissa. The food, service, and overall environment here are all always a hit.
If your parents keep reading about farm-to-table Brooklyn restaurants in the New York Times Styles section, but you’re hesitating about taking them to a spot with repurposed wheelbarrows for seats, head to The Finch in Clinton Hill. It’s in a beautiful townhouse, and the food is excellent.
The service: kind of rude. The form of payment: cash. But the overall experience: worth it, and one every carnivorous, steak-enjoying New Yorker should have.
Everyone loves Upland, and we think it’s probably the best new restaurant of the past two years. Not because of some gimmick or nonsense innovation, just because it’s REALLY GOOD. The food is excellent (even the Caesar salad is insane) and the space is exceptional. Show your folks what’s good.
Would your family like to eat steak? In a huge, comfortable room, in a place that definitely takes credit cards? Skip the Midtown steakhouses for American Cut in Tribeca. This is the kind of place you also can eat a huge carrot instead of stale creamed spinach.
Do your parents hate coming to visit you in the loud, dirty city? Take them to Houseman, located in an extremely quiet and serene corner of far west Soho. The restaurant itself is also very non-stressful (yes, you’ll be able to hear each other talk), and the constantly changing menu can feature everything from housemade sausages to interesting vegetables to simple roast chicken.
Think about how you’ve matured over the past 22 years. Things have probably changed a lot since 1994, right? But not at Il Buco. Il Buco has been going strong all these years, serving excellent food in one of the homiest, loveliest environments in the city. Though everything else in the neighborhood has changed, Il Buco manages to never feel outdated - it actually feels as fresh as ever.