Whether it was via Facetime or in-person while living under the same roof, it’s possible you’ve spent more time talking to your family this past year than you have in ages. It’s also possible you’re out of practice planning a restaurant meal for a group who still makes fun of you for having severe pink eye at high school graduation. But that's going to have to change, because now that all adults are eligible for the vaccine, family dinners are a thing again.
The guide below is here to alleviate the stress of finding a perfect restaurant to bring your immediate or extended family. These restaurants have dining areas with ample room for a group of 4+, some of which we would describe as “ truly stunning.” And many of them serve food across various price points, and should appeal to Sharing Families and Anti-Sharing Families alike. Unfortunately, we can’t promise to eliminate the quarrels over choosing appetizers or the screeches of a crying baby in tow. It wouldn’t be a family dinner without them.
Family meals get a bad rap for being boring. But it’s possible your family isn’t boring at all - and actually likes to party together. Consider this American and West African restaurant in Harlem, where they sometimes offer $5 flavored martinis and have a live DJ playing music loud enough for a festival. There are events and specials throughout the week, so you should look at their schedule ahead of time to see what’s going on. Bring some relatives looking for a good time and order the crispy beef nems.
This Brazilian spot in Carroll Gardens opened literally one day before the citywide shutdown in spring 2020, so it’s possible your family hasn’t been there yet. They make mind-blowingly delicious pão de queijo the size of a baseball, topped with everything from guava paste to ground spicy ’nduja. We’d also recommend the excellent caipirinhas and a steaming cauldron of feijoada, both of which are especially enjoyable in the spacious backyard.
Your family members don’t have to play tennis or have a beach house to like Altro Paradiso - but that’s the energy here. It’s a half-fancy Italian place with blonde wood and white marble tables, although it isn’t corporate or uptight like somewhere you might have gone as a family in Midtown before. The menu constantly changes, but tends to involve things like simple pastas, an incredible fennel salad, and cured meats. So come here when you’re looking for something calm and special, but you want to stay downtown.
This Mexican restaurant in Astoria takes a maximalist approach to dinner that’s perfect for groups. Why make a habañero mango cocktail without torching a sprig of rosemary in it first? Why paint a patio muted pastel pink when a shade called “hot pink” exists? If there’s a vat of earthy mole negro in the kitchen, why not pour a pint of it onto a plate with chicken enchiladas or tender short rib? The portions of Oaxacan specialties here are massive, and the mole and Patrón flow like tap water. Start your family meal with some gooey chori queso with warm corn tortillas and a round of cocktails.
When we go to Ops in Bushwick, we often wish our ancestors made careers out of throwing pizza parties, so they could have taken on the surname “Pizzapartymen.” This homey sourdough destination is a place for fellow Pizzapartymen wannabes, complete with big cans of tomatoes on every table and great wine. Try the Juno pizza with potatoes, broccoli rabe, and a mix of creamy provola and sharp ricotta salata, as well as the massive square pie topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, and briny olives.
When you’re looking for a family home, there are several things you want to take into account. Nearby schools and transportation, for example. Also, whether or not there’s a Han Dynasty in the neighborhood. There are three NYC locations of this Chinese restaurant, and this one on the UWS is perfect for big groups, and sit-down dinners when you want excellent dan dan noodles and spicy chili wontons. As for mains, we suggest trying the excellent and numbing mapo tofu as well as dry pepper-style chicken draped in chiles. Make a reservation ahead of time by phone.
While dining at this exceptional Indian restaurant in Long Island City, everyone in your family will remark about how damn lucky you all are to be eating curry goat and biryani with a layer of dough baked on top. Come here with people who like to share a bunch of plates, so you can try a whole slew of chaat, grilled meats, and curries. We’d just suggest making a reservation ahead of time.
It’s more than appropriate to show up to some family dinners after biking across the city wearing rainbow Tevas and a sweaty Mets hat. Locanda Verde in Tribeca, however, is not one of those casual places. Most people make reservations in advance for dinner at this upscale Italian restaurant since it’s definitely part of the busy Tribeca scene. Prepare for bowls of really good homemade pasta, including seasonal tortelli, potato gnocchi, and a meaty, satisfying ravioli dish. To start, we always order the unmissable, creamy sheep’s milk ricotta topped with sea salt.
The Fort Greene location of Peaches Hot House is one of the many Peaches offshoots that specializes in Nashville hot chicken. Bring your family here when you need a big night out featuring ample spice and sides of mac and cheese galore. The outdoor tables are in the middle of a big plaza, which means there’s more than enough space for you, your children, your sister, and your sister’s dog.
Proximity to NJ Transit or the LIRR, unfortunately, might be part of the equation when determining a spot for dinner. If you’re looking for a place near Penn Station that doesn’t feel like it’s anywhere near Penn Station at all, go to Farida - a charming and casual Central Asian restaurant with excellent Uzbek plov, manti, and lamb dishes. The menu is extremely meat-heavy, so it’s not the best place for vegetarians, but as long as that’s not an obstacle you’ll all love it.
Al Di La is one of our absolute favorite neighborhood Italian restaurants, and it has a near 100% success rate with just about everyone who enjoys pasta and wine. Not only does Al Di La embody the exact kind of quaint place that people think is on every corner of movie-set-Brooklyn, but their regional specialties match the charming setting. We like the spaghetti vongole and whatever the seasonal risotto is, and the fact that the restaurant has a separate wine bar where you can wait for your table.
Meeting uptown but don’t want to go to the same (possibly snoozy) place you always go? This Upper East Side Peruvian restaurant only opened in the second half of 2019, which means it’s possible your family doesn’t know about it yet. They specialize in seafood and cocktails, like a classic white fish ceviche bathing in a zippy leche de tigre. There are also plenty of options for siblings who want to share - including their lomo saltado and large format cocktails - as well as single-portion entrees. We’d recommend sitting on their luscious, plant-decorated sidewalk patio (which feels secluded from the busy street), unless your family is alright with a particularly loud dining room.
Every entree at this Ethiopian spot on Avenue B near Tompkins Square Park comes with two vegetable sides. While we recognize that you’re an adult and can do what you want, we can’t stress enough that one of those sides should be the shiro wot: Haile’s chickpea mash that coats everything it meets with creamy garlic. We like to plop a thick layer of shiro wot on each torn piece of injera, and then top it with other delicious things like tart red beets or tender dark meat chicken that’s been slow-cooked in onions, berbere, and spiced clarified butter. With a couple family members present, stick to the combination platters. Otherwise, the best non-sharing route at Haile is to order spicy beef tibs with shiro wot and green beans on the side.
Koreatown is full of fun family gathering spots, including this Korean BBQ spot whose original restaurant opened in 1964 in Busan, South Korea. As the name might suggest, this is a place to eat beef (in fact, there aren’t any non-cow protein options offered). When you’re at Yoon Haeundae Galbi, we’d recommend one of their three meat combo packages, which range from $110-$118, which come with four or five different cuts of beef, and feed three-to-four people. Right now they also offer outdoor tables on 36th Street with their own grills so you can cook tableside. For more Korean BBQ restaurant ideas that are great for groups, check out our guide here.
If your family is requesting a “Classic New York experience,” but would prefer that it not cost $300, come from a food truck, or be difficult to organize, J.G. Melon’s Upper East Side location is a good option. This place has served one of the best thick-patty burgers in the city for decades, so that’s what you’re coming here to eat - and you’ll want to make sure you get some cottage fries as well.
If your group isn't too big and no one is particularly fussy about sitting at a small table or even on a sidewalk bench when there’s fantastic food in front of them, head to this small Thai restaurant right by the Williamsburg Bridge on the Brooklyn side. Don’t let the silly name and counter-service setup deter you from enjoying their creamy khao soi and guay tiao tom yum with minced pork, fish balls, and crushed peanuts, or the near-perfect, minimalist papaya salad with a good amount of heat. It’s from the same people behind Look By Plant Love House , (another good option for family members, especially because they have a backyard) and it’s the best Thai restaurant in North Brooklyn.