Your parents don't want to go to most bars. Most bars are either too loud, too crowded, or too filled with drunk young people mistaking hormonal impulses for free will.
Does that mean you can’t all go to a bar that's fun? Well, define “fun”. If “fun” is taking shots of tequila and singing along to Journey, you should know that your parents got that out of their systems decades ago. Now they just want to drink. Go to one of these places as a compromise. They’re nice and lively, but your parents won’t lie and say they have an early morning so they don’t have to hang out with your peers.
Why are hotel bars generally better for parents? Probably because they don’t get too crazy. Unless you’re in the Meatpacking District. (Side note: the Meatpacking District needs to get its sh*t together). Hotel bars also tend to be better-maintained and less exclusive. The Marlton is an excellent example of this. It’s a very nice, cozy space spread out over a few different rooms. There’s a fireplace, some couches, and even some diner-style booths along the wall.
Just inside the unmarked entrance of this fancy hotel in the Met Life Tower, there’s a nice and mellow lobby bar. You’ll find some couches, chairs, some low coffee tables, and relaxed/upscale vibes. Order one of the signature ( very pricey) cocktails and slouch into a low leather sofa while your parents tip toe around your love life.
Casellula is a place to have wine and cheese in excess. There’s a lot of both here, and your parents are going to be into that - because at a certain age you wise up and realize that you can buy happiness, and it comes in the form of wine and cheese. Grab a table in this space that feels like a gallery or a French cafe, and hang out for a few hours. If you parents happen to be staying in Midtown, it’s one of your best options.
Ardesia isn’t far from Casellula, and it’s also a wine bar with small plates - but it’s good for different situations. Come here for a drink with some parents who consider themselves relevant. Maybe your mom’s internet history contains Gilt.com or your dad recently discovered skinny ties and now he won’t look back. Great. Bring them here. Ardesia is a modern wine bar, and you can tell they put some effort into the build-out. Believe or not, the drinks are also affordable.
This feels more like a restaurant than bar, and you can, in fact, have a full meal here. We wouldn’t really suggest it, however. Not that the food isn’t good - it’s just better to share some small plates and drink your way through the cocktail list. John Dory gets decently busy, but it stays tame enough for your parents, and it’s good-looking to boot. When the drinking session is over, you’ll also be in a convenient enough position to make some moves downtown.
If your parents watch the Food Network, take them here. It’s across the way from Le Bernardin, and it’s from the same owners. Unlike Le Bernardin, however, you don’t have to spend over $500 here to have a good time. (Although you definitely can, if that’s what you’re looking to do.) Get a reasonably priced glass of wine and sit on a couch with your parents. It'll remind them of spending time with you at home, and you sort of owe them that.
Union Fare5 E 17th St
You wouldn’t know it passing by, but this is actually a pretty big place. It’s also relatively new, and there’s plenty of seating. Sure it has a sort of generic feel to it, but that’s perfect for an outing with the parents. The vibes here are the perfect amount of fun and upscale for the people who birthed you, and it would probably be busier if the menu were a little more exciting. As it stands, you can sit at one of the two bars (or grab one of the many tables) and have some octopus and skirt steak. And be sure to soak up your food with some alcohol.
The Modern is a fancy restaurant inside of MoMA, and it’s separated into two different rooms. The first area (where you enter) has a long bar, some lounge-y tables, and a floor of larger tables without table cloths. (That means they’re casual.) Walk-ins are accepted for this part of the restaurant, but you can also make a reservation. Stop by with your parents the next time you find yourselves staring at squiggles of paint on canvas in Midtown, and have some drinks with some bar food that’s better than any bar food you've had.
This is a French wine bar on the edge of Little Italy, and you’ll need to drink here after your parents drag you around Soho. There’s a menu with a lot of small things to eat (chorizo, burrata, etc.), and they do over twenty wines by the glass. It’s also pretty cool in here, and your mom will appreciate like the decor.
Bars for parents don’t really exist in the Meatpacking District, but if you head a few blocks south, you’ll find a couple of options. Turks & Frogs, for one. This is a moody little wine bar on a quiet street, and if you’re doing the full-on club thing with your friends after you hang out with your parents, you can come here and pregame with a Bordeaux.
Gato is a big, sleek Spanish restaurant from Bobby Flay, and it feels like somewhere cool parents would hang out. So bring your cool parents here. Stop by and get a seat at the bar. It’s big, square, and in the middle of the action.
If your parents come to visit and they aren’t the type to stare at shiny things in Midtown, bring them here. It’s a wine bar in the West Village with a little backyard that you weren't expecting. The menu is comprised of many small plates, and the wines change frequently. This place is good for your parents, but it isn’t stuffy or formal, so you should manage to enjoy yourself as well.
The Ship is in a basement on Lafayette, but it’s a lot nicer than your average basement bar. They also do some excellent cocktails down here, and it doesn’t get too crowded. Your parents won’t mind sitting in one of their large booths, and you can all have fun trying to figure out why they went so hard with the nautical theme.
If you’re downtown and your parents want to get a casual drink, this is an excellent choice. Tom and Jerry’s is old-school, and it attracts people of all ages. They’re cash-only, and they don’t make the best cocktails, but you also don’t have to deal with a server and the vibes are neighborhood friendly. Also, this isn’t really a “nice” bar, so your parents might even feel cool and edgy. Good for them.