Your apartment has never been this clean. That questionable layer of filth on every bathroom surface has been scrubbed down, you actually did your laundry, and you’ve swapped your impressive collection of treats from Uncle Ike’s on the coffee table for a decorative bowl of fruit and a soy candle.
Your parents are coming.
Whether a visit from Mom and Dad gives you some happy nostalgia or mild to extreme anxiety, you can’t escape the fact that you’re all going to need to eat dinner. “You pick the place, we’ll eat anything!” they say, yet no statement could be farther from the truth. Plus, you feel a responsibility to choose a good meal for the people who gave you life. For adventurous parents, traditional parents, and everyone else in between, we can help - each place on this list is generally enjoyable to be in, is good for groups (in case your brother or grandma or significant other tags along), and most take reservations. As for what happens when you realize one of your brownies are missing, and then an hour later during your trip to the Space Needle your mom is holding her hand out in front of her face, asking why time moves forward - that’s on you. Good luck with that.
The parents describe themselves as “epicureans” just because they watch a little too much Food Network, and you want to push their limits. Joule is a great place to find out if Mom and Dad are legit, or just watching Guy Fieri reruns. Everything is semi-Korean, semi-fancy, semi-strange, and insanely good: think geoduck seaweed fried rice, braised octopus with hot bacon vinaigrette, and a ribeye with beef belly and spicy peanut oil. Sit on the string light-covered patio, order some steaks and small plates (don’t miss the corn, or the spicy rice cakes) and your parents will be happy even if their culinary expertise comes solely from the food puns on Cupcake Wars.
Tonight, your family needs something low-key. Ideally with a pub vibe, but with food that’s better than jalapeño poppers and microwaved spinach artichoke dip. Plus, Dad’s been into craft cider lately, Mom only drinks “good” riesling, and despite being hungover from the night before, you’re okay with having more beer. Bramling Cross is your move - it’s a gastropub with a vintage library feel, big booths, and a menu that has everything from fried chicken to fresh pasta, all executed extremely well. Get the everything pretzels with gruyere sauce for the table.
If your parents love Italian food but have already been to Seattle’s usual suspects, Raccolto is their new spirit restaurant. Order a few excellent housemade pastas to go around (make sure the strozzapreti with bolognese is on the table), some small plates, and a couple of protein-heavy entrees and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere over some cocktails and necessary family gossip.
Shaker + Spear feels like eating inside a designer furniture showroom with the lights dimmed low. It’s a little bit swanky, but you could still wear jeans and a concert tee if you really wanted. The service is excellent, there’s a big round table you can book if the whole family is around, and they serve a solid lineup of small plates (get the bruleed mac and cheese) and seafood, plus wine on tap.
Part taqueria, part Airbnb beach house, Chávez has an attractive space and plenty of menu options that your mom might call “elevated”: guacamole with fresh roasted corn, a poblano chili stuffed with walnut, and a mole dish made with pickled cactus and braised pork cheek. Your parents will love the fresh romaine salad with meyer lemon and cotija cheese, and you will love downing four margaritas while getting interrogated about your five-year plan.
So, your parents just got back from their trip to the Caribbean and they’re still feeling the island party vibes. Embrace this and make moves to Rumba, which is perfect for fun parents who enjoy getting slightly drunk with their child. Grab a booth amidst the bookcases full of tchotchkes, order some classic tiki rum punches along with a round of empanadas and chimichurri fish tacos, and if everything about this sort of freaks out your dad, there’s also a Cuban sandwich. Bottoms up.
Bar Del Corso doesn’t take reservations, and you’ll need to get there early in order to secure a table quickly. But despite that inconvenience, Bar Del Corso is the perfect parent-friendly spot for excellent Neapolitan pizza in a special occasion kind of setting. There are plenty of small plates like burrata and arancini (our favorite appetizer here), you get to cut the pizza with a personal pair of shears (just in case that’s something you’ve always wanted to do), and Perihelion Brewery nearby is an excellent place for a beer before or after.
If your family is made up of ravenous carnivores, you need to bring them to the best meat mecca in the city. Bateau is home to excellent steaks, killer fries (fried in beef fat), great cocktails, and an off-menu burger so perfect your pop won’t even be able to think of a good dad joke about the window full of raw cow carcasses in an otherwise elegant situation: moo-ed lighting.
When your parents ask you to choose “a nice seafood place” for them to treat you to dinner and you get those flashing cartoon dollar signs in your eyeballs, Aqua by El Gaucho is the power play. All of the dishes, from crab-stuffed halibut to cedar plank-roasted salmon, taste like if wedding catering was actually good, and the restaurant is on the waterfront, which means great bay views. Eating indoors isn’t bad either - the vibe is sophisticated but not stuffy, and there’s a pianist in-house. If you’re about to introduce Mom and Dad to the person you will probably end up marrying and you need the venue to do most of the impressing, Aqua is a good choice.
Bastille is a solid parents’ dinner utility move - they have a balanced mix of classic French dishes like croque madame or stupid-good steak frites, and more inventive stuff like lemongrass sausage banh mi with sriracha aioli (our favorite thing here). The low lighting and bistro vibe make a dinner at Bastille feel special, and you can book a table that surrounds an indoor firepit to earn bonus son/daughter points. Parents love firepits.
If being able to hear you complain about your terrible job without having to shout across the table is important to your parents, Volunteer Park Cafe is ideal. The space has a farmhouse-meets-old school grocery market feel, and is also nice and quiet at night (despite the fact that it’s a madhouse during the breakfast rush). Enjoy the low-key environment with bottles of wine and pretty much anything from the American farm-to-table menu - the mini chicken pot pie and braised beef with polenta are our go-to’s.
If you’re actually on top of things and are preparing for your parents’ arrival weeks in advance, The Pink Door is the part-burlesque circus, part-Italian trattoria where you should absolutely take them. It’s smack in the middle of Pike Place Market, so it’s a prime location for post-sightseeing crudo, caesar salads, and incredible housemade pastas. An order of fettunta (fancy grilled garlic bread) is mandatory for the table, and get the fresh spinach lasagna to give your parents the best day of their lives next to the day you were born.
Junebaby is the upscale Southern spot that may have been specifically designed for impressing parents. It’s ideal for people who are picky, but still want something exciting - like holding a smoked turkey leg in one hand and a flute of champagne in the other. Come on a Friday to catch the once-a-week brisket plate, which is good for every occasion, even/especially the “you got fired and that’s okay” dinner.
If your parents are visiting from far away, Westward is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the Seattle thing to do. Book a table by the patio, but get there before your reservation to do happy hour drinks and kind-of-Mediterranean snacks (get the wood-fired gigante beans with tomato and feta) while sitting on the adirondack chairs underneath striped lounge umbrellas overlooking Lake Union. Your parents will never want to leave. On second thought, maybe don’t come here at all.
If your parents enjoy wine, they will very much enjoy Upper Bar Ferdinand. It’s a wine person’s playground: pairings scribbled on a chalkboard, shelves of bottles that you can actually buy and bring home, and a condensed menu of cured meats, vegetables, snacks, and a couple of rotating entrees that have the capacity to blow minds. Have your meal here and then hit up Kurt Farm Shop next door (before they close at 9PM, 10-ish in summer) for the greatest dinner and ice cream One-Two Punch in Seattle.