Mother’s Day is Sunday, and Father’s Day is June 18. Major occasions to be sure, but for those of us whose families don’t live in New York City, there’s always the pressing question of where to take your relatives when they decide (or deign) to visit.
Only a few weeks ago, I was recommending spots for persnickety teenagers. But parents can also be picky. (My father, for instance, equates fine dining with steak.) At a special dinner, there’s also the chance of post-meal sticker shock or a last-minute surprise visit from an entire branch of the family tree. Of course, #notallparents, but there’s a level of pressure to impress and to affirm that your decision to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world is a sound one — even when you’re not quite so sure yourself.
It would be impossible to tailor restaurant recommendations to every kind of parent. So here are a handful of places that are more or less guaranteed to be a hit with the people who raised you.
Everyone Understands Italian
Union Square Cafe, with its bi-level seating, sharply dressed servers and chic, forest-green interior, is a cafe in name only. Most important, it is Italian-leaning, and Italian cuisine is a cross-generational culinary love language. The entire menu is simple enough to parse for those who don’t dine out for sport, while being interesting enough for those of us who consider “gremolata” and “freekeh” to be words of affirmation.
I recently enjoyed brunch there, and it was the pastas that really spoke to me, particularly the rigatoni alla cacciatore and the fettuccine al limone. That said, I would have been just as happy to sit at the bar and eat spoonful after spoonful of hearty ribollita while struggling to solve this newspaper’s Saturday crossword.
Family Dinners Don’t Have to Be (Very) Pricey
Lest you think that the only way to impress your parents is to take them to a place with tablecloths, consider these deliciously affordable options: fried chicken sandwiches topped with mint chutney and yogurt at Rowdy Rooster, in the East Village; broccoli Reubens and Italian combos at any of Court Street Grocers’ four locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn; made-to-order pan-fried pork and kimchi dumplings at Sanmiwago Taiwan Dumpling House, in Manhattan’s Chinatown, followed by a visit to the Tenement Museum; or a quick burger at Corner Bistro, in Greenwich Village. Then you can pantomime covering the tab and earn a few Brownie points.
A Restaurant Designed for Families
Sometimes, but not very often, my parents stay with me in Brooklyn. And if I had to put my finger on one of the borough’s most parent-friendly restaurants, it would be Patti Ann’s, in Prospect Heights, which arrived at the height of last year’s Midwestern-ification dining craze.
To put it succinctly, Patti Ann’s is just fun. It’s outfitted in colorful furniture and bright yellow walls in the style of a classroom. Certain dishes can overdo it — the oversize mozzarella stick comes to mind — but the food, like the duck lasagna and the Chicago-style pizza menu, delivers when it matters. (To the reader who emailed me last week asking where they can get a banana split in New York City: Ta-da!)
I’d love to know where you take your family members when they visit. Is it an old favorite from when they lived here, or a new favorite you introduced them to? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may see your response featured here.
In Other News …
This week Pete Wells shines a light on the many, many pop-up pizza makers churning out great pies with portable ovens at breweries and events across the city.
Openings: ElNico, the new Latin American rooftop restaurant at the Penny Williamsburg hotel, is now open; the Good Good in Harlem offers jerk mushrooms, codfish fritters and other Caribbean delights; and, ahead of its reopening next month, the resurrected bar Angel’s Share will pop up at Poster House on West 23rd Street on Saturday.
Our wine critic Eric Asimov wrote about 10 boxed wines (yes, boxed) that are actually good.
Brett Anderson and the photographer Adam Riding traveled to drought-striken Arizona to document the home gardeners and small farmers in the southern part of the state working to grow produce with as little water as possible.