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The best NYC restaurants and bars to take parents

Find the perfect spot for graduation dinner, Mother's Day brunch or just a classy (and not noisy) meal with your folks

By Christina Izzo and Alyson Penn

So, your parents are coming to the city and you don't want to just treat them to a burrito at your noisy neighborhood Mexican restaurant? Or, even better, you want them to treat you (particularly to that super nice, new spot that has $32 entrées)? Whether you're looking to impress your folks from out of town, or celebrating a special occasion like Father's Day or Mother's Day, these NYC restaurants and bars are guaranteed to do the trick.

RECOMMENDED: See more of the best restaurants in NYC

NYC restaurants and bars to take parents

1. Upland

Restaurants Contemporary American Flatiron

The vague concept of Cali cuisine is more an aura than anything else—for a homegrown likeness, see the farm-to-table Brooklyn-eatery stereotype—a Golden State glow that radiates throughout Upland, a glossy tribute to chef Justin Smillie’s hometown nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. The menu is approachable, yet upscale; inventive, yet comforting. 

2. Olmsted

Restaurants Contemporary American Prospect Heights

Olmsted’s sheer dedication to freshness sets it apart. An urban minifarm behind the modestly dressed restaurant provide Baxtrom’s kitchen with radishes and lovage; a bird coop coos with quails laying eggs; and a repurposed claw-foot bathtub sloshes with crayfish. Servers ask if you want to wait for a table on a cushioned bench in the backyard garden, with a cocktail and crayfish crackers, say, beneath strung lights—answer yes when they do. 


3. Gato

Restaurants Mediterranean Noho

Parents addicted to the Food Network will love this 130-seat Noho canteen from celebutoque Bobby Flay. From a fan-baiting open kitchen, Flay dispatches Mediterranean-influenced plates like mushroom-kale-and-egg paella, lamb tenderloin with salsa verde, and oven-blistered chicken with goat cheese and dandelion.

4. Simon & the Whale

Restaurants Mediterranean Kips Bay

Simon & the Whale is an impressive reckoning of what a neighborhood restaurant can be when your fellow diners—the tight-sweatered Spaniards haggling for a table, the paleo hipsters fresh off the Acela—aren’t neighbors at all but a revolving door of hotel guests. Despite the bustling environment, Stulman has created a space that still feels anchored.

Chicken liver and foie gras mousse, chicken cracklins, toast at Covina
Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

5. Covina

Restaurants Mediterranean Flatiron

They’ve already tackled omakase sushi and rooftop cocktailing inside the Park South Hotel; now Boston-based couple Tim and Nancy Cushman (O Ya, the Roof at Park South) are getting into the pizza-and-pasta business with this 70-seat Mediterranean dining room connected to the hotel’s lobby, set with a U-shaped bar, colorful banquette seating and a copper-tiled Stefano Ferrara pizza oven visible through the open kitchen.

Photographs: Courtesy L'Artusi
Photographs: Courtesy L’Artusi

6. L'Artusi

Restaurants Italian West Village

This sequel to the popular dell’anima strives to deliver more than its precursor, with buttoned-up Ralph Lauren–inspired decor and pristinely presented small plates. The upscale trattoria's larger dishes offer a homey quality, including a comforting buckwheat tagliatelle with brussels sprouts and fontina. Sip from the pages-long wine list or snag a bottle of the fan-favorite house wine, which puts all other table reds to shame.

Grand Banks
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

7. Grand Banks

Restaurants Seafood Tribeca

Take your mom and pop to the high seas on Mark Firth’s (Marlow & Sons, Diner) award-winning oyster boat, the historic Sherman Zwicker schooner. The open-air bar is perfect for crudo and cocktails like the mint-and-cucumber Stonecutter Highball or the Negroni Sbagliato.

Photograph: Roxana Marroquin

8. Daniel

Restaurants French Lenox Hill

If your parents' idea of fine dining is white tablecloths, hushed tones and Belle Époque decor, Daniel will prove that it's possible to embrace the 21st century without losing any of the big-night-out experience. After a vibrant redesign by Adam Tihany in 2008, the surroundings are now as fresh as the seasonally changing menu, which might include such starters as chilled oysters with fennel mouselline. 

irish restaurants
Photograph: Courtesy Daniel Kreiger

9. The Dead Rabbit

Bars Cocktail bars Financial District

Give your parents a taste of old New York at one of the city’s most celebrated saloons. Taking its name from a 19th-century New York gang whose intimidating emblem was a hare nailed to a pike, the space is unapologetically authentic, with 175 varieties of Irish whiskey adorning the walls, and 75 different cocktails.

Candle Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy Candle Cafe

10. Candle Café

Restaurants Vegan Lenox Hill

Considered by many vegans to be among the best meat-free restaurants in Manhattan, this welcoming restaurant (which has both Upper East and Upper West Side locations) serves healthy, fresh and surprising dishes prepared by a kosher kitchen. For an appetizer, the indulgent nachos—piled high with guacamole, pico de gallo, tofu sour cream, tapioca cheese and grilled seitan—are a must order, while entrées a curried vegetable cake that’s aromatic with cumin and turmeric.

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