You know how it goes, living in New York—now's the time when everyone you know comes to town. Whether it's friends looking to crash on your couch or your family visiting for their New York vacation, you've got company.
When it comes to eating with family, you want a place that's reliable, reasonably affordable, and low on hassle. There's plenty to worry about before a big holiday. Where to eat dinner on the nights before or after shouldn't be one of them. To that end, here are some solid restaurant options good for eating out with the folks. Most won't require reservations to get in except where noted, though if you have a large group it'd be wise to call ahead.
If your family wants to see the tree in Rock Center or gawk at Grand Central, you may just have to suck it up and accept you're eating in midtown. Our favorite pre-theater dinner these days is Neapolitan pizza at Don Antonio, some of the best pizza in the city. Farther west on 9th Avenue you'll find some good Thai spots (amid plenty of not-so-good Thai spots). Pure Thai Cookhouse dresses up Thai classics well; if your folks can handle spicy food and want to live it up, take them to Larb Ubol, one of the city's latest, greatest spots for fiery Isan Thai cooking. Inti, a cozy Peruvian spot one block over on 10th, does great (and crowd-pleasing) Peruvian roast chicken and ceviche.
- Where to Eat Near Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue
- Where to Eat Near Grand Central Terminal
- Where to Eat Near Times Square
- Where to Eat Near Penn Station
Near the Natural History Museum and the Met
The Museum of Natural History has some great quick bites nearby—you'd be remiss to ignore the massive, singularly awesome cookies at Levain Bakery for instance—but also some solid restaurants. Jacob's Pickles is a low-key spot for Southern comfort food like biscuit sandwiches, and the pickles are pretty good, too. If you're looking for simple-but-great classic Italian, Celeste will do you right. For Jewish smoked fish and eggs, nothing's better than Barney Greengrass.
You're in dessert heaven over by the Met (Payard, Two Little Red Hens, Lady M, Yura), but there are good restaurants, too. Maison Kayser is a worthy breakfast and lunch spot with great bread, and Shalezeh is a refined Persian spot good for groups.
New York Classics
You may not spend your days eating bagels and lox (though: why not?), but it's okay to let your family think you do. Should they want the "classic" New York experience, well, they paid to fly here, and the least you can do is give them some pastrami. Katz's has the best but will be a zoo this time of year. For something more low-key, Stage Restaurant, a tiny lunch counter as old school as they come, does very solid pastrami, amazing potato pancakes and pierogi, and a killer turkey sandwich. It's just counter seating though, so it's not best for large groups.
Some more thoughts: you can't skip Russ & Daughters for all things Yiddishe fish, or Gray's or Papaya King for hot dogs, or Kossar's for bialys (though Hot Bread's are even better), or any of these spots for pizza.
"What All the Hip Young Kids Are Eating These Days"
The best "fancy" restaurants for parents are ones that serve great food, treat you well, and don't break the bank (though still make you grateful they picked up the check). Piora is the latest of these, a tiny West Village spot with excellent food, effusive service, and enough grown-ups that the volume is at a reasonable level. Kin Shop and Perilla do Asian-accented cooking exceptionally well, and Perla is the kind of youthful yet sublimely polished Italian food we wish were even more common in the city than it is. For the city's newfound fascination with Mexican cooking, Empellon Cocina/Taqueria do the best fancy tacos you've ever eaten.
For all of these restaurants, call ahead and make a reservation.
Eating with young kids can be tough in some restaurants. Look for super-casual places that embrace families, or kitchens that don't care, or counter service operations that can handle kids well. Take barbecue hot spot Mighty Quinn's, home to some of the city's best brisket, certainly the city's best pulled pork, and plenty of sides (even good vegetarian ones). Rubirosa is a family-friendly red sauce spot with great pizza, parms, and pasta. Chinatown also has a wealth of options; Shanghai Cafe is approachable and full of simple dishes kids can get behind—and some of the city's best soup dumplings. Middle Eastern restaurant Local 92 does amazing hummus and some solid Mediterranean staples; their chicken schnitzel is the perfect chicken tender upgrade.
Outer Boroughs Eating
If your parents are coming to Brooklyn, you can show them what some of the borough's restaurant scene is like at Lulu & Po, Marietta, or Lot 2. At the latter two there are pretty tasty burgers for more conservative palates. Farther south but a must if you can make the trip, Totonno's makes my favorite pizza in the city, bar none, and you won't have to deal with the massive waits at some of the city's more popular, centrally located spots.
You can have a great time at one of Astoria's many Greek restaurants, from the fancified MP Taverna to more low-key Telly's. Over in Woodside, Woodside Cafe does a fine job of making Himalayan cooking approachable and really delicious, and if the folks are willing to head out to Flushing (a short LIRR trip and a great adventure), take them to Fu Run for some of the city's best Chinese.
But Wait, There's More!
Of course there are plenty more restaurants worth a visit that could have made this list. You can find some of them in this guide from last year (and this updated drinker's edition!), for starters, then tell us: where do you take your family when they visit?