MOTHER KNOWS BEST, BUT YOU CAN SHOW HER YOU KNOW A THING OR TWO AT THE BEST RESTAURANTS TO TAKE MOM TO IN NYC.
Article originally posted on www.timeout.com by Alyson Penn
Mother’s Day brunch doesn’t have to be the only time you treat mom. She gave you pretty much, well, everything, so why not take her out on the town? Whether she’s into upscale Italian restaurants, afternoon tea or trendy sushi restaurants, we’ve rounded up the best restaurants to take mom to in NYC. Don’t worry, it’s probably still on her.
BEST RESTAURANTS TO TAKE MOM:
A Golden State glow radiates throughout Upland, a glossy tribute to chef Justin Smillie’s hometown nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. The big, buzzing room is damn near sunny on a drab stretch of Park Avenue South, a testament to designers Roman and Williams who, between this and the similarly luminous Lafayette, prove to have a gaffer’s eye for great lighting. Smillie’s cooking is fittingly vibrant: Torpedo beets with white chocolate, chili-zapped brussels sprouts, and pizza and pastas that act as ample reminders of Smillie’s Italiano finesse.
The gourmand mama will eat up this lauded eatery with an impressive history: Gramercy Tavern is the restaurant that transformed Danny Meyer from a one-shop restaurateur to a full-blown impresario, made Tom Colicchio a star and launched a citywide proliferation of casual yet upscale American eateries. Take mom to the farmhouse-style setting, with its decorative brambles, pinecones and intoxicating smell from the wood-burning oven. Meals include delicate constructions of vegetables and fish from Blue Hill at Stone Barns alum Michael Anthony.
The bi-level space, nearly doubled from the 6,000-square-foot original, offers a sense of design déjà vu that mom will appreciate if she was a fan of the original: There’s still plenty of cherrywood, forest-green wainscoting and a colorful collection of paintings from the likes of Frank Stella, Claes Oldenburg and Richard Polsky. Executive chef Carmen Quagliata, a decadelong veteran of the original USC, serves favorites like a lunchtime tuna burger in the 95-seat downstairs dining room, but expands the menu with new dishes like tortellini en brodo, “baked potato” beets with sour cream and braised lamb shank with salsa verde.
Andrew Carmellini’s return to French food at Lafayette was rightfully anticipated: Heads would turn; fireworks would ensue, and mom will get the downtown-cool vibes in a classy dining room. Everything in Lafayette glows: the blue-flamed rotisserie and wood oven, the soft lamps and candles, and the gently backlit bar. The large room enjoys a proper bustle, not a din. Lithe young things tilt their heads over glasses of Sancerre in that golden light at tables, enjoying the moules frites or the smoked trout amadine.
The old-world charm of well-worn communal tables, dangling copper cookware and flickering lamps is the ideal way to transport mom to the Italian countryside without the plane ticket. Seasonal produce shapes the menu of executive chef Joel Hough. Dunk the warm country bread in Umbrian olive oils produced exclusively for Il Buco. You’ll have no trouble finding a wine to match your meal; Il Buco’s list is one of the city’s best.
Daisuke Nakazawa’s West Village sushi bar looks like something out of a luxury car commercial, with black leather swivel chairs, sake sommeliers in tailored dark suits and a soundtrack of classical strings–for the moms who are looking for something super city-slick. Whereas Jiro Ono was stoic, Nakazawa is a jokester who places a live squirming shrimp on your plate just for a laugh. But his pranks don’t undercut the seriousness of his nigiri. Nakazawa swiftly sets each of the 20 or so pieces on your plate in succession, drifting back to his post like Kobe Bryant swishing a fadeaway. Enjoy fresh swaths of pike mackerel, wild yellowtail from Hokkaido, scallops and fluke.
If mom isn’t counting calories, bring her to this pasta-focused eatery. Missy Robbins revamps a former auto-body shop as a 70-seat dining room decorated with handmade tiles, natural-wood tables and iron-casement windows. From an open kitchen, Robbins oversees rustic plates like cacio e pepe frittelle, pappardelle with veal bolognese and a wood-fired leg of lamb with Roman spices. A small adjacent take-out café will serve pastries, frittatas and focacce, before converting to a cocktail bar at night.
At this uptown offshoot of Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng’s West Village dim sum house, located in the former Fatty Crab annex, dumpling-loving moms can find signature plates and Asian-inflected fare that, while wildly inventive, relies on classical Chinese technique. The soup dumplings are an absolute must-order, packed with pork and crab in a rich, flavorful broth.
Think pink at this Nolita hot spot. The Italian restaurant is bedazzled in blushing shades that would make even Elle Woods do a double take. The food might not be wow-worthy, but it will surely be a dining experience you and mom will be chatting about over mimosas the next morning–or adding to Insta, if she’s the social-media type.
John Fraser—chef-owner of Michelin-starred Dovetail—was an early adopter of the vegetable high altar, and his meat-free dishes offer up a fittingly sublime hymn, perfect for the herbivore mother. The restaurant space itself in the Standard East Village hotel, has a main dining area chopped up by wooden masts and zigzag banquettes. This carpeted room is filled with black-clad art directors, with a large outdoor patio in the warmer months.
Kazunori Nozawa helped shape Los Angeles sushi culture with his 25-year-old omakase den Sushi Nozawa in Studio City (it shuttered in 2012), hand-roll bar KazuNori and high-quality sushi chain Sugarfish, which the raw-fish legend and his business partner, Jerry Greenberg, bring to New York with this Flatiron location. Impress mom with the cutting-edge rolls at the bi-level restaurant, where you’ll find Sugarfish signatures like a set menu comprised of sashimi, nigiri (snapper, yellowtail) and hand rolls (toro, blue crab) but with the addition of local catch to the usual West Coast lineup.
If mom is a fan of Union Square Cafe or Shake Shack, take her to Danny Meyer’s piza spot. The restaurant mogul teamed with his Maialino chef Nick Anderer for this rustic Roman pizzeria inside the Martha Washington Hotel. Along with the traditional pies (Margherita, Napoletana), the toque turns out outré renditions like an okra-and-lamb-sausage number and one with pecorino, crumbled potato and crispy guanciale. The two-level restaurant, which features a mezzanine with bird’s-eye views of the main dining room below, is anchored by an open kitchen slinging more than just pizza: Expect rabbit meatballs and butterflied trout saltimbocca presented on hand-painted ceramic dishes.
Okay, maybe this whimsical cafe more of a place for moms to bring their kin: if your tot has ever dreamed of taking tea with the Mad Hatter and March Hare, then this restaurant is worth a trip down the rabbit hole. Tykes under age 10 can sample Alice’s special “wee tea,” which includes tea, a scone, an entrée and the appropriately oxymoronic “white rabbit” dark-chocolate mousse. And even if you’re over the age of 10, you can still enjoy tea and scones with plenty of other adult mother-daughter combos in attendance.
If you’ve spent the day sauntering down the High Line, or through the Whitney, make a pit stop at Danny Meyer’s glass-encased, Renzo Piano–designed dining room right in the museum. The space has 30-foot ceilings, white-oak tabletops and cherry Saarinen cushion chairs that match the red straps on waiters’ aprons. Michael Anthony’s painterly plates, brushed with the focused seasonality the James Beard Award–winning chef is known for through his work at Gramercy Tavern, are topped with upscale, American fare like grilled Arctic char with arugula pesto and roasted and fried chicken with oyster mushrooms.
At this New York City neighborhood restaurant where family-style dining is encouraged, chefs Ned Baldwin and Adam Baumgart meticulously source vibrant ingredients to create unfussy, crowd-pleasing dishes that range from the familiar to the unexpected, in a welcoming dining room that is both elegant and relaxed, aka mom-approved.
At the subterranean foot of the William Vale Hotel rests Leuca, the third dining concept from chef-restaurateur Andrew Carmellini (Locanda Verde, the Dutch) and his NoHo Hospitality team at the hotel. It’s an attractive, adult addition to the ’hood, but you never quite shake the feeling that it’s the kind of place to bring your mom to when she finally decides to venture to Williamsburg. The menu, too, is smart and civilized but largely safe. Carmellini takes inspiration from Italy’s south, yielding dishes like a starter of sheep’s-milk ricotta folded with warm honey and toasted garlic.
Perla, which once stood ground on Minetta Lane, recently shifted locations to West 4th st, a picturesque block that will have mom “oohing” and “aahing.” Along with the physical move, Gabriel Stulman revitalized its menu and style (now it’s called, “Perla Cafe”). Not as stuffy or dark as the prior haunt, the airy space still turns out Italian fare, but debuted with more wallet-friendly prices and lighter dishes like a little gem salad with soft-boiled egg and golden beets, and baby carrots with lemon yogurt and black pepper honey.
This provençal outfit from Carlos Suarez (Bobo, Rosemary’s) purveys a Mediterranean-hopping menu laced with North African and Middle Eastern influences. Plus, it couldn’t be any cuter for mom with white-washed walls, wooden floors and large windows that open into a seated patio.
Michelin-starred chef Polo Dobkin reimagines his former Dressler space with creative American plates (Chatham cod “Pil Pil,” horchata-spiked semifreddo), while wife Stephanie Lempert (Al Di La Vino) dreams up herbal cocktails like the rosemary-tinged Ra Ra Rye. Mom points for the cute name and the husband-and-wife culinary team.
Bearing all the hallmarks of the nouveau bistro—rust-dappled mirrors, tiny tables, insanely good looking diners—Juliette still manages a few pleasant surprises for mom. The wine list is crammed with bargains (many solid bottles hit the $25 mark–which dad will love), and the kitchen pulls off some pretty neat tricks, too. Seared Cape Cod squid marries fruity-sweet with citrusy-tart, by way of jalapeño and watermelon; steak au poivre showcases the kick of superfresh pink, green and black peppercorns with a knockout veal reduction. But best of all, in warm weather a pretty roofdeck means you can escape the bistro—if you want.
The heart and soul of this luxe Chelsea eatery is its glassed-in spice room, where chef Vikas Khanna hand-grinds and mixes house blends each morning. He deploys seven whole spices—including star anise, cloves and cardamom pods—in a pungent, burgundy-hued curry that coats a lamb shank, slow-braised until the meat nearly slides from the bone. Other evidence of the room’s sorcery fills the regionhopping menu, organized by traditional methods of Indian cooking—not just tandoor and handi (pot cooking), but also tawa (cast-iron), sigri (fire pit) and patthar (stone), that mom won’t be able to find in the suburbs.
Make the trek to northern Greenpoint if solely for this restaurant’s verdant backyard. Decked out in potted plants, weathered wood chairs and brick walls, the atmosphere will have mom cooing with joy while happily munching on the crowd-pleasing Italian dishes like beef stew, grilled octupus and vegetable Napolean.
The stateside outpost of this Russian chain, named for a mythical babushka, is a fantasy version of a summer cottage, with baskets of apples and gourds inviting you in from the street, places set with lace doilies topped with mismatched china, and food as traditional as the matryoshka dolls, old clocks and jars filled with house-infused vodkas that clutter the decorative wooden shelves. The hip Russian waitress, enthusiastically declaring everything “delicious,” will happily recommend shots to go with the food, for moms that can hold down her vodka.
Chinese cuisine gets a touch of 1930s glamour at this swank Shanghainese restaurant. If mom is staying near you in Murray Hill, bring her to the 60-seat spot styled out with blue-painted walls, leather-and-velvet booths and vintage accoutrements (typewriters, suitcases, posters of Shanghainese movie stars). The menu includes regional specialties, like bang bang chicken (shredded chicken in a spicy sesame sauce) and Chungking braised fish with napa cabbage and roasted chili oil, pork dumplings in chili oil and spicy cumin lamb.