So, your parents are in town and you need to get some dinners planned. Reservations are required, because no moms or dads we know enjoy wandering around the Mission in search of a cocktail when they find out that Flour and Water has a 28-hour wait.
You need a place with great food and appropriate volume levels. Bonus points if it’s on the pricey side, since your parents are probably treating. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, and the spots on our list check all the boxes.
Presuming your parents alerted you of their visit at least a month in advance, and they love food (particularly fish), they’ll be excited about Petit Crenn. It’s not cheap, but for a special occasion - birthday, anniversary, first visit to you on the West Coast - it’s perfect. The $95 French tasting menu is close to flawless, and the wine list is pricey but not atrociously so. Note: Not for parents with control issues, since they’ll have no choice but to eat all the delicious things presented to them.
Some parents like places that feel like they could be in Short Hills, or Edina, or whatever non-metropolitan area they call home. Gardenias, in Lower Pac Heights, is such a place - low-key and relaxed but still serving some high-quality food. The duck and the ricotta toasts are very much worth your time, and overall, it’s a solid bet for people who are opposed to things like “kale” or “millennials” (even if you technically are one).
Parents tend not to love waiting in lines. They’ve got places to be (the hotel?) and sore feet. Plus, they’ve spent their lives raising you and making sure you didn’t choke on any baby carrots as a child - now they just want their food. Tartine Manufactory is great in the daytime, but it’s inevitably extremely busy. At dinner, they take reservations, serve the same incredible bread, and do some fantastic shared plates that can all be interpreted as kind-of-healthy, not to mention delicious. Time it right and you’ll have a very successful visit.
The Ferry Building may be a place you avoid for fear of being attacked by a seagull or steamrolled by a rogue food tour. But at night, the place calms down, and it’s absolutely worth bringing your parents to check out the Vietnamese food at Slanted Door - especially the spring rolls and claypot chicken. Bonus points for Bay Bridge views and dessert from Humphry Slocombe right next door.
Al’s Place is a “cool” Mission restaurant that doesn’t feel precious. The vegetable and seafood-heavy menu is a little quirky without being overly experimental, and there’s a relaxed, friendly, flip flops-on attitude that you, and pretty much anyone (including your parents), should be able to appreciate. Especially if you can also get a little bit excited about eating salad with your hands. The trout, grits, and steak tartare are very good.
Old-school menu items with trendier ingredients like kale and pork belly, combined with a country club ambience, make this a family favorite. Not in a “bring your screaming children” kind of way - more in a “come with your parents who aren’t into small plates” way. Definitely get the ribeye for two to share. Just have Dad pop some Lipitor ahead of time.
Insanely good pasta, pizza, cheese, wine, and dessert in a comfortable FiDi space. Cotogna’s food is not too adventurous, but it’s likely better than the Italian your parents get at home (unless they live in Rome, in which case maybe you should have visited them instead). It’s not too loud, it’s upscale without being eye-gougingly expensive, and you will seem like a very classy adult for picking it, no matter the occasion.
If your parents enjoy spectacular Moroccan food, and treating you to fairly expensive meals, they will like Mourad a lot. The interior is fancy in a way that feels slightly corporate, but once you get your hands on the excellent chicken and flatbreads, you’ll only have eyes for your plates.
Kokkari is where we go to eat delicious, upscale Greek food (specifically meat) and feel like adults. So your carnivorous parents are bound to love it, too. A little on the fancier side, with white tablecloths and serious “formal dining room” chairs, this place always manages to impress. Definitely start with some zucchini cakes, and definitely also make a reservation (even though the space is huge).
If your parents happen to be very liberal/nature-loving and also OK dropping money on small plates that are delicious but tiny, book a table at the all-sustainable, eco-friendly, growing-your-food-in-its-own-greenhouse Perennial. The space is gorgeous, the cocktails are strong and tasty, and you can all pat yourselves on the back for fighting climate change with your cauliflower toast.
Everybody likes pizza. And if you don’t, get out. The pizza at this neighborhood spot (which you’ll cut with scissors) is some of the best in the city, and the small plates and pastas are excellent as well. Just make sure Mom and Dad bring their reading glasses and/or cellphone flashlights for the menu.
If your parents are into raw fish, Akiko’s Restaurant is the place to go. The omakase is unreal, and not as wildly expensive as some other omakase options in SF. It’s near Union Square, so if they happen to be staying there, even better. The monkfish liver will change your world. Just make sure you go to Akiko’s Restaurant, not the similarly named Akiko’s Sushi Bar nearby.
Maybe your parents requested steak. Or seafood. Or a 6pm dinner. Maybe they want some steak and crab at 6:30. That’s where Boboquivari’s (a.k.a. Bobo’s) comes in. It’s very old school and it’s very, very good. Extra points for the comfortable leather booths and chairs.
An ideal place to be reminded that San Francisco is on the water. Coqueta has a stunning space on the Embarcadero, so take Mom and Dad and they might stop their never-ending hints that it’s time for you to move back to Boston. Pan con tomate, albondigas, jamon - all the tapas and larger plates are superb, and hopefully your parents love you enough to let you eat the last spicy shrimp.
The California-meets-Mediterranean food at Foreign Cinema is stellar, the space is beautiful, and if you can get outdoor seats, the old movies playing on the wall are a memorable touch. Sometimes overlooked since it’s been around for a while, Foreign Cinema is always a good choice, and it’s remarkably easy to get a reservation. Also a good brunch option if you’re looking for daytime parental meals.
Strong pasta and small plates in a cute space in Russian Hill. If you have siblings or aunts and uncles in tow, or just a very hungry gene pool, the family-style menu is a good way to get a little bit of everything. And maybe even have some leftovers to take home.
Popovers, popovers, popovers. Try not to stuff your face with these despite their insane addictiveness. Wayfare Tavern is perfect for anyone craving traditional American food - there’s an awesome burger, a solid steak, and quality sides. Their mac and cheese will make you nostalgic for childhood (if your mom made mac and cheese like Tyler Florence, who owns this place).