Your apartment has never been this clean. That questionable layer of filth on every bathroom surface has been scrubbed down, you actually did your laundry, and you’ve swapped your impressive collection of treats from Uncle Ike’s on the coffee table for a decorative bowl of fruit and a soy candle.
Your parents are coming.
Whether a visit from Mom and Dad gives you some happy nostalgia or mild to extreme anxiety, you can’t escape the fact that you’re all going to need to eat dinner. “You pick the place, we’ll eat anything!” they say, yet no statement could be further from the truth. Plus, you feel a certain responsibility to make sure the people who raised you don’t eat a terrible meal. Good news: Each place on this list is generally enjoyable to be in and good for groups (in case your brother or grandma or significant other tags along). Plus, most of them take reservations. Godspeed.
Touring the Sodo winery and brewery scene with your parents is not a bad idea. Here’s an even better idea: afterwards, get some New York-style pizza at Nine Pies. Grab a table in the garage-like space and split some quality thin-crust pies with toppings like soppressata, homemade meatballs, chili oil, and pickled peppers. Your parents will like the fact that there’s a parking lot, and you’ll like the fact that the calzones filled with herbed ricotta are delicious (particularly when dipped in the homemade buttermilk ranch). Always get an order of the pesto breadsticks and cannellini bean dip for the table, and keep the wine coming.
Your parents want someplace quiet that has a decent wine list and isn’t outrageously expensive. And they want to eat good food, of course. Pair won’t make you compromise on any of those things. The picnic baskets, red gingham drapes, and acoustic guitar soundtrack make the dining room feel like a French country farmhouse, and the menu is excellent across the board, from the fontina mac and cheese to steak frites with compound butter and red wine sauce to the true sleeper hit of this place: gigante beans with lemon, feta, rosemary, and breadcrumbs.
Nirmal’s is a great spot for an upscale Indian meal with friends, a date, or, yes, your parents. Pass around excellent small plates like chicken tikka pakoras and spicy vegetable samosas, and/or get some curry and tandoori grilled paneer. Your parents will like the bench seating lined with decorative pillows, and you will like the Moscow mules. A lot.
So you moved to Capitol Hill, and your parents are concerned about “all of the chaos and loud people coming from that Unicorn place.” Show them that the Hill isn’t just a swarm of drunk humans plus the smell of hot dog carts wafting in the night. Single Shot is a very attractive space in a little corner of the neighborhood that’s far removed from the major nightlife intersections, and the menu has everything from seasonal small plates to fish and an excellent margherita flatbread with prosciutto.
Whether or not your parents are into vegan food, they’re going to like Plum Bistro - it’s kind of a staple around here, and it feels like a classy restaurant in a well-decorated yoga studio. The meat-free, dairy-free menu has some tasty entrees, like pan-seared creole tempeh and tofu piccata. And if the only vegan thing your dad has ever eaten is french fries, point him in the direction of the panko breaded buffalo portobello sandwich with homemade ranch. The cajun “mac and yease” is also an absolute must.
Some people go camping near a babbling brook with their parents. And some people skip that nonsense and just take their parents to a restaurant that has a giant picture of a babbling brook on the wall. Enter RockCreek, a slightly upscale seafood experience in a space that’s reminiscent of that glamping cabin your mom booked one time (then cancelled). Do some oyster shooters, or grab some small plates (we love the shrimp and grits with brown butter and serrano ham), and then you really can’t go wrong with any of the entrees. If you want the babbling brook scene to feel more realistic, get a whole fish.
Joule is a nice steakhouse serving Korean fusion food, and everything here is insanely good: think geoduck seaweed fried rice, braised octopus with hot bacon vinaigrette, and a ribeye with beef belly and spicy peanut oil. Sit on the string light-covered patio, order some steaks and small plates (don’t miss the corn, or the spicy rice cakes), and for the third time, assure your mom that you really do eat breakfast every day.
Your family has requested something low-key. Ideally a place that’s pub-like, but with food that’s not jalapeño poppers and microwaved spinach artichoke dip. Plus, Dad’s been into craft cider lately, Mom only drinks “good” Riesling, and despite being hungover from last night, you’re OK with having more beer. Bramling Cross is your move - it’s a gastropub with a vintage library feel, big booths, and a menu that has everything from fried chicken to fresh pasta, all executed extremely well. Get the everything pretzels with gruyere sauce for the table.
If your parents love Italian food but have already been to Seattle’s usual suspects, take them to Raccolto. Order a few excellent housemade pastas (make sure the strozzapreti with bolognese is on the table), some small plates, and a couple of protein-heavy entrees, then enjoy the laid-back atmosphere over some cocktails and necessary family gossip.
Shaker + Spear feels like a designer furniture showroom with the lights dimmed low. It’s a little bit swanky, but you could still wear jeans and a concert tee if you really wanted. The service is excellent, there’s a big round table you can book if the whole family is around, and they serve a solid lineup of small plates (get the bruleed mac and cheese) and seafood, plus wine on tap.
Bar Del Corso doesn’t take reservations, and you’ll need to get there early in order to secure a table quickly. But despite that inconvenience, Bar Del Corso is the perfect parent-friendly spot for excellent Neapolitan pizza in a special occasion kind of setting. There are plenty of small plates like burrata and arancini (our favorite appetizer here), you get to cut the pizza with a personal pair of shears (just in case that’s something you’ve always wanted to do), and Perihelion Brewery nearby is an excellent place for a beer before or after.
If your family is made up of ravenous carnivores, you need to bring them to the best meat mecca in the city. Bateau is home to excellent steaks, killer fries (fried in beef fat), great cocktails, and an off-menu burger so perfect your pop won’t even be able to think of a good dad joke about the window full of raw cow carcasses in an otherwise elegant situation: moo-ed lighting.
When your parents ask you to choose “a nice seafood place” for them to treat you to dinner and you get those flashing cartoon dollar signs in your eyeballs, Aqua by El Gaucho is the power play. All of the dishes, from crab-stuffed halibut to cedar plank-roasted salmon, taste like if wedding catering was actually good, and the restaurant is on the waterfront, which means great bay views. Eating indoors isn’t bad either - the vibe is sophisticated but not stuffy, and there’s a pianist in-house. If you’re about to introduce Mom and Dad to the person you will probably end up marrying and you need the venue to do most of the impressing, Aqua is a good choice.
Bastille is a solid parents dinner utility move - they have a balanced mix of classic French dishes like a croque madame and stupid-good steak frites, plus more inventive stuff like a lemongrass sausage banh mi with sriracha aioli (our favorite thing here). The low lighting and bistro environment make a dinner at Bastille feel special, and you can book a table that surrounds an indoor firepit to earn bonus son/daughter points. Parents love firepits.
If being able to hear you complain about your terrible job without having to shout across the table is important to your parents, Volunteer Park Cafe is ideal. The space has a farmhouse-meets-old-school-grocery-market feel, and is also nice and quiet at night (despite the fact that it’s a madhouse during the breakfast rush). Enjoy the low-key environment with bottles of wine and pretty much anything from the American farm-to-table menu - the mini chicken pot pie and braised beef with polenta are our go-tos.
If you’re actually on top of things and are preparing for your parents’ arrival weeks in advance, The Pink Door is the part-burlesque circus, part-Italian trattoria where you should absolutely take them. It’s smack in the middle of Pike Place Market, so it’s a prime location for post-sightseeing crudo, caesar salads, and incredible housemade pastas. An order of fettunta (fancy grilled garlic bread) is mandatory for the table, and get the fresh spinach lasagna to give your parents the best day of their lives (next to the day you were born).
Junebaby is the upscale Southern spot that may have been specifically designed for impressing parents. It’s ideal for people who are picky, but still want something exciting - like holding a smoked turkey leg in one hand and a flute of champagne in the other. Come on a Friday to catch the once-a-week brisket plate, which is good for every occasion, even/especially the “you got fired and that’s OK” dinner.
If your parents are visiting from far away, Westward is not only the right thing to do - it’s also the Seattle thing to do. Book a table by the patio, but get there before your reservation so you can do Happy Hour drinks and kind-of-Mediterranean snacks (get the wood-fired gigante beans with tomato and feta) while sitting on the Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Union. Your parents will never want to leave. On second thought, maybe don’t come here at all.