When I go out with my parents for a nice occasion, I look for 3 things:
1. Expensive (or rather, expensive by my standards)
I usually choose somewhere only slightly above my own price point (what I would consider a reasonable price for a meal in NYC) that way it doesn’t seem like I’m being obnoxious by picking a Michelin Star restaurant that will cost a fortune but I’m still getting food I wouldn’t normally be able to have.
2. Drinks, Good Ones
I also like to drink a lot more than normal, because free – so good cocktails are usually a selling point.
Lastly, I want the atmosphere to be nice – not too casual, but not suit-wearing either. I’m going for charming, but not in the, “oh this is rustic and hipster” kind of charming because those are usually the places I can afford on my own, thanks.
So when a friend texted me the other day essentially asking:
“You know a lot about restaurants. Where is a good place to go with my parents and family for a birthday dinner in Williamsburg?”
My immediate answer was, “nowhere,” not because there are no delicious places to eat in Williamsburg, but because they don’t fit the 3 criteria above. The problem is that Williamsburg is filled with many high quality and delicious restaurants that tend to be on the more casual side in addition to being small, unable to accommodate large parties, and reasonably priced. These are none of the things one wants when going out to dinner with one’s parental units! Of course there are some super expensive restaurants in Williamsburg, but they’re not that great, generally speaking.
“But where should I go to dinner with my parents then?” you must be wondering. Well read on, reader.
Neighborhood: Technically Brooklyn Heights but on the cusp of Cobble Hill
Address: 127 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Cuisine: “American Nouveau”
Colonie is everything you could want in a parental restaurant – walking distance from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (amazing views of the city – check!), cozy atmosphere (wood and plants – check), and a menu ideal for sharing. It has a strong focus on using local ingredients, and the chef, originally from Maine, experiments with heirloom vegetables in his home garden (nearly extinct varieties of veggies that our American ancestors used to eat) so always keep your eye out for heirloom produce on the menu!
Summary: There is a sommelier, fantastic cocktails, and only small batch, artisanal whiskey (ha!). Small plates are better than main dishes – maintain a 3 small plates for every main dish ratio. Duck Rillette Crostini is a must along with the pasta on the menu.
2. Buttermilk Channel
Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens
Address: 524 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Cuisine: New American
Oh Buttermilk Channel, you are so good – serving Chicken and Waffles to Brooklyn before Southern Food made it’s hip comeback and took over all of Williamsburg! It also has a very cute, Brooklyn centric story behind its name as documented by Walt Whitman (read more in the detailed review). While Carroll Gardens is home to many parent friendly restaurants, Buttermilk Channel has been around much longer than other favorites like Battersby and Prime Meats. It is also incredibly consistent and presents a menu that is both interesting and comforting at the same time.
DEAL ALERT: If you want to stay on a budget, Monday night there is a $30 3 course tasting menu. Did you read that? $30 for 3 courses! AMAZING. Also Tuesday is free corkage, aka bring your own bottle of wine night.
3. Frankies 457 (& Prime Meats)
Neighborhood: Caroll Gardens
Address: 457 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
“Service would be attentive, but never pretentious. Wines would be food-friendly and a great value, so there would be no reason not to like the place,” reads the restaurant’s website in the About section, and it’s a perfect little summary. Frankies 457 is a neighborhood Italian restaurant done to perfection. Everything on the menu is delectable and the backyard seating area is exquisite. The backyard is shared with Prime Meats (German inspired Farm to Table food) next door, which is owned by the same team as Frankies. Who owns Frankies? Two guys named Frank who grew up as neighbors in Queens, I’m not joking. You can even find the Franks on Vice’s series Munchies and watch them hang out with Martha Stewart and pretty much every other famous chef in the world. If you go to Frankies you know you’ll be getting fresh, delicious, and simple Italian cooking no matter what you order.
4. Bistro Petit
Neighborhood: South Williamsburg
Address: 774 Driggs Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Cuisine: Modern Day French with a Korean Twist
Ok, ok, so this is in Williamsburg, I realize that. It’s kind of cheating because it’s not exactly perfect for dinner with your parents as the restaurant is incredibly small. We’re talking like 10 seats, they’re not lying about the petit part. But hey, that’s intimate right? With size aside, the food is absolutely fantastic. It’s inventive and good, yet hearty, the kind of food that only a Korean born chef that was classically trained by great French chefs could make. The Korean Beef Bourguignon is everything.
Some tips: It’s BYOB as in bring your own booze. Chef Park refuses to serve tap water because he says the taste of tap water will tarnish the taste of his food. While that infuriates me because I have to pay for bottled water now, you have to respect the man’s dedication to his craft and the way his creations hit your tastebuds. Plus, since it’s BYOB you can technically bring your own water…
5. Vinegar Hill House
Neighborhood: Vinegar Hill
Address: 72 Hudson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Cuisine: New American
Ever heard of Freemans? It’s a pretty epic Manhattan restaurant and it’s where husband and wife owners of Vinegar Hill House both worked when they met. Vinegar Hill House is basically Freemans of Brooklyn but a little more home-y and a little more Brooklyn. Think woodside cottage instead of big game hunting mansion. Vinegar Hill house has been a staple in the BK for a long time. I haven’t had the best meals of my life here but a lot of people claim that they do. It’s a solid experience overall. Once I got a dessert there that had birch foraged from the woods by a forager. I thought that sounded so insanely Brooklyn that I had to get it. Expecting the worst, it actually ended up being my favorite part of my meal! GO FORAGER!
(for if you REALLY want to eat in Williamsburg)
- Traif, South Williamsburg
Honestly one of my favorite restaurants and great for dinner with parents. It’s a small plate situation and everything is crazy inventive! The downside is the area it’s in is just…..ugly. My dad thought I was taking him somewhere sketchy at first but then of course loved Traif in the end.
- Allswell, North Williamsburg
Usually can’t go wrong here. The Chicken Sandwich is the one and the menu changes daily. The downside is it’s a gastropup and therefore is super casual. I see people take their parents here, but it doesn’t meet my 3 requirements.
- St. Anselm, Williamsburg (Metropolitan)
Steak lovers dream best known for their cheap hangar steak smothered in garlic butter. Makes a cheap steak taste like an expensive steak. However, it’s impossible to get a seat. No seriously, good luck.
- Lachlan, Williamsburg (Graham Ave.)
This used to be Gwynette St. which was a perfect place to go with parents. But now it is Lachlan, a less perfect place to go with parents. The chef from Gwynette St. left and the chef from Allswell came on over. It’s really good, just casual and sort of in the middle of nowhere.
- Battersby, Carroll Gardens
Battersby was the new restaurant with all the hype best known for their killer kale salad. It’s definitely a little out there if your parents aren’t adventurous and it’s also difficult to get a reservation.