NEW YORK CITY — Meeting your sweetheart's mom and dad for the first time can turn some people into an emotional wreck. Questions abound: What if they hate you? What if you hate them?
Why make an already stress-laden situation worse by worrying about whether your beloved's parents like the restaurant, too? Here's a look at brunch spots that reliably offer great food, comfortable dining rooms, professional service, and other parent-pleasing features.
Address: 248 Fifth Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn
Hours: Brunch is served 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Best for brunching with the parents because: Nestled in the heart of Park Slope, al di la is perfect for showing skeptical parents that moving to Brooklyn with your boyfriend was a great decision.
When 32-year-old Prospect Heights resident Cameron Pearson and his new wife wanted to celebrate with their parents after their wedding, Pearson chose al di la, an Italian trattoria with a cozy dining room at 248 Fifth Ave. in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The restaurant had special meaning for Pearson and his wife because they ate there often when they were first dating, but he knew it would go over well with their parents.
"The atmosphere is pleasant and they don't rush you," Pearson said as he headed into the restaurant for brunch on a recent Saturday. "You're not squeezed [into tables], so that's good for parents." And while the handmade pastas and seasonal salads please restaurant critics, the food isn't intimidating or too trendy, which works well for parents with traditional tastes."
Al di la doesn't take reservations, and the crowd can spill onto the sidewalk at dinner time. But brunch is usually less crowded, making it a safe bet for parents who won't want to stand in line, said food writer Devra Ferst, who was meeting a friend there for brunch recently.
"It's nice and quiet enough that you can have a real conversation," Ferst said. "The food is delicious and the service is always going to be good, so that's not going to be an issue."
Best to eat: You can't go wrong with the handmade pastas, like ricotta cavatelli with braised greens, lemony goat cheese and Parmigiano.
The al di la brunch menu changes frequently, but Ferst recommended the restaurant's "amazing" pastas, the polenta topped with mushrooms and eggs, and the grilled fish sandwich with lemon aioli, arugula, cucumber and pickled onion.
Address: 72 W. 69th St., Upper West Side, Manhattan
Hours: 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays; 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Sundays.
Best for brunching with the parents because: You can show parents what seasonal, farm-to-table food is all about in an elegant restaurant that's not too stuffy, then stroll around the Upper West Side afterward.
Chef Bill Telepan says his namesake restaurant on the Upper West Side gets plenty of "meet the parents" groups because it balances fine dining with a casual atmosphere.
Unlike some restaurants where there's a line out the door for brunch, Telepan doesn't try to pack the house (reservations are recommended), and diners are allowed to take their time if they want, he said. The knowledgeable staff puts diners at ease with a friendly, yet professional demeanor, he said.
"It's very relaxed, but we like to think the quality is there," Telepan said. "We don't get (diners) in then get them out. We think it's special because you can come and relax and it's thoughtful and creative and fun."
Situated inside two townhouses with working fireplaces on the leafy corner of West 69th Street and Columbus Avenue, Telepan is known for using ingredients from local farmers markets.
Best to eat: The crepes, Chef Telepan's signature smoked trout dish, biscuits and gravy with housemade breakfast sausage and poached eggs, and a "fallen pancakes" souffle with brown sugar bacon huckleberry syrup.
The food blog Serious Eats said Telepan's blintzes were among the best in the city. For traditionalists, there's the "Upper West Sider" — a platter of Absolute bagels, smoked salmon, whitefish salad, gravlax and soft scrambled eggs. The cocktail line-up includes standbys like Bloody Marys, but Telepan's current favorite is the Tequila Fresca, made with house-infused grapefruit tequila, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit, lime juice, and soda. "It's delicious," he said.
Address: In Central Park at the Mineral Springs Pavilion in the middle of the park at 69th Street, Manhattan
Hours: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. seven days a week. The restaurant closes at 4 p.m. during the winter.
Best for brunching with the parents because: If your significant other's parents are out-of-towners visting New York to meet you and see the sights, try brunch at the Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park, where the chain restaurant prices are easy on the budget for tourists suffering sticker shock, and the Central Park views make for a pleasing backdrop. It's also open at 7 a.m., which makes it a good choice for early risers.
Assistant manager Diego Luna said Le Pain Quotidien's Central Park location regularly attracts couples meeting each other's parents.
"It happens all the time," Luna said. "You can tell it's their first time meeting. You sit them down, and they're like, 'Oh my God, we’re finally able to meet.' Then they say, 'Oh this is such a nice place.' Usually you see smiles and laughs."
Luna contends that Le Pain Quotidien has a good track record of fostering happy relations between newly introduced parental units and boyfriend and girlfriends. "If you come to Le Pain, you'll get approved," Luna joked.
Best to eat: Toasted Paris ham and Gruyère croissant with mustard.
Le Pain's menu offers plenty of "comfort food" items such as tarts and brownies that could calm nervous stomachs, Luna added, and it also has platters including the Mediterranean Plate with hummus, babaganoush and quinoa tabouleh that can help break the ice because they're meant to be shared.
"You can start a conversation just by sharing some food," Luna said.
Address: 142 W. 65th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan
Hours: Brunch is served Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Best for brunching with the parents because: Lincoln is a good choice for special occasions such as telling your parents you're engaged. Also good for generous parents who delight in picking up the tab at nice restaurants.
The restaurant's setting is quite striking, and will go over well with architecture buffs. It's housed inside a glass cube with a grass lawn for a roof. The window-walled dining room smack in the heart of Lincoln Center offers excellent people watching, which can serve as a conversation starter should there be an awkward lull. The restuarant is a popular choice for people headed to or coming from performances at Lincoln Center.
Online reviewers have said the spacious seating makes sense for parents.
Best to eat: Try Lincoln's take on ham and eggs — "maiale e ouvo" — pork belly, poached eggs, butterball potatoes and carrots.
For brunch there's a two-course $32 prix fixe menu. Recommended dishes include the braised eggs al pomodoro and the freshly baked pastries, which can be washed down with selections from the prosecco bar, or cocktails such as the Fragoli Cosmopolitano (wild strawberry liqueur and fresh lime.)
Address: 149 Broadway, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Hours: Brunch is only on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Best for brunching with the parents because: Dressler lets parents who've read about a trendy neighborhood called Williamsburg see it for themselves without being outnumbered by 22-year-olds in high-waisted hot pants and bowler hats.
Williamsburg is known for ironic handlebar-moustache-wearing hipsters, but the restaurant Dressler at 149 Broadway lets this ultra trendy neighborhood show off another side: a high quality dining experience that's not too pretentious.
That makes Dressler a great spot for meeting the parents — they'll love the classy vibe, and you'll be at ease on your home turf, not far from the M train. As one Zagat reviewer put it, "Williamsburg enters adulthood, in this superb beautiful restaurant, with an excellent New American menu and perfect service... Bring your parents if they complained you live in a dump!"
Another online commenter called Dressler a great place to "impress the parents or in-laws who don't 'get' your neighborhood."
Manager Jacqueline Carson says she frequently sees younger neighborhood residents bringing their parents in for brunch. "It sort of crosses that gap of being a neighborhood choice as well as a destination, so it does have a special quality," Carson said. "It's nice to bring your parents to a place that maybe you don't get to go to all the time."
Dressler's dining room is "elegant" yet comfortable for everyone, giving it cross-generational appeal, Carson said.
"The service is a little more polished," Carson said. "It's a slightly different atmosphere than some of the other restaurants in the neighborhood. It's warm and gracious, but it's also lively and fun."
Best to eat: Crispy baby artichokes with baby arugula, shaved parmesan, lemon and creamy garlic dressing.
Tasty choices on the brunch menu include The Dressler, the restaurant's take on eggs Benedict, with poached eggs served on crispy potato galette, and a stuffed brioche French toast with pecans, chocolate, creme fraiche and ricotta, Carson said.
Dressler recently unveiled some new cocktails, including The Stackhouse: Kraken five spice rum, fresh beet juice, lime and habanero. "We just came up with it and we were like, this could be the best thing we've ever done, or it could be really gross. We were pleasantly surprised," Carson said.
Read more about New York Neighborhood Brunching here.