It's not a special occasion, your parents just miss you and want to treat you to a good dinner and catch up. Awww. That's the best — and if your budget is stretched thin and theirs isn't, all the better. The only issue is that their criteria for dining out is completely different from your own. They like something casual; you like A-Frame. But it's their dime and they really want to spend it on you — just not sitting there waiting to get into an of-the-moment restaurant where they have to squint at the menu and can only barely hear whatever it is you're saying. Even if the food is incredible, no party is fun with someone repeatedly saying “What?” over the tapas and wine. Then again, restaurants that appeal to older clientele or businessfolk aren't much fun either.
Having lived through this scenario many times — almost always resulting in a trip to the No. 1 spot on this countdown — we've come up with a go-to list of parent-approved spots you and your friends and relatives of all ages will enjoy. Where all of the adults present can dine on lovely food and sip thoughtfully made cocktails without once having to break out the flashlight app on their smartphone to make out the menu.
Our criteria for selecting five places everyone would like wasn't so simple. Each spot needed to have easy parking, good lighting, comfortable seating, not be too loud, not serve precious portions or cause sticker shock, not be stuffy and — most of all — the food should be terrific. Right.
Sophisticated, beautifully prepared, intriguing plates in an intimate setting. Smoky-spicy shrimp and chicken in banana-chipotle sauce for you, a perfectly braised beef cheek stew for your father. Breezy parking, genteel, friendly service. Adult-child tested, mother approved. (Our mother, anyway.) 1823 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel; 626-288-7265.
Seasonal and farmers market-driven Italian food served in a beautiful room with truly attentive service. Family-run, and it shows. Nothing makes us happier. It's the kind of place people go back to again and again, for good reason. It's like home. 6001 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; 323-466-8812.
Strong martinis (because some family dinners require them), flawlessly charbroiled steaks and a feeling you've stumbled into the past. Oh, and don't skip the French onion soup. As a bonus, you can get as dressed up (our preference) or down as you like and you won't feel out of place. If Grandma wants to wear her tracksuit, no worries. Everyone is welcome. Except, maybe, vegetarians. 3361 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles; 213-382-8449.
As expected in a chic hotel, the something-for-everyone fare is dreamily executed and the service is quiet and efficient. Everything is so pretty, the light is just right for reading the simple menu and the din is kept to a minimum. The burger also happens to be outstanding. 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-358-7788.
Another Rat Pack spot where Sinatra's stardust still softly shimmers. Hoboken is the younger sibling to the more upscale Matteo's next door, but equally good, if not better. Large portions of West Coast-influenced, Italian-American dishes will make everyone smile. We've been ordering the eggplant parmesan religiously since childhood and swear it's the best in town. 2323 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-474-1109.
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