Visits from your non-New Yorker family members can be rough—everyone wants to ride a Citi Bike to the Statue of Liberty and eat a Magnolia cupcake outside Sarah Jessica Parker's apartment. When it comes to dining, though, your out-of-town relatives give you an excuse to check out some of the kitschier, boisterous tourist spots you might shun with your hipper city friends, along with a few perhaps slightly-more-expensive high-end restaurants, too. Here are our favorite places to take visiting family members; we know you'll leave yours in the comments.
L&B SPUMONI GARDENS: Pizza is everywhere in this city, but you must drag your relatives out to this famed Gravesend spot for a classic Sicilian slice. These thick, cheesey, tomatoey squares are the restaurant's specialty, and they even put their own spin on the delicacy by spreading tomato sauce on top of the cheese instead of underneath it. $20 will get you a 12-square pie and $38 will get you a full 24-square pie; sit at one of the restaurant's outdoor picnic tables in the summer and order a creamy pistachio spumoni ($5) to top off your meal. L&B isn't exactly a tourist spot so much as a spectacular pizza restaurant, so expect a good mix of locals and out-of-towners when you bring the family by.
L&B Spumoni Gardens is located at 2725 86th Street between 10th and 11th Streets in Gravesend, Brooklyn (718-449-1230, spumonigardens.com).
LA MELA: Little Italy may be slowly disappearing into a Mario Batali-spearheaded abyss, but you should still take Uncle Nick and Aunt Julia to this old-school checkered tablecloth-ed Mulberry Street ristorante for a slightly kitschier experience. Dishes here are best served family-style, with prix-fixe menus boasting heaping platters of pastas, entrees and antipasti that are heavy on the garlic and red sauce; you and your relatives can opt for a three course family-style menu ($22 per person), five courses ($35 per person), and two boozy seven-course menus ($60 for unlimited wine and beer, $75 for unlimited wine, beer and top-shelf liquor). Feast like a touristy king on veal francaise, ravioli and mozzarella and tomatoes; save some room for gelato or chocolate-dipped tartufo for dessert. Oh, and there's a giant salami penis light fixture hanging from the restaurant's ceiling. Your grandparents will love it.
La Mela is located at 167 Mulberry Street between Broome and Grand Streets in Little Italy (212-431-9493, lamelaristorante.com)
Courtesy ronnyg's flickr
KATZ'S DELICATESSEN: Yeah, Katz's Deli is usually overrun with tourists and people who think they're really clever when they tell the person behind the counter, "I'll have what she's having." (You are hilarious, sir, and a true original). But it's also one of the city's most cherished icons, and, hell, the food isn't half bad, either.
Take Mom and Pop in for a hot, hand-carved pastrami-on-rye ($17), or dive into a cold, savory tongue sandwich ($17); the sandwiches are so stuffed you guys can split them with a side of cole slaw ($5) or a couple of hot sweet potato knishes ($5.25). If you're lucky, you and your folks might even catch a When Harry Met Sally-inspired fake orgasm flash mob on the move.
Katz's Deli is located at 205 East Houston Street at Ludlow Street (212-254-2246, katzsdelicatessen.com).
WOLFGANG'S STEAKHOUSE: If your cousin Jack starts blathering on about shoving "a real New York strip steak" down his throat, reserve a spot at this carnivore-friendly mini-chain, where your family can devour big slabs of meaty steaks and sides in beef-eating harmony. Dinners at Wolfgang's come at a hefty price, with each steak hovering around the $50 mark at minimum; but the dry-aged cuts are tender, juicy and dangerously filling, and you only
suffer through hang with your kin every so often, right?
If steak's not someone in your group's thing, they've also got a selection of seafood dishes and salads, along with shrimp and lobster cocktail appetizers and a bevy of sides to supplement your entree. Plus, the new Times Square location's in the heart of the theater district, making it a prime spot for a bite pre-or-post Broadway show.
Wolfgang's Steakhouse has four locations in Manhattan, including one in Times Square, Tribeca, Park Avenue and Midtown East; check out their website for more details and reservations.
Courtesy Angela Radulescu's flickr
JACKSON DINER: If your family's down for a little outer-borough travel, take them to this popular Jackson Heights spot, where they can sample platefuls of savory Indian food. On weekdays, the restaurant runs a lunch buffet special, with meat plates running $9.95 and vegan plates running $10.45 per-person. Dinners are served a la carte, with popular dishes like the tangy lamb vindaloo ($12), tandoori chicken ($10) and vegetarian specials like cheesy Sag Paneer ($10). Dishes are easily shared, and best paired with a couple orders of warm, fluffy nan ($2.50). Don't plan on eating anything else for the rest of the week.
Jackson Diner is located at 3747 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens (718-672-1232, jacksondiner.com).
COMMERCE: Whether you love brunch or pray that it dies a slow, painful food fad death, the controversial meal is a pretty good way to get the whole family together while leaving the evening free for ample drinking-the-family-away time. Commerce, a convivial restaurant located on a very charming L-shaped street in the West Village, boasts a stellar brunch deal on Sundays. Plus, they take reservations, so you won't be stuck on line with a bunch of starving relatives for hours and hours and hours, sans a Bloody Mary.
Noteworthy dishes include an egg white omelet with brussels sprouts, cheddar cheese and bacon ($17), pita with scrambled eggs, parsley and hummus ($16) and a crispy croque madame with ham, gruyere and sunny side up eggs ($17). And if you're swinging by for dinner instead, they've got a killer bread basket stuffed with everything from pretzel rolls to raisin breads to rolls filled with bacon.
Commerce is located at 50 Commerce Street between Barrow and Bedford Streets in the West Village (212-524-2301, commercerestaurant.com).
SUSHI ZEN: NYC doesn't skimp out when it comes to sushi, and this Midtown destination serves up some pretty mindblowing raw fish rolls and the like. They're conveniently located close to Times Square, which is another plus if your family's dragging you to an 8 p.m. showing of Pippin (no, but actually Pippin is awesome, and you should see it if you haven't already). The dishes are expensive, but go far beyond your standard ol' California and Spicy Tuna rolls; $45 gets you nine pieces of fresh, premium rolls, like King Crab and sockeye salmon, while the Omakase Roll combination ($59) boasts a chef's choice of seven rolls, serving 2 to 3 people. And Sushi Zen's into the risky stuff, too; they've been approved to serve FDA certified fugu, or pufferfish, which has to be sliced in a special way so as not to poison the diner. Order a pricy plate and tell your grandpa Homer to live a little.
Sushi Zen is located at 108 West 44th Street between 6th Ave and Broadway in Midtown West (212-302-0707, sushizen-ny.com).
(Flickr User Mellow Madness)
THE LOEB BOATHOUSE: You might have to save this one for a springtime or summer visit, but Central Park's resident boathouse restaurant is a solid spot for midday lakeside eating with out-of-towners, assuming all those sexual harassment issues have been dealt with accordingly by now. Though the food here isn't necessarily exceptional considering the high price, it's fun to watch visiting boaters paddle by you while you munch on lunch dishes like herb-roasted filet mignon cob salad ($28) and lemon oregano roasted salmon ($28). They've also got a weekend brunch option boasting dishes like eggs benedict with Irish-smoked bacon ($18), a warm quiche Lorraine ($18) and challah french toast ($18); pre-or-post meal, your family members can rent boats or bikes for a little afternoon recreation.
The Loeb Boathouse is located in Central Park near East 72nd Street and Fifth Ave (212) 517-2233, thecentralparkboathouse.com).
KUM GANG SAN: Between the big food galleries and busy barbecue joints, bustling Koreatown's another fun spot to take the family. And Kum Gang San, with its spectacular waterfall at the entrance and unending menu options, is a great place to bring a big, noisy gang, even if the food's not quite as refined as some of the other options on the 32nd Street strip. Noteworthy dishes include the seafood pajun appetizer ($10.95), a crispy pancake made with chopped seafood and scallions; the Bul Go Ki ($27), a meat dish made with thinly sliced ribeye and tangy sauce that's barbecued right at your table; and the Spicy Samgyupsal ($24), a grilled pork belly dish cooked in a fiery sauce. The dishes are meant to be shared, so order a little of everything and feast 'til your stomach's on fire.
Kum Gang San is located at 49 West 32nd Street between 5th Ave and Broadway in Koreatown (212-967-0909, kumgangsan.net).
Courtesy Harris Graber's flickr
NOM WAH TEA PARLOR: Nom Wah's had some issues lately, what with a severed sewer pipe shutting it down for a few weeks back in June. But flood or no flood, it's still one of our favorites in the city for dim sum, and though it's not quite as "authentic" as some of Chinatown, Flushing or Sunset Park's spots, Nom Wah's still a tasty, entertaining experience for a family crew. Favorites include the shrimp rice rolls, pork buns, steamed spare ribs and pan-fried turnip plate, and meals usually clock in at about $20 per person. Post-dining, take a look around Doyers Street for a quick history lesson; Nom Wah's located right on the street's "bloody angle," a major murder hot spot in New York back in the 19th century.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor is located at 13 Doyers Street between Bowery and Chatham Square in Chinatown (212-962-6047, nomwah.com).