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Where to take hard-to-impress mom on Saturday? Help!

  • m

I need your help Chowhounds!
My mom is coming to visit for a couple days from the midwest (where she's lived for 20-odd years but she's originally from Russia) and I want to take her out to dinner Saturday night. Someplace downtown (east or west village preferably), mid-priced to slightly expensive (entrees in the 25-30 dollar range). Problem is, she rarely goes out to eat and is hardly ever impressed by restaurants because she sees the food as something she can cook at home for less money (fish and pasta especially). This is a woman who once called Italian food, "noodles with ketchup." No, I'm not kidding. People with eastern european families, you can probably relate.

So please offer your suggestions for places with food and atmosphere she may be impressed by. She's not into spicy food, sushi or indian. I've already tried taking her to a nice Russian restaurant (response: "This isn't true Russian food, and it's overpriced"). Weirdly, she did like the atmosphere and food at SEA in Williamsburg, but we went at lunch when it wasn't a madhouse, and the food there is americanized and sweet, not properly spicy. I was thinking of Do Hwa for the atmosphere and the she-can't-cook-it-at-home factor, but I worry that everything will be too spicy. I'm at my wits end thinking of a place. I'm about to give up and wish for the best at Hearth because I like it. Help!

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  1. i'd recommend Lupa...she doesn't have to get the pasta (although it might change her "noodles&ketchup" notion)...you can get a bunch of vegetable and meat and seafood antipasti and the lamb chops, which are a Saturday special...with all the antipasti there, she's sure to like something...

    another possibility is The Elephant, on E.1st St....it's Thai-French fusion...tasty and not too spicy...the shrimp dumplings in red chili oil are yummy...and the duck confit is excellent...

    a third option is La Nacional for Spanish food on 14th...tapas, squid ink paella, and an excellent wine list...cute, cozy, lowkey...

    1. how about WD-50?
      definitely not dishes you'd make at home.

      1. Mary's Fish Camp has an electric New York Vibe. The food has that just pulled out of the ocean quality. Acquiring a table can be a hassle however.

        1. If she's going to be picky no matter what, why not go someplace that's guaranteed to satisfy you? I say, go to Hearth and wish for the best...

          1. thanks all. I love lupa and mary's fish camp, but with lupa, I worry that she'll just think the antipasti are the same cheeses and meats she can find at her grocery store (even though they're so not), and with Mary's, she might scoff at lack of atmosphere and tell me she could just fry up a fish at home. Sigh. WD-50 is out, since I know she's not that adventurous, and, oh yeah, she tends to comment on the small portion sizes in NYC anyway. She's a toughie, and definitely not a chowhound. I don't mean to make her sound like a total curmudgeon, but she's always been skeptical of anyone providing a product or service...she thinks people are always trying to gyp each other. She just doesn't appreciate a caringly-prepared meal and great service like we do. I don't know how I turned out so different. The Elephant and La Nacional are good suggestions...although I've never been to either, I've been meaning to go (especially La Nacional), and will look into them (and maybe we will just end up at Hearth). Thanks!