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Help! Where to Feed Dull Suburbanites?

Guys ...

I really need your help here.

Family members that I have not seen in twenty years are coming to visit from a suburban Midwestern city and they will want to go out to eat somewhere this weekend.

I am terrified.

History has shown again and again that all of my worst fears come true where family members are concerned.

What in the world do I do with these people? They are in their mid-fifties and are likely neither well-cultured nor well-traveled. I think it would be nice to show them something New York-y, but it can't be too unusual or authentic to the degree that will turn them off. Maybe something safe, non-threatening, something that evokes "New York" but doesn't challenge the comfort-level of people who are more comfortable walking around a shopping mall than an urban street.

I'm pretty sure that something like Katz's for lunch would be too "suspicious" and "weird" for them, even.

No Asian food ...

I was thinking maybe some place in Times Square where we can have better-than-average Italian food and enough liquor to "put me under" for the most painful parts of the entertaining experience. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with any of these joints ... and I also want to make sure that we don't feel like we're being hurried along to make room for the schedules of theater-goers.

Also, probably better to go someplace "popular" rather than "obscure."

Any ideas?

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  1. I normally wouldn't recommend this first, but getting your picture, they would probably enjoy Shun Lee (across from Lincoln Center) because it is Noo Yawk visually and the Asian food is good.
    If they don't like Asian, I would suggest Vice Versa for Italian (my favorite anyway) or Esca for seafood.
    Both evoke the NY image but are not challenging to hesitant visitors.

    1 Reply
    1. re: idia

      I was going to recommend either Vice Versa or ectetera etcetera. http://www.etcrestaurant.com/index2.htm

      Etc Etc is very good, classy enough with traditional Italian food. But good enough that you will like it. I went here when I was in town last Christmas and really enjoyed the food...especially considering the other stuff in the area which can be very touristy or hit or miss.

      You really think Katz or Stage Deli would be too far out there for them? They could get just the normal turkey or tuna sandwich and not venture out to the "strange and bizarre" pastrami or chopped liver world.

      How about something like Shake Shack or one of the other excellent burger joints in NY? I mean you can't get any simpler then a damn fine burger. Unless of course they don't eat meat lol.

      Or you can try something neighborhoody like Clinton Street Bakery which has great comfort food and then you can walk around the Lower East Side.

      I would suggest Stanton Social Club since its very New York with great cuisine that's stylized but not too far out there but they might not get the whole twist and take on some of the foods if they are really far from being foodies.

      Another suggestion would just be a great NY steak restaurant. Very meat and potatoes middle america while still showing them a nice night on the town.

    2. I feel your pain. How about Bond 45 or Houston's both are basically what you are describing, big box places with decent food but aren't as bad as the large national chain places. My gut feeling is to ease them into a more new york scene with places like Les Halles (it is french but meat and potatos are universal) or a gastro pub or new american type place.

      1. Heck, take them for lunch at John's Pizzeria...Good pizza...Easy dining experience..

        1 Reply
        1. My frequent visitors from the Midwest are often put off by New York prices and the eccentricity of food here. So I was relatively unsurprised when my last visitors made a beeline for Becco off of Times Square. While I refused to eat there (stubbornly waiting at a bar down the street during their 2-hour feeding), they had a meal of unlimited pastas at a Lidia Bastianich restaurant, which they raved about endlessly. The ambience is classic, the prices are low and the food is familiar and unlimited! It's a Midwestern Night's Dream. For a step below, I know a few Jersey boys who celebrate life's special ocassions at Tony Di Napoli's or Carmine's, but I think of those places as nice Olive Gardens.

          -----
          Becco
          355 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10010

          6 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            Carmine's, maybe a Village Italian like Monte's or Villa Mosconi.

            1. re: JungMann

              I second everything Jungmann said about Becco.
              Perfect!

              1. re: idia

                Actually Becco does sound pretty good ... I have no problem with unlimited pasta either, even if mediocre.

                1. re: foodmonk

                  Pasta at Becco is homemade and quite good. If they offer a ravioli as one of the 3 pastas -- pass on the others and stick with the ravioli! It's usually excellent especially around the fall when they sometimes have the butternut squash ravioli. The special at lunch is called Sinfonia di Pasta -- it also includes either the Caesar Salad or Antipasto --- I always choose the antipasto - it is quite good, usually comes with a small side of octopus salad and or a salt cod brandade (the Italian version of course!) Abundant bread basket with focaccia included. Desserts are also very good there as is the espresso.

                  1. re: Jill Brazil

                    A lot of the non-pasta dishes at Becco are OK too. Often quite a bit better than the pasta (the quality of which can vary widely, and is often dependent on your distance from the kitchen). It's not a great restaurant by any means, and it is cramped and loud in true NYC style, but it's hardly Olive Garden (or Carmine's) and is pretty good and reasonable for the theater district, so I'm not at all sure why one would refuse to eat there unless one was so put off by Lidia's Food Network stardom that they would pass up a decent meal. The $25 wine list is also a comfort to folks scared by big NYC wine lists at big NYC prices. The one caveat is that it's much more an Italian restaurant than an Italian-American one, and I've been with Italian-Americans from the suburbs who found the food difficult and overly fancy and would have really preferred a Carmine's or Tony DiNapoli's type experience.

              2. re: JungMann

                Bravo to you for refusing to eat at Becco, and stubbornly waiting at a bar down the street during their two hour feeding! And where do they get these crazy ideas about eccentricity? You tool. : )

              3. The original comment has been removed
                1. Houstons would be perfect. Tons of good American fare to choose from, lots of booze for you.

                  1. I guess some of the steakouses too if you are willing to spend some cash.

                    1. re: tautog

                      This is always my solution to hosting well-off but food-cautious Midwestern relatives. Gives me a chance to score a nice steak too. I find that a place like Keen's always goes over best.