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Future In-Laws Coming to Town: Dad wants seafood, Mom wants "somewhere famous"

Dad wants seafood, Mom wants "somewhere famous, like Sardi's or what's that place in Grand Central" (uh, there is no famous restaurant in Grand Central?)...and I have a headache.

They're in town for a long weekend due to a wedding, and only available Friday and Saturday, August 1-2. We'll be a party of four.

Dad wants seafood, "you know, crab, lobster, fish" but not oysters or raw bar. Fiance thinks a fish shack or lobster roll place (Mary's, Pearl's, etc) won't be nice enough for them -- he wants to take them out for an upscale experience. Aquagrill may be too casual. Lure Fishbar is probably too cheesy (they go on cruises a lot) due to decor. I was thinking Le Bernardin (so long as Dad OKs the four course dinner prix fixe price) or Aquavit (while not strictly seafood it seems to have gotten some buzz lately and there is a lot of seafood on the menu). Italian (and Esca) is out. They want "French or American seafood" or similar.

So, I'm racking my brains for somewhere that will please both us (NYC foodies who love Babbo/Otto/Lupa, the Momofukus, the Blue Ribbon empire, Prune, The Modern Bar Room, Balthazar, etc.) and them (less adventurous Midwesterners who live 45 minutes outside of Milwaukee and are price-conscious...so much that Dad wasn't willing to pay more than $50-80 for a Broadway show, sigh).

Mom wants to go somewhere "famous," not like the "cute, small places we went last night." If by cute and small, I guess she means Prune, Balthazar, John's of Bleecker, and the Kuma Inn...which is where we took them previously. She requested Sardi's. We're trying to talk her into Keens or Katz's Deli.

If she insists, which is the least objectionable old school NY restaurant? 21 Club? Four Seasons? Delmonico's? One If By Land, Two If By Sea (they have a new chef who is ex-Picholine)? Mom's request for a name-brand restaurant seems at odd's with Dad's reluctance to pay, I know, so we'll probably end up treating her.

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  1. There is a "famous" restaurant in Grand Central: The Grand Central Station Oyster Bar!

    If they like Babbo/Lupa/Otto so much, then why not Esca?

    Let me think.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ulterior epicure

      The Oyster Bar was my thought too, BUT when I asked if her that was it, she said no. I seriously I have no idea what restaurant she may have confused it with.

      Oh, and we asked if they would be OK with Japanese and they aren't too keen on Asian. Sigh.

      It is myself and fiance who love Babbo, Lupa, Otto, Esca, etc. not the future in-laws. I think they might be freaked out by a Batali restaurant. They like red sauce Italian.

      I specifically asked if Italian seafood was OK and they preferred French/American.

      1. re: ulterior epicure

        Esca is a great choice. It is pricey -- but so is the Grand Central Oyster bar.

      2. Your mom is talking about Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant -- also a bit hit with my MIL. I would just take them there -- there are other seafood dishes aside from oysters ad raw bar for your dad. And I find it's just best to take your guests to where they want to go, even if it's not really your thing. You live in the city, but they are here once in a while.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          Are the non-oyster dishes at GCOB any good? My fear is that we'll go, the food will be bad, and then Dad will grumble about the cost.

          1. re: kathryn

            I haven't had the non-oyster stuff. So I'm afraid I can't tell you. I hope other people will weigh in on this thread.

            Surprising that your mom said it wasn't Grand Central Oyster Bar. Surely they couldn't be talking about Juniors?!?!?!

            Maybe BLT Fish may work. If your parents aren't too adventurous, they have whole fish just prepared with olive oil. But those preps are on the pricey side.

            Okay -- not a top tier restaurant, but what about Landmarc at the TWC? While not famous, it's located at the same mall shared by Per Se. Perhaps your MIL will think it's famous by association. Prices are very reasonable -- your FIL should be happy. Get a table by the window and they'll have a great view of Central Park.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Yeah, we told them that there's a food court, Campbell Apartment, Metrazur, a handful of others. I honestly think she must be confusing it with something like Tavern on the Green.

              I'll research BLT Fish and Landmarc, thanks!

              1. re: kathryn

                I was just going to suggest (with no snark intended) that she's confusing Central Park and Grand Central. I bet she does mean Tavern on the Green. In a similar situation, I've gone for an over-priced drink at a "famous" place, then dinner somewhere else. That usually works.

                1. re: kathryn

                  I think she's confused w/ Tavern on the Green, as well. Grand Central, Central Park...same thing ;-)

                  I'll be doing the tourist thing that same weekend...I'll look for you... I think I would recognize the "taking my parents out for dinner and trying not to stab myself in the head w/ a butter knife" look that will be on your face. My recent trip to Charleston , SC w/ my parents has made me familiar w/ the "no Italian", and "we want seafood except we don't like squid, clams, fish we've never heard of, oysters any way but fried or anything not fully cooked" school of dining. Enjoy.

                2. re: Miss Needle

                  BLT Fish was soooo yummy. So fresh and semi-famous... delicious.

                3. re: kathryn

                  The non oyster dishes are expensive and badly prepared.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Oh god no. The non-oyster offerings at GCOB are AWFUL. Seriously, terrible. I don't really care for raw oysters, but the one time I went there, I enjoyed them more than anything else we ordered, and that's saying something. It's quite expensive, too, considering the quality (or lack thereof).

                    I think Esca probably fits your bill well - I know it's an "Italian" restaurant but quite honestly I don't find their preparations to be all that different from any other high-end seafood place. Le Bernardin would be nice too. Also, I haven't been there lately, but Eleven Madison Park gets raves on this board, and while it's not strictly a seafood place, they do have great seafood preparations (from what I hear) and the space is absolutely magnificent. Jean Georges also does great things with seafood. I can also recommend Aquavit highly - we had a GREAT dinner there a couple of months ago.

                4. Beyond Le Bernardin, some of the best seafood dishes I have had in NY have actually been at Le Cirque. I think this would fit the bill perfectly. Maybe it would be a bit more than your father would like to spend, but I have always enjoyed my experiences there and think it's a great family place for a special occasion. And, they have a great mix of seafood and non-seafood.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                    The Branzino at Le Cirque is the best fish I've had in NYC in the past 2 years. However, I'm not sure midwesterners on a budget would be up for the prices.

                  2. Sounds like Le Bernadin is your best bet. It won't win any prizes for the food, but Cafe des Artistes would fit the "famous" and "French" parts of the request. Gramercy Tavern would certainly have some fish options.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cavafan

                      I think Le B may be a bit too avant-garde for them if they don't like Batali-esque restaurants. But I think Gramercy Tavern is a good choice. And Craft may work for them as well. While not in the same league as 21 or Four Seasons in terms of fame, Colicchio is pretty famous nationwide at this stage of his career.

                    2. Or the Palm for lobsters? Yuck, but would sort of fit the bill.