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Aug 11, 2009 10:02 AM

recommendation for family dinner with difficult-to-assimilate food preferences?

Hi all--I'm posting in hopes of finding a recommendation for a challenging family dinner. My fiance and I are planning to take our parents out to dinner a few days before our wedding; the purpose of the dinner is to thank our parents for their generosity, so we really want to find a place where everyone can feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.

That's where the trouble starts. Our parents include:

--my dad, who has travelled a ton, eaten everything everywhere, likes fancier places, and can be something of a food snob at times.

--my mom and my stepdad, who like small ethnic restaurants and are kind of reverse restaurant snobs--if I take them to a restaurant that has any decor beyond, say, formica and a supplier's wall calendar, they're guaranteed to spend at least part of the meal complaining that the place is overrated and/or overpriced and they could make the exact same dishes at home.

--my future in-laws, who are very, very, profoundly New Englanders. Due to extreme politeness and a mortal terror of wasting food they will eat everything that's put in front of them, but there are very few cuisines that they would consider comfortable and familiar. Home cooking is usually meat, potatoes, some vegetables boiled beyond recognition and pie. My fiance claims they enjoy the occasional Chinese dinner, but they must be eating egg foo yung or something because we took them out to dim sum in NYC and it was a disaster.

Can anybody recommend a cuisine (or, even better, a specific restaurant) where all of these people might find happiness? We were thinking of giving up and cooking for them at home, but we will have relatives staying there so that's out now. We do have a few other constraints (in case the ones I just listed weren't enough): we're having middle eastern food (after much discussion of whether future in-laws would not be alarmed at the presence of olive oil) at the reception so are hoping to avoid that at the dinner; we're hoping to find a place that's quiet enough for older adults to have a conversation since his parents will be meeting my dad for the first time; we're hoping to stay around $50/head but can definitely be flexible; we're hoping to stay within a 30-minute (driving) radius of DC.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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  1. The gang might do well at the recently opened Blue Ridge in Glover Park. I think it might fulfill everyone's needs/desires. The patio area is lovely and should be quiet enough for all to talk freely. The wine program is also very good and should help you achieve the price point you're after.

    Not sure when the wedding is, but part of the fun for you might be trying, in advance, all the spots people end up recommending here.

    1. I might also consider Present or Four Sisters- they are both vietnamese which might at first scare your in laws, but Vietnamese food is very comforting and fresh and you could suggest some dishes you think they might like. The food snob should be impressed and the non-food snobs will probably like that it is ethnic and different.

      I don't know about the noise though as I don't really pay attention to that.

      Other suggestions: Liberty Tavern- very good classic food in the middle, upstairs isn't as loud as downstairs, but the food is well thought out enough to impress a food snob.

      The bar at Palena would be great if they would give you a reservation for a table, but they don't really do that.

      Sonoma- a little fancy, but not too fancy pretty reasonable food prices, interesting but not alarming food and a very nice affordable wine list.

      You could Poste- you could even do a Poste roast out on the patio it has simple but very good food, is pretty affordable and not pretentious, but fun- perhaps don't order the whole pig though perhaps salmon or poussin or brisket?

      As a note if your parents start in on one of their tangents a nice but swift change of conversation is never inappropriate. Hopefully they will realize that this dinner is more about forming relationships than eating food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ktmoomau

        I second Liberty Tavern- ktmoomau is right, the food is good enough to impress a "foodie", but it's locally owned and has a nice, neighborhoody feel that your other guests would probably appreciate. The food is also very good and straight-forward. I highly reccommed the roasted chicken w/ mashed potatoes. Not a huge menu but they seem to cram a lot of selection into it. Starters are more adventurous but the mains are a lot of classics really well done. I think it'd be perfect. LT is in Clarendon, right off the Orange Line metro stop at Clarendon.

      2. ray's the steaks might fit your needs well :) it's good steaks for the food snob in your dad, minimal decor/low-keyness for your mom and stepdad, and meat and potatoes simple familiar food for your future in-laws.

        1 Reply
        1. re: littlew1ng

          And they have great key lime pie- good suggestion.

        2. What about Addie's in Rockville. The exterior is very unassuming and the interior feels like an old country house (but with an elegant touch). If you tell your mom and stepdad that it is a hidden gem, they will probably believe you. Although the price point might throw them for a loop. The food is wonderful, traditional, and not ethnic/experimental at all.

          Addie's Restaurant
          11120 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852

          1. The Tabard Inn is lovely, and I think the menu would fit everyone's needs.