Picky parents coming!
And 1 little brother (16).
They like Italian, American, steak houses, French etc. And booze. A place w/ a specialty cocktail list would be good.
They dislike Chinese. Have never tried (nor, sadly, have any desire to) Indian, Thai, Japanese, etc.
The spotted pig was a little to weird for them, but they loved Bistro Jules.
$20 an entree. Willing to travel to other boroughs.
Sounds JUST LIKE my parents! Here are some spots I've taken them that they've enjoyed:
Peter Luger's (for lunch...for the burger)
The Stanton Social (believe it or not)
Al Di La
Artisanal (cheese, fondue, booze, frites)
Rare Bar & Grill
Blue Water Grill (brunch)
99 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002
621 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014
Blue Water Grill
31 Union Sq W Frnt A, New York, NY 10003
I'd recommend The Redhead (plenty of drinks and "normal" food like fried chicken) or Otto (very win-centric with straight forward pastas and pizzas).
And you can't go wrong with Les Halles since they like steak houses and french (Les Halles is a little of both)
15 John Street, New York, NY 10038
There is a lovely southern-Italian restaurant off the beaten track: Vesuvio @ 149 St in Whitestone, easily reachable by a car. It's a small and quiet place that serves terrific food, but nothing too fancy and not very expensive. I am not sure about their cocktail list though. There is a good bakery a few blocks down the street: don't remember the name, but outstanding cheesecakes!
I think kathyrn made some great suggestions.
20 an entree is kinda hard when asian cuisine is out. for italian i think your best bet might be pizza. i like motorino.
for steak, there is a place in brooklyn called embers that has a t bone steak for 2 for 40 dollars. there are also a few argentian places i like in elmhurst and jackson heights in queens.
For french the only cheap place I know is L'express, but it's nothing to write home about and pretty loud so I don't know if you want to take your parents there. I usually go there at 2 or 3 am if I'm craving escargot or their lamb burger.
Plenty of good, easily accessible Italian restaurants have a bunch of entrees under $20, Via Emilia and Le Zie to name just 2.
For French-Mediterranean I was very pleased with Antibes Bistro (thanks to a CH rec), and the most expensive entree, steak, is $18.
172 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011
47 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010
112 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002
What about Clinton Street Baking Company, Redhead, Penelope, Hearth (might be a little pricey for your needs), Hill Country, Blue Smoke, Otto, or Westville? I think all but Otto or Westville have house cocktail lists. (I usually go for Southern or BBQ for picky eaters.)
This thread might also help:
For other boroughs, you'll need to post on the Outer Boroughs board.
30 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010
210 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014
116 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016