If you really love your mom, you might want to consider skipping the Mother’s Day specials this year. They tend to be such gloomy experiences as restaurants transform into brunch factories for the day and serve mediocre set menus. Instead, I suggest you take your mother out in the evening, like a regular person, for some proper eating and drinking.
Here are my 10 current picks for where I’d take my own mom if she were in town (a few spots include extra-fun stuff that my mom loves, like looking at flowers, gambling, and people-watching):
10. Balthazar: Simple mussels and French fries at Keith McNally’s Soho brasserie can be a bit expensive, but there are few better places to slurp oysters while making presumptions about fellow diners’ relationships, wardrobes, and food choices, a number 1 pastime with my mom. 80 Spring Street, 212-941-0364
9. Franny’s: First a stroll through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden then up to Franny’s, a gem on busy Flatbush Avenue. The simple Italian menu is full of rustic delights, but you know what she’d really enjoy? A gorgeous, blistered pizza and a cocktail. 295 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-230-0221
8. Prime Meats: This pretty, airy bistro in Carroll Gardens is an ideal place to spend quality time, bonding over wobbly roasted bone marrow, excellent seasonal salads, exemplary steak-frites, and wines by the glass. It’s one of Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo’s beloved farm-to-table spots and generally full of local couples and young families. Very my-mom-friendly. 465 Court Street Brooklyn, 718-254-0327
7. Genting Palace: Recently reviewed by my colleague Robert Sietsema, the upscale Cantonese restaurant in Ozone Park has a kickass dim sum menu for high-rolling ladies willing to take a bet on soy-braised chicken feet and stuffed bean curd skin with shredded garlic chives. There’s a casino on site for actual gambling, too. 110-00 Rockaway Boulevard, Queens
6. wd_50: What could be more fun than a culinary adventure in the Lower East Side at Wylie Dufresne’s casual, wonderfully inventive wd-50. Sit at the bar, where you can pick two courses (either savory or sweet) off the new tasting menu and drink splendid cocktails. 50 Clinton Street, 212-477-2900
5. Perla: This lovely newcomer from Gabriel Stulman’s growing empire is the ideal place to share small plates of rustic Italian food done right. Go for the sugar snap pea and pickled rhubarb salad, the stunning lamb saddle, and whichever pasta dishes tickle your fancy. 24 Minetta Lane, 212-933-1824
4. Vinegar Hill House: This seasonal American restaurant is like a charming country house in the middle of the city, tucked away on a quiet street in Vinegar Hill. The food is hearty and delicious but never fussy. Make sure you share a pistachio-topped chicken-liver mousse–it’s the best rendition in the city. 72 Hudson Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-522-1018
3. Mile End: My mother might be concerned at first that I’m taking her to a deli for a special occasion, but there’s no doubt that a taste of Mile End’s modern Jewish cooking will rock her world. The grilled romaine salad, the lovingly prepared lamb tongue, and the thrill of being around young people with appetites. What more could she want? 97A Hoyt Street, Brooklyn, 718-852-75108
2. Red Rooster: I wouldn’t exactly say that my mother has a *crush* on Marcus Samuelsson, but she has been cooking for some time from his African cookbook, Soul of a New Cuisine, and would be delighted to see that the Ethiopian-born, Swedish chef is now running a popular restaurant in Harlem drawing from myriad culinary influences. 310 Lenox Avenue, 212-792-9001
1. Di Fara: For years, I’ve been telling my mother about Dom De Marco, the slow-moving, grizzled pizza master of Avenue J with the flour-dusted shoes and the only man to whom I offer a Valentine’s Day present every year. It’s time they finally meet! De Marco’s pies are imperfect, beautiful things, and I find they’re always worth the excruciating wait. 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, 718-258-1367
Know of a great spot that didn’t make this list? Tell me in the comments.