Unpretentious great restaurants in NYC
November 16, 2014 9:38 AM   Subscribe

What is the best restaurant in Manhattan that my dad can wear jeans to?

I'm trying to find a great restaurant to go with my dad after Christmas. Preferably with great seafood or sushi (extra points for great oysters). However, it needs to be somewhere he can get away with wearing jeans and a polo shirt. Cost is not really an issue. Must be in Manhattan. Brooklyn is a terrifying land of potholes where he won't want to park his car. The idea of riding the subway is just ludicrous. Same with cabs. He's seen how they drive. And uber? Dear god you just get in some guy from the internet's car?

I would love to go to Le Bernardin, but there is absolutely no way I am getting my dad into a suit unless he is going to court or a wedding. He must be able to wear jeans. Even khakis are likely a no go. We would likely having a very early dinner, as in 5 or 6 pm, if that makes any difference as far as dress code. My dad doesn't look like a total slob, but definitely casual. Think well dressed hiker. He basically wears nothing but clothes from Patagonia if he can help it.

I'm giving my dad a hard time here, but he's a great guy who loves great food, but it quite adamant that if he is going to pay several hundred dollars for a great meal he'll dress however he wants to. He's a decently adventurous eater so that's not really an issue.

posted by whoaali to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Hm, well, it's not Le Bernardin, but Soba-ya is delicious and and totally unpretentious. They have lots of seafood and some really interesting dishes I haven't seen elsewhere in New York (ginseng tempura!). It was a hit with my family. They don't take reservations, though, if that's important to you.

Slightly fancier would be Blue Ribbon Sushi, I think that jeans would probably still be fine there, but maybe someone else wants to weigh in.
posted by Mender at 10:03 AM on November 16, 2014

Eataly is good, has a lot of variety (including seafood), and you could probably eat there in pajamas. The food itself may not be fancy enough for your purposes, though.
posted by moonmilk at 10:32 AM on November 16, 2014

If cost is not an issue, I'd vote for Masa, which is a world-class sushi restaurant with a casual dress code. Barmasa would be good, too.
posted by Mothlight at 10:43 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know their website says "elegant casual" but I bet the folks at Blue Hill wouldn't bat an eye. Or one of the Momofukus.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:47 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've gone in jeans and had a great meal at 15 East - stellar upscale sushi near Union Square. I prefer the sushi bar and omakase, though the tables are comfortable and great food as well.
posted by traveltheworld at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2014

You can get away with wearing jeans in most high-end restaurants in NY. The last time I was at Cafe Boulud (your typical stuffy UES place) there was a couple suited out for a hiking expedition enjoying their lunch.

What I would do is find the restaurant you want to eat at, then call and ask if there is a dress code. They might say something like "business casual" but as long as they don't specifically specify that male diners should wear a jacket, your dad should be totally fine in jeans (if a bit out of place).
posted by pravit at 10:48 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

And my restaurant recommendation would be the tasting menu at Torrisi Italian Specialties. Really imaginative food - some people call it modern Italian-American but the meal I had there was so eclectic I would just call it "modern." I'm pretty sure I wore jeans too.
posted by pravit at 10:55 AM on November 16, 2014

Bar Boulud (a restaurant in spite of its name) on the UWS is the place you want to go to.
posted by dfriedman at 11:18 AM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Marea if you do, in fact, want to spend hundreds of dollars. Very worth it, excellent seafood. Just ask to sit in the bar area--the main dining room feels fancier. If you want to not spend a ton, you could also try Pearl Oyster Bar, which is totally casual, but has a small, daily-shifting menu. Good luck!
posted by greta simone at 11:25 AM on November 16, 2014

For many upscale restaurants, technically jeans aren't prohibited, but they are either "jacket required" or "jacket preferred." Sounds like your dad won't wear a jacket at all, even a sport coat, with a jeans? What kind of shoes? Note that he wouldn't need a tie. Basically, no restaurants in NYC require a tie any more.

For example, Per Se doesn't prohibit jeans specifically but asks patrons to wear a jacket & to not wear t-shirts, shorts or tennis shoes. (Jean Georges & Daniel specifically prohibit jeans.)

Some great restaurants with a more casual atmosphere:
Eleven Madison Park (probably the most relaxed amongst its peers, I've known people to go in nice jeans)
Sushi Nakazawa (former Jiro apprentice, really fun omakase experience)
Momofuku Ko (currently closed and moving to a new space)
Babbo (very likely Mario Batali owns at least some Patagonia gear)
ZZ's Clam Bar (not as upscale as the others, great seafood, and speakeasy-ish atmosphere)
Minetta Tavern
And essentially every steakhouse in town (Wolfgang's, Keens, etc.)
posted by kathryn at 11:44 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you want to go to Le Bernardin, they will let you sit in the lounge without a jacket. They say nothing about pants so jeans must be OK.
posted by beagle at 12:45 PM on November 16, 2014

Any place that doesn't require a jacket.
posted by brujita at 4:15 PM on November 16, 2014

There are plenty of places where he could "get away with" dressing how he wanted. But for somewhere that is actually unpretentious, down to its bones, and also really great, I'd recommend Hearth. It's the restaurant that food nerds go back to, over and over, when they're weary of the latest trendy spot.
posted by neroli at 4:25 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know I am ignoring your must-be-Manhattan parameter but just in case it could work: Maison Premiere in Williamsburg is a fabulous cocktail, oyster, and seafood destination. I mention it because I went there with my own dad last Christmas and he loved it, still mentions it a lot. He drove right over the Williamsburg Bridge and found parking with nary a hitch. Also, went there myself in jeans on Monday, no problem. All in all, it's a very classy but not stuffy place.
posted by ferret branca at 5:44 PM on November 16, 2014

2nd Momofuko ramen. It's the nectar of the gods.
posted by masters2010 at 6:50 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest Barn Joo. I wandered in a few weeks ago, needing to "pre-game" for some dishware shopping next door at Fishs Eddy. It's on Broadway, between 19th & 20th.

I'd call it a Korean gastropub. They had a $1/oyster deal on when I was there, and a pretty adventurous menu. There's a wheel at the door your dad would probably enjoy spinning; you can win a beer, an appetizer, etc. The beer selection is great. Looked like a trendy, popular spot.

Yelpers seem to really love it, too.

I wore jeans.
posted by lukez at 7:22 AM on November 17, 2014

Seafood, Manhattan and unpretentious? Then Mary's Fish Camp is what you want. I'm also seconding Blue Ribbon Sushi.
posted by beatnik808 at 1:22 PM on November 30, 2014

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