Your parents just pulled into town and they didn't forget to bring their slightly more refined palates, not to mention their American Express card. Sure, you've expressed your culinary creativity with gourmet ramen hacks, done your best not to blow what little cash you have on groceries, and knocked back cheap booze perfectly paired with your Zodiac sign. So when Mom and Dad want to treat you to a nice meal, there's no chance you're going to refuse. 

Using recommendations from a number of contributors across the Spoon University network, here's a handy guide to help you splurge a little bit and truly bask in the unconditional love your parents are more than happy to provide. 

1. Cafe Zola in Ann Arbor, MI (University of Michigan)

Photo courtesy of @gatheranddine on Instagram

Once upon a time, my friend Annie turned 20. We went to Cafe Zola for dinner, her parents were footing the bill, and do you know what we did? We Lebron Jamesd – (aka WE BALLED OUT). This is one of those places where you get an expensive piece of fish, and suddenly, you think you’re a food critic – like you know what “fresh” tastes like or what a “quality cut” is.

Who are you kidding? You just ate pizza out of the garbage yesterday, but the food here is so good and of such high quality, it’ll have you channeling your inner Anthony Bourdain as soon as you take your first bite. 

What to Order: If you’re going for dinner, go Lebron-style and order the Lamb Chops “A La Turque.” They’ll make you feel like you can appreciate good meat, and after all, your parents are paying. If you’re brunching, definitely go for either the shakshuka or the Turkish eggs – no other brunch place in Ann Arbor has unique egg options like this on their menu. 

Courtesy of Becca Soverinsky

2. Edmund's Oast in Charleston, SC (College of Charleston)

beef, meat, pork, bacon, ham, sausage
Kristen Kornbluth

Edmund’s Oast is a delicious intersection of craft beer, craft cocktails, cured meat, and farm-to-table dishes. The space is lofty and rustic with seating outside, which is lovely on a warm Charleston night. As you can tell from the picture above, their charcuterie game is strong.

However, if you don’t eat meat, they are more than accommodating: the chef made a veggie plate without hesitation for the herbivores I was dining with. Everything there is pretty pricey, but it’s all worth it, since it’s local and tastes great. Also, they have 50 beers on tap, with almost 10 of them being housemade, so capitalize on your parents paying and try a couple.

What to Order: Try the PB&J beer. They make it in house and I was told it really does taste like a PB&J in liquid form. As for food, the menu changes often, but try to get their cornbread and the fresh ricotta with toasted bread and charred veggies.

Courtesy of Kristen Kornbluth

3. Eastern Standard in Boston, MA (Boston University)

seafood, shrimp, sushi, fish, crab
Photo courtesy of @ehmchenry on Instagram

Located in the heart of Kenmore Square and just a hop to Boston’s famous Fenway Park, you’ll be hard-pressed to get in without a reservation during busy times. Its swanky, brasserie-like atmosphere features a significant amount of outdoor seating that’s even equipped for cool weather with a plethora of heat lamps and covering. If you have a dining plan, you may or may not slip into a euphoric state upon tasting the food.

What to Order: If you’re lucky enough to get a table here for brunch, be sure to try the Eggs Benedict and one of their signature cocktails (the Bloody Mary uses house-infused vodkas). For any other meal, check out the raw bar or a steak.

Courtesy of Kristine Mahan

4. Taverna in Newark, DE (University of Delaware)

spaghetti, pasta, salad
Photo courtesy of @tavernamainstreet on Instagram

Whether your parents just show up for Parents Weekend or are that one dad at a "dage" (day rage), it’s easy to take advantage while they’re around when it comes to food. You can’t always make them a home-cooked meal, and you probably do not even want to, so the next best thing is a family dinner at Taverna.

What to Order: Remind your parents that you’re still a kid with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

Courtesy of Casey Irwin

5. Odd Duck in Austin, TX (University of Texas at Austin)

cream, chocolate, sweet, cake, pastry
Gabby Phi

If it’s Parents Weekend and they decide to take you out as a reprieve from dining hall food, make sure you go to Odd Duck. Their food and decor game is on point, and it’s great if you’re coming in for brunch or dinner. All of their food is made with fresh and seasonal ingredients, so you know you’re in for a treat.

What to Order: For brunch, the zucchini French toast with buttermilk peach ice cream is a crowd favorite. For something a little more hearty, they offer twists of the classics like cast-iron duck eggs and bacon oatmeal. Be sure to wash all of it down with some bubbly, because #brunch.

Courtesy of Taylor Choi

6. Five & Ten in Athens, GA (University of Georgia)

sweet, chocolate, berry
Photo courtesy of @fiveandten on Instagram

Here’s another gem from 5 Points for when you’re feeling fancy and want gourmet Southern cuisine. Their steak and seafood entrees are pricey (around $20-30 per person), but brunch is a little cheaper at around $10-15 per person. They also offer gourmet desserts and pastries.

The owner, Hugh Acheson, is known for his European twist on traditional Southern comfort foods, like Summer Squash Fritters with charred scallion creme fraîche and potato gnocchi. He and his restaurant has been recognized with a handful of awards. To name a couple, Acheson has been named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef (2002), and Five & Ten was named Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Best Restaurant of the Year (2007).

What to Order: Pull a total parents-are-paying power move by going prix fixe and indulging in three courses. The prix fixe offerings tend to change, but some highlights include glazed pork belly, seared scallops, and chocolate chess pie for dessert.

Courtesy of Samantha Fehd

7. Sol in Athens, OH (Ohio University)

Photo courtesy Sol on Facebook 

Admit it: you miss your parents. Seeing them weeks after you said goodbye is great, but let’s be real and be thrilled they’re coming to town to buy you dinner. Sol is close to the bars for when you decide to show Mom and Dad around. And this restaurant serves liquor, so you and the fam can enjoy a drink with dinner.

What to Order: To complement that drink, their menu offers great Cuban food which can be great for either dinner (think nachos) or brunch (think egg pizza).

Courtesy of Sophia Borghese

8. Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga, CA (University of California, Los Angeles)

wine, beer
Photo courtesy of @dulcecandy on Instagram

Just look it up and you’ll understand. It’s located in Pacific Palisades – about a 15-minute drive west of UCLA. Located up on Topanga Canyon, this beautiful and tranquil restaurant is in the kind of place where people have their weddings. The candles, greenery, lighting, impeccable service and high quality of food (despite smaller portions) create an ambiance that is magical and makes you feel like you are no longer anywhere near the buzzing and busy city. Just don’t look be too shocked when the bill is more than your campus job paycheck.

What to Order: The 8-Hour Plum Braised Short Rib? Divine. 

Courtesy of Disha Samaiyar and Ishaan Pathak

9. Bistro 501 in Lafayette, IN (Purdue University

Photo courtesy of Bistro 501 on Facebook

Impress your parents with how cultured you’ve become by taking them to this swanky French restaurant. Get a multi-course dinner with a good wine and dessert to fully take advantage of your parents’ love. If you’re looking for a more casual dining experience, visit during brunch hours.

What to Order: Now’s the time to try dishes you couldn’t afford to enjoy on your own budget. Start with the roasted bone marrow or steak tartare. You can’t go wrong with the duck or lamb entrées, but the real treasure here are the desserts. Order the crème brulée for there and get a slice of seasonal cheesecake to go.

Courtesy of Elena Bailoni

10. Umi in Manhattan, KS (Kansas State University)

cheese, bacon, chicken
Photo courtesy of @kendallsbregovi on Instagram

Parents visiting can be a great blessing. Not only will they stock you up on all the dorm snacks you’re running low on, but they will also take you out to eat. This means they are probably paying. Try Umi, a nice Japanese steakhouse that has great hibachi and sushi. Don’t worry, Mom: the atmosphere isn’t too fancy. Casual dress is completely fine.

What to Order: You've gotta go with the hibachi. If you're parents are laying down their credit card at the end of the meal, splurge on the lobster tail and steak combo. 

Courtesy of Tarra Rotstein

11. The Food Market in Baltimore, MD (Johns Hopkins University

tuna, salad, duck, radish, orange
Photo courtesy of @thefoodmarket on Instagram

Consistently featured as one "Baltimore’s Most Popular" restaurants, The Food Market is located in Hampden, just a 25-minute walk or 7-minute drive, from the heart of Hopkins’ campus. According to its chef, "The Food Market focuses on approachable, serious comfort food," and as someone who has eaten there enough to put a significant dent in her wallet, I urge you to seriously encourage your parents to approach this restaurant’s comfort food when they come to visit. With entrees averaging between $20 to $30, it falls just outside of the average college student’s budget but into your parents’ "treat-yourself-after-all-your-studying" budget.

What to Order: Best to go with the Amish soft pretzels and braised short rib. You'll thank us later.

Courtesy of Sydney Gertzog

12. Top of the Hill in Chapel Hill, NC (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

shrimp, sauce, pad thai, pasta, chili
Photo courtesy of @gfreegirl_ on Instagram

This classic Chapel Hill icon is the perfect place to get your parents to take you. Sit outside and eat at sunset while you take in the stunning view of Franklin Street. And, of course, marvel at the menu which pictures thousands of students rushing Franklin Street after the 2005 National Championship game.

What to Order: The creamy brie mac n’ cheese with broccoli, tomatoes, cashews, and pesto is highly recommended. 

Courtesy of Cara Hutto

13. SASA in Walnut Creek, CA (St. Mary's College of California)

sushi, sashimi, fish, rice, tuna, salmon, seafood, wasabi
Photo courtesy of @jannoppasorn on Instagram

Yep, this place is expensive. It’s nestled right into the fanciest part of North Main Street, Walnut Creek. If you look into the windows of Sasa and its neighbors, you’ll see a lot of wine glasses and sport coats. Here, the staff knows what they’re talking about in terms of wine and sushi, and the chef makes sure that only the best cuts of fish are served.

For some reason, you find yourself trusting a stranger with your palate. Plus, this is where Steph and Ayesha Curry go for date night, so you might run into them. Get your camera ready for potential food and Curry pics.

What to Order: Nigiri. You choose the fish, or ask the wait staff what they prefer. They all pronounce it right, too, which is comforting.

Courtesy of Ava Gambero and Alexa Gambero 

14. A Tavola Trattoria in New Paltz, NY (State University of New York at New Paltz)

Photo courtesy of @atavolany on Instagram

Want to go somewhere fancy (and not pick up the tab)? A Tavola is calling you. It’s a 4.5-star restaurant with delicious dinners in a nicely lit setting, your parents will surely love it, and you don’t have to worry about picking up the tab!

What to Order: Their Farfalle al Pesce. Just trust us.

Courtesy of Lauren Katzenstein and Danielle Bilder

15. Blue Mesa in Fort Worth, TX (Texas Christian University)

Hayden hand

Blue Mesa’s colorful and artsy dining experience makes it a favorite to Fort Worth residents and TCU students alike. Its price point is moderate, but enough for college students to save it for occasions. Thus, it’s a perfect time to go when parents come to town.

What to Order: The Spa Chicken Enchilada and Street Tacos are both great options for lunch or dinner. However, if you have the time to make it to Sunday brunch you must do so. The buffet style dining has an array of foods such as enchiladas, migas, Belgian waffles, and much more.

Courtesy of Ashley Peek

16. Leunig's Bistro and Café in Burlington, VT (University of Vermont)

poutine, cheese
Jennifer Nigro

Leunig’s is a great place to go when your parents come to visit because while it’s one of the more expensive restaurants on Church Street, the food is top-notch and sure to impress. They serve dishes that you’ll rave about to your friends and family, like duck confit poutine (pictured above), salmon, pheasant, and wild boar. They save some tables for walk-ins, but you can also make reservations online.

What to Order: Boasting the "panache of Paris and the value of Vermont," start with the Soup Au Pistou, indulge in the Watermelon Glazed Scallops, and top it all off with their Chocolate Delice Framboise, a rich dark chocolate & milk chocolate mousse cake with raspberry liqueur and a walnut crust with a raspberry coulis.

Courtesy of Jennifer Nigro and Erin Mahoney

17. Gracie's in Providence, RI (Johnson & Wales University)

cake, pastry, sweet, berry, cream, dairy product, blueberry, chocolate
Photo courtesy of @graciesprov on Twitter

Providence’s best fine dining experience can be found just five minutes from the Downcity campus at Gracie’s. But like all great things, it comes at a price (aka make sure this is on your Parents’ Weekend bucket list).

What to Order: Russet potato gnocchi for a first course, Georges Bank sea scallops for a second course, and the honey chocolate mousse for dessert.

Courtesy of Nicole Alberta

18. Revival Social Club in Chicago, IL (Loyola University Chicago)

espresso, coffee, chocolate, cream, mocha
Jamie Gentges

This modern venue will leave you feeling like a king or queen. Treat yourself and your fam to an upscale brunch.

What to Order: Anything and everything because whatever you decide will be free and (most importantly) delicious. However, I would recommend a specialty coffee like this s’mores coffee and their monkey bread.

Courtesy of Jamie Gentges

19. Apollo Grill in Bethlehem, PA (Muhlenberg College)

chicken, salad
Photo courtesy of @apollogrill on Instagram

Though Apollo is a little farther than the other locales on the list, it is my personal favorite. It is nice enough that you feel you are doing something different than the typical college food scene, but not so nice that you are stressed with what to wear. This place is also perfect for when your parents are coming to take you out for a birthday (assuming they are treating you). Just a heads up, be sure to make a reservation.

What to Order: Being one of my favorite restaurants makes it extremely challenging to pick one thing to order. Whatever you choose for your main course though, get the nachos to start. Just do it.

Courtesy of Sam Davis

20. Oregon Electric Station in Eugene, OR (University of Oregon)

steak, filet mignon, sirloin, beef
Photo courtesy of Oregon Electric Station

Ever since Oregon Electric Station was renovated in 2014, it’s been a hit among fellow Ducks and their families. The menu offers exquisite plates including lobster mac n’ cheese, halibut ceviche and various cuts of beef. If you want to save a little pocket change they have a bar menu that’s filled with various options equally as good.

What to Order: Start with the Northwest Dungeness crab cakes then move on to a filet mignon or New York strip. To finish off a true OES experience order the vanilla Crème Bruleé.

Courtesy of Sheridan Smith

21. Elaia in St. Louis, MO (Washington University in St. Louis)

bruschetta, tomato, toast, vegetable, basil, bread, sandwich, cheese
Photo courtesy of @jess.merr on Instagram

This is the fancy little restaurant is connected to the bar OLIO. With á la carte, fixed price and tasting menus, it’s clear from the get-go that this one’s a bit of a splurge, to say the least. The name is Greek for “olive” and the Mediterranean-inspired menu holds up to the name. For the super splurge experience, go for the 10-course tasting menu ($120/person). But if you’re not trying to get too crazy, the á la carte menu offers several unique, artfully designed dishes in four courses to please even the most upscale of palates (and it changes each day depending on what’s fresh and the whims of the chef.)  

What to Order: I strongly advise against skipping dessert. The ridiculously rich chocolate ganache I ate was easily worth the full price of my meal.

Courtesy of Erica Sloan

22. Harvest Wine Bar in New Haven, CT (Yale University)

salmon, risotto
Photo courtesy of @atourofflorence on Instagram

Parents Weekend = NO DINING HALL. Have your parents take you to a fancy dinner at Harvest on their last night in town. You’ll get to say goodbye over delicious new American cuisine, and they won’t have time to get mad at you for ordering tuna tartare, steak AND dessert because they’re leaving in the morning.

What to Order: The shaved brussels sprouts salad (pictured above) turns your least favorite childhood vegetable into a tower of cheesy goodness. The salmon entree is also great, especially after you’ve gotten used to the neon pink fish in the dining hall, sigh.

Courtesy of Nicole Laszlo 

23. Cakes & Ale in Decatur, GA (Georgia State University)

pork chop, pork, potato, bacon, cider
Photo courtesy of @buzz_food on Instagram

Landing number one on Atlanta Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants in Atlanta list, Cakes & Ale is classier than I will ever be. Hopefully your parents will be so impressed you picked up the phone to make a reservation that they even treat you to dessert, too. If you’re crunched for time they do have a café with a smaller menu that is just as good as the main restaurant.

What to Order: The dinner menu changes daily, but if your parents are fine with paying, now is the time to branch out and try something new. If they have their swordfish available, order it ASAP.

Courtesy of Delaney Strunk

24. The Heights in Ithaca, NY (Cornell University)

shrimp, lobster, crab, sushi, seafood
Photo courtesy of @theheightsithaca on Instagram

The Heights is without a doubt the classiest restaurant near campus. Between their fancy menu and cool decor, it is the place to go when your parents are around. It can be a little pricey, though, so it’s definitely ideal when you’re not on a student budget.

What to Order: I’m a big fan of the Grilled Rainbow Trout, and you definitely can’t forget to order the Lava Cake "Soufflé." It’s the perfect end to your meal but must be ordered when you order your entrée.

Courtesy Allison Wild

25. Uptown Cafe in Bloomington, IN (Indiana University)

filet mignon, steak, risotto, sauce
Photo courtesy of @peaceprevails94 on Instagram

Whether you’re looking for a snazzy brunch or steak dinner, Uptown Cafe is the place to be when the ‘rents are in town. With Cajun-Creole dishes and their signature cocktail menu, it’s sure to impress. If nothing on the dessert menu tickles your fancy, BLU Boy Chocolate is only a few doors down.

What to Order: If you want to go the traditional route, they’re known for their Louisiana hot pepper chicken and Cajun meatloaf. The Uptown mac ‘n’ cheese is legendary, so don’t hesitate to get that as your side. For a less spicy option, the gorgonzola filet is flawlessly prepared and hands down one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.

Courtesy of Meredith Ross