The Best NYC Restaurants for Birthdays and Large Group Dinners
Being the most in-the-know New Yorker among your friends and acquaintances comes with a price: You are relied on to choose the destination for every birthday dinner, holiday bash, going away party, bachelor and bachelorette fête, and ‘just because’ brunch.
And the embarrassment of riches of NYC restaurants does not make the task any easier. We have an abundance of venues able to accommodate parties that exceed the “automatic gratuity” headcount. But with big groups come disparate dietary needs, allergies, and tastes. So, where can you celebrate your pal’s promotion, big break, or 1,000th Instagram follower, while also honoring her pals’ lactose intolerance, keto diets, or aversion to spice/flavor of any kind? Save your headache for the eventual check time Venmo negotiations and choose from this guide to the best restaurants for groups.
Best for: going out for a home-cooked meal
The owners of this 20-year-old south Brooklyn staple, a mother-daughter duo with roots in Palestine, are fixtures in the dining room, greeting each table with genuine warmth, as if everyone is a member of their extended family. The menu, which is steeped in Middle Eastern classics like tabouleh, halloumi and kabobs, also includes Mediterranean-inspired twists like the eggplant Napoleon, a crispy dish prepared with a tomato and basil salad.
Best for: rustic yet decadent flavors in a stunning setting
This third floor outpost of Eataly downtown is an excellent option for an upscale group brunch in an exquisite setting with views of the World Trade Center. The pre fixe menu, while pricey at $65 per person, is rich and filling: choose from three appetizers and three entrees, like the toast al carciofo con burata, a drool-inducing artichoke spread topped with locally sourced burrata, and the carbonara, a pitch-perfect take on the classic “breakfast” pasta.
Best for: a cozy French feast
If your crew treasures a hearty and bountiful meal in a warm and intimate environment, then Sauvage is your spot. If you’re dining with meat eaters, definitely go for the bone marrow appetizer; if you’re with vegans, the honeynut squash bourguignon is a sure hit. The location is perfect to boot: just a block away from the G at Nassau, it’s a good meeting point for friends scattered across Queens and Brooklyn.
Best for: an all-hands-on-deck dinner
There’s perhaps no better option for a group meal than Korean barbecue. It’s mostly gluten-free, is highly interactive, and typically involves sharing lots of booze. The space is large especially by downtown Manhattan standards, with a private dining space that can accommodate up to 40 guests. Start with a few appetizers for the table, then follow with the premium beef set ($195 per order, which feeds 3-4 people), which includes four types of cuts of steak, two sides and a bottle of soju.
Best for: not missing a minute of action
You’ll find street performers and peddlers of every possible ilk in Union Square, in addition to a robust year-round produce market, and basically every subway line in New York City. All of the above makes it a perfect meet-up location on its own. Irvington, a farm-to-table Mediterranean-inspired restaurant at the W Hotel, is icing on the cake. Groups of up to 12 can reserve the farm table that’s positioned directly in front of the bustling open kitchen.
Best for: dinner with a side of history
At 98 years young, this is the oldest restaurant in Staten Island. It’s also housed in one of the oldest homes in the city: an 1850 carriage house. A true glimpse at a different time and place, Basilio Inn maintains much of the restaurant’s original offerings, like a vegetable garden, grape harbor (for winemaking) and bocce courts, owing to its legacy as a gathering space for Italian immigrants. And thanks to its Staten Island locale, it’s massive and accommodates enormous groups easily.
Best for: giving everyone options but still making it easy to split the check
With four locations, this Barcelona-style tapas bar is bound to be convenient for most of your party. Bountiful menu selections like the creamy mushroom croquetas de setas, or the seafood-loaded paella de mariscos sweeten the deal. Choose between a stationed tapas bar and a seated tasting menu at brunch, lunch or dinner. Each location easily accommodates as many at least 10 guests per group (SoHo can take 16; Midtown, 12).
Best for: a happy hour for every taste
If you can convince your crew to convene on a weeknight, Charlies is the way to go. Outside of weekends, every day of brings one of the best dinner deals in the city: during Monday Munchies, select any three appetizers for $15; on Tuesdays, go for the $2 tacos and $5 margaritas (and the $2 tequila shots if you dare on a school night); grab a burger and beer for $10 on Wednesdays; on Thursdays, slurp $1 oysters while you sip bespoke cocktails.
Best for: Enjoying tacos & margaritas, outside, year-round
There’s a long held myth that Mexican food in NYC is no good -- but Chilo’s, a Mexican-inspired dive bar with a taco truck permanently parked in the backyard, has been challenging that belief for three years. Convince your boss that your department is overdue for a team-building exercise and split from work in time for happy hour, when you can get frozen margaritas for $9 and a three taco/Tecate special for $12. Heat lamps will keep you warm enough, and picnic tables provide ample space for BYO board games, should you want to authenticate the “team building” rouse.
Best for: Delighting vegetarians without disappointing the carnivores
Endure the long wait at this beloved no-reservations hot pot spot and you’ll be rewarded with ample space for your group and abundant flavor combinations. Shabu-Shabu's interactive nature makes it a great ice breaking option for motley crews, and it’s pre-priced per-person, which lessens check-time awkwardness. Base prices ($14 for weekday lunch/$18 for dinner & weekends) include access to the enormous veggie, sauce and noodle buffet -- the size of which will awe the vegetarians in your squad -- but meat and seafood platters cost extra.
Best for: A mini-getaway
Shepherd your out-of-town guests onto the Staten Island Ferry, take the train two stops from St. George to Stapleton, and walk five blocks for an immersive Sri Lankan experience. This nearly 25-year-old restaurant, which originally lived in Hell’s Kitchen and served a tiny 20-seat dining room, found a new home in Staten Island in 2011. The larger space allows not only for bigger group gatherings, but also for the restaurant to showcase utterly gorgeous Sri Lankan art and artifacts. Hit the wine store and the ATM in advance: Lakruwana is BYOB and the $15 per person weekend buffet is cash only.
Best for: A sports bar environment with Instagram-worthy dishes
The Bronx Public’s splashy graffiti-inspired interior is a vibrant backdrop for your #squadgoals selfie and the food is easy on the eyes, too. Be prepared for a conversation stopper when your food arrives and everyone whips out their phones to document their locally inspired chopped cheese spring rolls, sharable 96-ounce Bronx Bomber mega mules, and milkshakes -- served with a rainbow sprinkle-covered chocolate rim, s’more garnish and a paper straw -- #GoEarth.
Best for: Beer, comfort food, and taking home a little sumpin’ extra
Everything about this place belongs on a highlight reel: the various root beers on tap, the option to add bacon to any one of 25 beers, every single item on the “Home Cooking” section of the menu, and the take-away pickles and preserves -- which, in theory, serve as inspiration to recreate the restaurant’s comfort food magic at home. Make reservations for up to 11 people through the website; groups of 12+ are required to order from a prix fixe menu.
Best for: An intimate dinner with 20 of your nearest and dearest
This Greenpoint gem is actually pretty small, but two long tables in the middle of the dining can easily accommodate 20 for a reasonably priced group dinner that feels like private dining without the exclusive price tag. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, options include three $10 off-the-menu, seasonal, homemade pastas; guests on Fridays and Saturdays can enjoy live music from acts like The Seth Kessel Duo and Mud in Your Moonshine.
Best for: A family-style feast for the ages
Jeepney’s Kamayan feast is a singular Manhattan dining experience. Over the course of about two hours, you and your group will nosh on over a dozen Filipino specialties laid out on a long table covered in banana leaves. And, like with Ethiopian cuisine, this is a hands-on affair. Several food and drink package options are priced per person, ranging from $50-$95 for food and $25-$55 for drinks. For a truly spectacular carnivorous meal, add on the Lechon, a 25-pound suckling pig, for $360 (recommended for groups of 8-12 people).
Best for: Family-style dining with skyline views
Tucked below the Manhattan Bridge, Celestine offers a breathtaking view of the city skyline. The eastern Mediterranean restaurant’s sleek and modern yet welcoming design makes it a fantastic setting for a special occasion (request the patio during the warmer months for a truly memorable celebration). The three-course, family-style meal is a steal: You’ll start with a mezze and flatbread platter, followed by the group’s choice two mains served with assorted sides, and a dessert platter, all for $70 per person.
Best for: Late-night gatherings (and perhaps brunch the next day)
Looking for a spot to reunite with your old college friends? Know a lot of people with unconventional schedules? This “friendly neighborhood cocktail bar” delivers excellent food and drinks until 4 a.m., every day, along with an extensive supply of board games, a “reverse happy hour” on Mondays from midnight to close, and Movie Tuesdays in their heated backyard (find out which movies are playing each week via Instagram). And if the late-night shenanigans aren’t enticing, you can enjoy the old fashioned on draft during the day and at weekend brunch.
Best for: Going out, but still eating and drinking as inexpensively as possible
This downtown dive is cash only, its (otherwise excellent) jukebox is half-broken half the time, and it doesn’t serve food. BUT it has a generous $5 happy hour till 8 p.m. daily, a liberal outside food policy, and a cavernous space. It’s the perfect place to connect with several friends for several hours, over several drinks, on the cheap. Pick up a dollar slice or a whole pie from nearby Champion Pizza, a perfect Al Pastor burrito from Essex Taqueria, or a fresh falafel pita from Da Falafel Guys on your way in.
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