The Most Fun Dinners In America Right Now

Places to get a great meal and form a core memory.
The Most Fun Dinners In America Right Now  image

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

What makes dinner fun is highly subjective, and also dependent on your dining companions who may or may not excel in the Nights Out department. But making plans to eat somewhere with energy and bangin’ food helps, whether that’s a margarita marathon in a galactic jungle grotto in Seattle or a mid-meal karaoke break in Miami. When people ask us about the memorable (and possibly chaotic) meals we’re having right now, these are the restaurants that come to mind first.


photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO


West Philadelphia

$$$$Perfect For:Small PlatesLunchBreakfastBrunchSerious Take-Out OperationQuick Eats


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During the BYOB tasting menu experience at Honeysuckle Provisions in West Philly, we argued over the Mount Rushmore of rap artists while eating truffle and egg toast, and learned about the origins of the trifoliate oranges growing down the street without feeling like we’d be quizzed on it later. So unless your city has a place like that, the $95 meal at this Afrocentric cafe is going to stick with you for a while. You’ll take trips to the kitchen, eat pickled radishes from last year’s garden haul, and hear about the Ghanaian chocolate industry straight from the chefs. Each dish—like a take on yakamein with homemade whole wheat ramen noodles—highlights Black foodways and Black farmers. And everything is just plain old excellent.


Even the bathroom of this Vietnamese restaurant in Downtown Miami is fun. We don’t want to spoil why, so we’ll just tell you it involves karaoke. But you’re not coming here just to drink enough wine to justify three trips to the bathroom. Tam Tam’s menu has creative takes on Vietnamese dishes that are tragically rare in Miami. It’s a tiny spot, so come with a small group or a date and order the sticky fish sauce caramel wings. They’re our favorite wings in Miami, and also the stickiness will give you another excuse to go to the bathroom.


Dreamland defies Seattle’s grungy-gray reputation. The diner’s galactic jungle grotto patio conjures up Jurassic Park, Alien, and Xanadu in the best way possible. Groups come here to drink $99 large-batch margaritas served in disco balls and Jell-O shots that taste like homemade jam straight from the jar. Plus, bar snacks are way better than the chaotic atmosphere demands. There’s a great vegetarian chicken strip basket, plus pimento cheese slathered on fried saltines, and a gooey burger that can do no wrong in our eyes. Very much like the title track of Xanadu.

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

$$$$Perfect For:Big Groups


Dinner at Muukata6395 in San Francisco is a rowdy Thai barbecue event. Each table has a domed charcoal grill where pork belly, shrimp, and bacon sizzle, as well as a broth moat loaded with vegetables and noodles. Come with friends who are willing to yell across the table, since birthday parties and large groups shriek as they take shots of soju (that’s part of the appeal). And for the pièce de résistance, finish the meal by slurping up the broth flavored with all the barbecue drippings. It’s essentially a meat nightcap.


Brasero specializes in throwing a party every night. This Latin American spot in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood plays catchy bossa nova in a dim room where you’ll want to gossip, and the food matches the fun. Dishes like fried quail, sweet and spicy moqueca, and grilled half lobster are all great for sharing with your book-club-turned-real-club companions. Whatever you order, you’ll leave with a light cologne of smoke thanks to the wood-fire grill in the back and dessert sparklers that constantly float around the dining room.


Between the crunchy karaage and the motion-activated box of action figures that flashes when you walk into the bathroom, it’s next to impossible to be a grump at Kemuri Tastu-Ya. The restaurant is a mashup of a Central Texas barbecue joint and a Japanese izakaya, with a space full of hanging deer heads and vintage Japanese posters. Bring a crew to share chicken meatball skewers and brisket and gouda hot pockets wrapped in tofu skin, but also to drink matcha painkillers and Texas whiskey.


Dining at The Bazaar in DC feels like entering a Willy Wonka fever dream. The Spanish restaurant inside the Waldorf Hotel has cathedral arches and crystal chandeliers illuminating indoor cherry blossom trees. Drinks come with clouds of dry ice. And the tapas, like the cotton candy foie gras and bao con lechon, are never boring. This is the type of place where you bring a group to dress up and blow half a stack on delightfully bizarre stuff.


Spending time at this laidback wine bar in Hollywood is sort of like crashing a green room after-party—only Stir Crazy serves better food. Half of the place fills with people who have Netflix comedy specials in the works, while the rest of the crowd drinks funky riesling with reckless abandon. The menu skews snacky, with stuff like marinated tomatoes, serrano ham, and a particularly delicious plate of anchovies. Come with a group and order the entire menu for the kind of marathon hang that ends with you leaving your car overnight.


If neon lights and K-Pop jams are your speed, then dinner at One Shot Pocha will hit all of the right marks. You can doodle notes on the chalkboard walls, crunch deep-fried chicken wings that create reverb just as loud as the speaker system, and drink soju out of a watermelon (the proper way to consume the beverage). Hit the karaoke rooms after dinner to sing your heart out and play a little tambourine, too.


For excessive amounts of fun in under 90 minutes, book a counter spot for the $99 omakase at Sushi On Me in Queens. The place looks sort of slapped together: there’s a disco ball on the ceiling, alt-rock posters, and a neon sign that says “Enjoy Your F*cking Dinner.” But the meal has a precise choreography, from the “Hooked on a Feeling” ooga chuggas that drop as you slurp oysters, to the “smoked” salmon you’ll inhale as the staff sing along to “Because I Got High.” It’s sort of like Broadway with fish and bottomless sake. If you need the party to go on a little longer, head to Upstairs Cocktail Bar next door for a nightcap.


Every reservation at Nine Mile Station comes with admission to the neighboring boardwalk-themed attraction, Skyline Park in Ponce City Market. So after you eat upscale Southern food backdropped by the best views in Atlanta, you get to play carnival games and mini golf. And you won’t be so salty about going seven over par once there are churro waffles and a couple of Old Fashioneds made with locally distilled rye whiskey in your system.

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