Great Restaurants For A Last-Minute Group Dinner
Where to eat with all of your friends tonight.
Getting your friends to plan ahead is like trying to get the city to pave that pothole you hit every day on your commute. It's not impossible, but it requires some incessant pestering. And once a group text finally sets everything into motion, everyone will inevitably scramble to find a restaurant that can seat the group without an hour's wait. Fortunately for your procrastinating friends, they can finally put their frantic search to rest because these restaurants have plenty of room, are easy to get into, and, most importantly, serve great food.
Sun Nong Dan
Dinner plans before or after concerts, sporting events, or warehouse raves call for a hearty meal, and few restaurants deliver that experience like 24-hour galbi jjim specialist Sun Nong Dan. The Western Ave. location of this Koreatown-based chain doesn’t take reservations, but the dining room is large enough that there's usually little to no wait for groups wandering in at all hours of the night. The thing everyone gets here is the massive sizzling cauldron of galbi jjim: braised short ribs coated in spicy sauce and topped with handfuls of shredded cheese that get blowtorched until molten tableside. A large order easily feeds four to six people for under $100, and that’s before you factor in the side of excellent kimchi that gets refilled for free.
photo credit: Krystal Thompson
Woon is a reliable spot to keep in your pocket when you need to squeeze in a quick, satisfying meal before a big night out. This family-run Chinese restaurant in Historic Filipinotown is incredibly efficient: you order at the counter, they give you a number, and within ten minutes, you’re eating delicious Shanghainese dishes like beef noodles, tender pork belly over rice, and flaky scallion pancakes. There’s a single large table inside for your group to gather around, but we prefer claiming one of the outdoor tables with stools for extra legroom and people-watching.
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When half the group is hungry, and the other half just wants a drink, Voodoo Vin is the perfect place to please both without worrying about long wait times. The Virgil Village wine bar doesn’t take reservations, but it’ll likely never get busy enough to stop your group from finding seats. There are two long communal tables inside (plus some sidewalk tables) where you can order from a rotating list of wines by the glass and dine on small dishes like platters of house-cured meat platters, fresh pasta, and an excellent "caesar" steak tartare.
A night out for Korean BBQ typically tends to be a whole production involving long wait times or all-you-can-eat deals you didn't ask for. But Magal is the opposite. This small, bright, loud spot takes last-minute reservations for groups, and the quality of meat and banchan is excellent. And even if you don't normally like EDM, you'll find that slowly but surely stuffing your face with bulgogi and soju to the beat of house music is a religious experience not unlike blasting Alanis Morisette while driving down Sunset alone at night.
There's a reason you've been to so many group meals at Wurstkuche on Lincoln. This place makes last-minute scrambles very easy. You order at the counter, sit at long, biergarten-style wooden picnic tables, and eat fancy hotdogs, excellent Belgian fries, and sausages ranging from traditional bratwurst to others involving rattlesnake and rabbit. There might be a bit of a line at the counter, but there are always enough tables to squeeze in a last-minute party of six.
photo credit: Madre
Madre has become a mini Oaxacan empire with three locations and serious bragging rights for having the country's largest mezcal collection (we're talking 500 bottles and counting). However, its original Torrance location is still our favorite spot in the South Bay for last-minute group dinners with walk-ins welcomed, big leather booths for seating, and fantastic Oaxacan dishes like banana leaf tamales with mole negro and tender goat barbacoa.
If you put off planning your birthday party until the night before, and now you need a place that'll fit eight people and a dog, head to Mohawk Bend. Not only does this Echo Park bar have one of the best local beer selections in LA, there’s also a long row of high-tops that are ideal for an impromptu pizza party. One thing to note: the menu is vegan-by-default unless you specifically request real meat and cheese on your pizza or burger. So regardless of your guests' dietary preferences or hot takes on meatless chicken, there's something for everyone here.
photo credit: Hai Di Lao US
Hai Di Lao Hot Pot
This hot pot chain from China is known for its individual (rather than shared) hot pots, and the fact that you can get a neck massage while you wait for your table. Unfortunately, the neck massage didn’t make it to the U.S., but they do have little bags to put your phone in (to avoid soup splashes), a make-your-own sauce bar, and a guy who will come and do a dance while he pulls noodles. There are locations of Hai Di Lao in the Westfield Arcadia and Westfield Century City, and both usually have last-minute online reservations available for big groups. There tends to be a lot going on in the dining room—see: the live noodle dancers—but that shouldn’t distract you from the fact that the broths are great, the produce is high-quality, and almost everyone can find something they'll like on the menu.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
La Cabaña Restaurant
Your Venice beach day lasted a lot longer than expected, and now everyone's too hungry to face traffic on the way home. Head straight to the patio at La Cabaña for huge burritos, unlimited chips and salsa, and very good steak fajitas. They also have plenty of shareable stuff that's ideal for a group, including tableside guac, and margarita pitchers that will make you wonder if you're just imagining the (very real) mariachi band playing on the roof.
Mizlala West Adams
The second location Mizlala in West Adams is a little more casual than the original in Sherman Oaks, but if you're coming with a large group this works in your favor. You can all order at the counter, grab some pickled sides from the bar, then stake out one of the big tables on their covered, light-strung patio. The menu of Israeli dishes here is small, but it’s hard to go wrong: there’s great, salty chicken shawarma, and very good spiced kefta. You can get any of the main proteins in a pita, on a salad, or as a plate with rice, hummus, and veggies. Don’t skip the sides, either—the fried broccoli and Brussels sprouts are both fantastic.
photo credit: Afuri Ramen
Another casual option in the Arts District, Afuri Ramen is a great pick if you’re looking for a big group spot where you can eat dinner before or after hitting the many bars or breweries in the surrounding blocks. The specialty at this Tokyo-based ramen chain is yuzu shio ramen, which comes in a light, acidic broth that’s incredibly savory without being too rich. We also love their perfectly-crispy gyoza and refreshing list of citrusy cocktails and Japanese beers. And although you can't make reservations, they have several long tables where everyone can pull up a chair and slurp away.