Where To Have A Last-Minute Group Dinner
photo credit: Kate Previte
People want to hang out with you. Maybe it’s because of your great personality, or maybe it’s because of your OK personality combined with the fact that you read this website and know where to get great food. Either way, here’s where to go the next time you have to arrange a last-minute group dinner. These restaurants have plenty of room, they’re relatively easy to get into, and their food is good enough to impress all the people in your life who force you to make plans.
Hwa Yuan in Chinatown is one of the best options for a nice dinner that a certain someone in your group (don’t name names) forgot to plan. We’d happily come to this Szechuan spot for everything from a birthday dinner with all of our relatives to a semi-formal meal with friends or out-of-towners. Plan on sitting at a big round table filled with beautiful platters of crispy duck and sesame noodles.
When people talk about the best Texas-style barbecue in NYC, this place in Red Hook inevitably comes up—and for good reason. They’re serving some of our favorite smoked meats in addition to unique things like lamb bánh mì and tacos with mushrooms and queso. There are a ton of huge picnic tables that accommodate large parties, and you’re going to want to bring a bunch of folks to share moist brisket and pastrami bacon. You order and pay at a counter, and you’ll probably encounter a line—but it moves fast.
At the entrance to Wu’s Wonton King, you’ll find tanks filled with crabs and people taking whole roasted suckling pigs to go. But if you want to eat in, this Dimes Square stalwart has plenty of readily-available large tables outfitted with lazy susans for easy sharing, and it’s BYOB, which makes it ideal for when you want to drink without blowing your budget on booze. Order the clams in black bean sauce, and share a large-format dish like the roast duck or crispy flounder.
Woodside’s Ihawan has a large space with lots of big tables. This place is perfect for not-so-well-planned group dinners, especially on weekdays when it’s not as busy. You can order à la carte BBQ and Filipino dishes like oxtail kare-kare and crispy, fatty sizzling pork sisig (one of the best in the city), but you can also get a kamayan platter for two-to-eight people and skip the decision-making process altogether.
This Williamsburg spot is from the people behind Ops, and it's a place where you can get standout pizza without an outrageous wait. In fact, you could gather a group last minute, show up here, and it’ll likely not be a problem. Although the margherita is an automatic order at a lot of places, we prefer the pies with toppings, like the garlicky clam version. The crust is somewhere between New York style and Neapolitan, and you’ll taste a noticeable tang because it’s made with sourdough.
Think of Meet the Meat as a budget Peter Luger, with a few twists on the menu. The main attraction is one of the few quality porterhouses in the city under $100, but you can also get a side of mac with mushrooms in it and a slab of Canadian bacon. The white-tablecloth dining room feels kind of dated and a TV at the bar makes the space a bit less formal, but this is still a warm, inviting spot. It’s perfect for days when you and your friends serendipitously agree that the consumption of beef simply cannot wait another day.
Tsurutontan first opened in Japan more than 30 years ago, so this place has had some time to perfect their specialty, udon bowls. There are plenty of varieties to choose from like one with creamy broth and uni, but we gravitate towards the katsu curry that comes with a thick and juicy fried pork cutlet. There’s also a full sushi menu and an all-day Happy Hour for select wines, beers, and sake. This Midtown location has tons of seating spread out over three floors, so it’s a great choice for all the teams (work, basketball, or otherwise) in your life.
This neighborhood staple in Prospect Heights is always bopping, but you never have to wait too long for a table. You’ll have fun reading all the colorful graffiti scribbled on the walls while R&B slow jams play over the speakers. One of our go-tos for impromptu group dinners, Geido serves a solid rotating sushi menu, lots of classic izakaya dishes, and plenty of beer and sake. Most of the menu is under $15, so this place is a great choice if everyone you’re going out with is budget-conscious.
Eléa is a big, attractive Greek restaurant, and it's one of the best options for a somewhat upscale group meal on the UWS. There’s a bar area upstairs and a large dining room in the basement, and the whole space leans into the coastal-Greek theme. Your options range from salads and vegetarian mousaka to lamb chops and a whole grilled fish, and you should always start with a few of the dips. We especially like the hummus. If you need a big table in just a few hours, there’s a good chance you’ll find one available here.
Maybe you need to suddenly find a dinner spot for a handful of clients, or maybe you just want to get a bunch of friends together at a place with gold accents, potted plants, and framed pictures of birds everywhere. Go to Quality Bistro, the massive Midtown restaurant from the people behind Zou Zou’s and Don Angie. They have several different loud, dark rooms to sit in, and the French-leaning menu has everything from lobster toast and Dover sole to a filet mignon that you can top with a king crab crêpe.
Trying to figure out where to have a last-minute birthday dinner for 13? Odds are you can get a same-day reservation at Gunbae, a lively Korean BBQ spot in Tribeca. Get a few Han-Sang combos (each one serves four) that come with different varieties of beef and pork as well as tofu stew and fried dumplings. Supplement all that with lots of soju. The karaoke bar downstairs serves bar snacks and more booze, so you can keep the party going without having to change locations.
Harlem Tavern is where you go to watch sports, listen to throwback tunes, and drink beer with your entire friend group. This place has a big indoor space with a bunch of TVs and an even larger outdoor area with more TVs and long tables. (The latter is completely enclosed and heated in the winter.) Their sizable menu is full of sandwiches, a surprising number of salads, and bar bites. Skip the average burger and get the bone-in fried chicken with thick, fluffy waffles or the gumbo that’s loaded with different kinds of seafood.