Where To Have A Last-Minute Group Dinner
If you forgot to plan a group dinner and your friends are starting to ask questions, choose a spot from this guide.
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.
Wu's Wonton King
This Chinatown stalwart has plenty of 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. It’s also very easy to get a table here, especially with the expanded outdoor seating. Order the clams in black bean sauce, and share a large-format dish like the roast duck or crispy flounder, which they debone tableside.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
If an East Village restaurant has tons of last-minute tables available, you might assume that you're settling. But nothing about Huertas, a casual Basque tapas spot on First Avenue, feels like a compromise. With its outstanding Spanish food—like charred octopus over potatoes—and big booths that are perfect for groups, Huertas is perfect for when you don't want anyone to know that you spent your week watching YouTube and forgot to make a reservation.
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photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Melba’s in Harlem is never exactly not-busy. Stop by on a weeknight, and it’ll probably be somewhat noisy (in a pleasant way) with a good crowd and plenty of people sitting at the bar. You might even see a birthday party or two. But you can always just make a reservation (even last-minute on a Friday). Once you get seated, order some fried chicken, catfish, or short ribs. All of these things come with two sides, and we suggest the mac and cheese and collard greens.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
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 aunts and uncles to a semi-formal dinner with friends or out-of-towners. Plan on sitting at a big round table filled with beautiful platters of crispy duck and sesame noodles.
Bati Ethiopian Restaurant
The beauty of Bati is its proximity to the Barclays Center and BAM area. We also appreciate the platters of Ethiopian food, which can be ordered in meat, vegetable, or completely vegan combinations. If you want to have a delicious group dinner near Atlantic Terminal for less than $30 per person, this is always our first suggestion.
Moonrise Izakaya is permanently closed
photo credit: Moonrise Izakaya
Keep Moonrise Izakaya in mind for two situations: when you and some friends need dinner before a night out on the Upper West Side, and when your group dinner is the “going out” headliner. This place runs on sake, and it’s likely you’ll be offered a free glass upon arrival. Once seated, order a slow procession of Japanese drinking food, like cheesy corn and karaage. Know that Moonrise Izakaya’s space is fairly small, but last-minute reservations are typically available if you don’t want to risk walking in.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Golden Unicorn is above a bank in a Chinatown office building that looks like it was built in the early 1960s, and that’s part the appeal. When you get off the elevator, you might see a wedding reception, and you can pretend to be a part of it while you eat some Peking duck with nine friends around one big table. And, while you might not see any carts at dinner, they do serve dim sum all day.
Anassa Taverna is basically the defacto Bloomingdales cafeteria (it’s located across the street from the Third Ave location), and it was therefore built to accommodate the masses. With two floors and its very own ouzo bar, this place is useful for any semi-spontaneous meetup near the East 60s with people who are comfortable paying around $30 for their own Greek entrees.
photo credit: Blue Willow
Pretty much everything at Blue Willow is served family-style, so it’s easy to keep it simple and have someone order for the table. The interior has a special-occasion feel with its velvet banquettes and frilly chandeliers, but you probably won’t accidentally spend your entire paycheck on a sixth of a birthday dinner here. It’s usually easy to get a last-minute reservation, and they also take walk-ins, though there may be a short wait.
photo credit: David A. Lee
Bo Ky Restaurant 波記潮州小食
If you find yourself looking for a dinner spot that can seat a group of six and won’t rush you out to turn the table, BoKy should be at the top of your list. The specialty here is Teochew-style noodle soups, which are all under $10 a bowl. Get a platter of country style duck and some mustard greens to share, then debate the merits of flat versus egg noodles with your friends over endless pots of tea.
photo credit: Adam Friedlander
A reliable place to sit with a group and eat excellent pizza is important to have in your back pocket. That’s why we like Leo. The pies at this Williamsburg spot are on the smaller side, so plan to get one for every two or three people in your group. Order a few bottles of wine (their selection is small but unique and well-curated), and be sure to save room for soft serve at the end of your meal.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
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), then supplement with extra meat and lots of soju. The karaoke bar downstairs serves bar snacks and tons of booze, so you can keep the party going without having to change locations.
This neighborhood staple is always bopping, but you never have to wait too long for a table. Our go-to for impromptu birthday dinners and last-minute after-work hangs, Geido serves a solid rotating sushi menu, lots of classic izakaya dishes, and plenty of beer and sake options in the $10 range. Most of the menu is under $15, so Geido is a good choice for groups on a budget.
photo credit: Zenith Richards
If you’ve just finished hitting the museums with your friends and want a place to drink excellent cocktails and slurp ramen, head to NR. They always reserve tables for walk-ins, and it’s easy to get a last-minute reservation if you don’t want to roll the dice. The drinks are the star here, but the food holds up. Get a few apps to share, then finish with a bowl of ramen.
Ihawan is large and has lots of big tables, making it perfect for impromptu group dinners, especially on weekdays when it’s not as busy. You can order à la carte BBQ and Filipino dishes like their sizzling sisig, but you can also get a kamayan platter for two-to-eight people and skip the decision-making process altogether.