It’s happened to all of us. You’ve had a great group dinner, and then the bill comes. You don’t understand how your meal (which, now seeing it with new eyes, wasn’t even that good) and one or four drinks could have cost you $107. The walls are closing in on you, you no longer like your friends, and you certainly can’t afford more drinks afterwards, let alone brunch tomorrow.
Fortunately, there are places where you can go with a group, eat more than free bread and bottomless chips and guacamole, have a few drinks, and get out for less than $50 per person. Here are 29 of our favorites.
We all have that one friend who always says yes to going out. They may not be who you want to hang out with all the time, but on Monday night after a bad day at work or Sunday afternoon when you want to drink a little too much while watching football, they’re always there for you. Playa Betty’s is the restaurant version of that friend. This Upper West Side Mexican spot has palm trees covered in multicolored string lights, surfboards hanging on the walls, and a burrito called the Hang 10. You don’t need to go out of your way for the food, but a $12 platter of tater tot nachos covered in cheese, beef chili, and guacamole is exactly what you’ll want after buckets of Coronas or jalapeno margaritas.
If you’re looking for a reasonable dinner before you go out on the LES, go to Trapizzino. Share a few of the $8 trapizzini, pockets of sourdough pizza crust filled with things like eggplant parm or braised oxtail, and some appetizers, like fried artichokes or a big salad that’s only $6. You’ll leave feeling full and hopefully you'll still have some money to spend in case you decide to be generous and buy pitchers at nearby Hair Of The Dog.
Deciding what to order can be even more stressful than choosing where to go, because you need to do it face-to-face and in a limited period of time. But at Mable’s, a BBQ spot in Williamsburg, ordering is really easy. Just get the deluxe platters, which come with three meats - brisket, pulled chicken, and pulled pork - and three sides. You could mix up the sides, or you can just get a lot of mac and cheese. We recommend the latter.
When your friends are all in the mood to order their next rounds halfway through their current ones, it’s really tough to keep the bill from getting out of hand. Unless you bring in flasks of Jack and order a soda every 10 minutes, your best bet is to go somewhere that’s BYOB. One of our favorite options in Manhattan is Peking Duck House. The two-floor space in Chinatown has a bunch of big tables ideal for groups, and along with being able to drink as much of whatever you want, you can eat some juicy, crispy Peking duck that’s carved tableside.
Maybe you and your roommates just spent a couple hours at Ikea arguing about futons and shower curtain colors, or perhaps you were day drinking at a birthday party at Brooklyn Crab. Regardless, if you’re in Red Hook with a group and want some drinks and food, head to San Pedro Inn. The dark space is divey by design, and it’s actually just a casual spot to drink margaritas and Ballast Points while eating very good Mexican food. Get the tamales with mole and tacos packed with carnitas or lengua, and share some chips with spicy salsa and chorizo quesadillas, which include three for $12.
La Slowteria should be an easy sell to your group. It serves some of the best Mexican food in Brooklyn, and most dishes on the menu, including the tacos with housemade blue and yellow corn tortillas, are under $10. Even though the food is excellent and affordable, it’s rarely tough to get a reservation due to its location on a quiet block in Carroll Gardens. There aren’t many bars nearby, but you can make up for it with a couple extra spicy mezcal margaritas, which are $8 during Happy Hour (every day until 7:30pm).
When you hear “lava lamp beer pitcher,” what do you think? If you think it’s something you could get down with, and you’re a fan of Korean fried chicken, Turntable Chicken Jazz is the place for you. It’s semi-hidden on the second floor of a building in K-Town, and there’s plenty of room for big groups. Their fried chicken wings are a must, and you should order their skewers of fried potato coins just for the visual. They also do a good bulgogi burger.
L & B should be on everyone’s NYC pizza bucket list. The saucy, cheesy, doughy, Sicilian pies at this Gravesend institution are phenomenal, and whether you eat them in the big dining room with $18 carafes of Chianti, or you order a bunch of slices to-go and eat them at a picnic table out front, make sure to end the meal with spumoni.
You can try to walk into Kiki’s with six people, but you should be prepared to spend a few hours drinking shot and beer combos at 169 Bar while you wait. But for similar food, prices, and atmosphere, with far shorter waits, go to Kiki’s Grill, which is from the same people and it’s located directly across the street. They serve some of the same dishes you’ll find at the original, like grilled octopus and perfectly cooked lamb chops, and they also serve some more budget-friendly options, like huge skewers of pork or chicken, which are $3 each. The ideal order for a group is a bunch of souvlaki (you can get 10 for $20), some oregano spiced fries, and plenty of $13 half-liters of Greek wine.
There are a lot of big bars that serve good burgers and wings, but few of them are as big or as good as Harlem Tavern. There’s a huge indoor space with booths and high-tops where you can drink something from the excellent draft beer list while watching sports on TV, and there’s an even bigger patio out front where you should drink a frozen cocktail or pitcher of rum punch. Either way, order some food for the table, like build-your-own mac and cheese, and a bacon cheeseburger topped with truffle aioli and avocado that’s $15 (including fries).
The dining room at Jing Fong is nearly half an acre, so this place could hold pretty much everyone you know. And you’ll want to bring pretty much everyone you know because it serves some of the best dim sum in Chinatown.
We don't know why there's not a huge line out the front door every weekend waiting to eat Sally Roots' very good Caribbean food, but you should make it a point to have a group dinner at this Bushwick spot spoon. The tropical-themed space gets loud and dark at night, so it’s a good spot for a fun night involving smoked pork with plantains and tostones with garlic sauce. And if it’s warm outside, be sure to sit in the big backyard.
When you want to hang out by the water without attempting to get full on $3.50 oysters, head to Anable Basin. The all-outdoor, cash-only spot in Long Island City serves some good $12 cheeseburgers and $4 hot dogs, as well as Eastern European dishes like rich, charred sausages served with pita and a pepper-based sauce. It’s usually pretty easy to find an open picnic table, all of which overlook the river and Manhattan.
The most expensive dish on the menu at Bati, an Ethiopian spot in Fort Greene, is $20. Considering all of the portions work for at least two people, you can eat a lot of fantastic food here for less than your average delivery order. Get the meat or vegan combo platters for the table, which come with unlimited injera bread, as well as multiple orders of the kitfo. It’s like their spicy, buttery version of steak tartare, and it’s the best thing here.
Maybe you’re heading out with a few friends on Thursday night, or maybe you’re watching your sister’s kids, and the only food you’ve ever seen them eat is noodles. Go to Celeste. It’s a neighborhood Italian spot on the Upper West Side where you can grab some very affordable pizza and pasta. Just know that this place is cash only and that you should bring enough for wine. Especially if you’re babysitting your sister’s kids.
The food at West New Malaysia - curries, big bowls of soup filled with seafood, and entrees like sauteed chicken that’s perfectly tender and covered in spicy shrimp paste - has two traits that make it great for group dinners. It’s excellent, and the large format portions are ideal for sharing. The menu at this Malaysian spot on Bowery is huge, but no matter what else you order, make sure to get the crispy, fried prawns with salted egg.
Birds of a Feather is one of those places that’s actually better with a group. Get some wontons in chili oil, Chungking chicken, and whatever else sounds good, because the menu is solid across board, and it’s all pretty inexpensive. There’s also a big communal table in the middle of the space, as well as a few booths off the side that are good for smaller groups. Just be sure to make a reservation if you’re coming with a bunch of people. It gets pretty busy.
If you’re looking for the kind of dinner where you can order too much food and drink too much wine, without spending too much money, consider Taverna Kyclades. This classic Astoria spot makes you feel like you’re being cooked for by the Greek aunt you never had, and everything is served family-style. You and your friends will share giant plates of lamb and octopus and potatoes, split affordable bottles of wine, and walk out stuffed and happy. If you don’t want to wait for a table, definitely get there early - the crowds know about this place.
You’ll wonder where this place has been all your life. The two-floor Mexican spot in the East Village has margarita pitchers, inexpensive and enjoyable tacos and quesadillas, and most importantly, pitchers of very good and very strong margaritas.
You can confidently roll into Up Thai with a group of people without a reservation, eat a lot, and not spend a ton of money. That would make it unusual anywhere, but especially on the Upper East Side. Get the duck with tamarind sauce and a few orders of the Thai crepe dumplings.
Going to dinner before a night out? Esperanto is proof that when you combine good, cheap food and drinks, great vibes, occasional flamenco dancing, and Avenue C, awesome things can happen.
Thursday Kitchen might not be a huge place, but it’s larger than it looks from the outside, and you can get an alcoholic drink in a Capri Sun-type pouch here. Unless your group is massive, you’ll be able to find a place to sit (although there might be a wait). This place is popular, and maybe that’s because the pouch drinks glow in the dark. It also might be because the food is great and inexpensive. This is a Korean restaurant, but the influences are all over the place, and you can get an eel taco with guacamole crispy or a steak with feta grits.
Tortaria gets crowded, and it’s first-come-first-served. Place an order at the counter, then have the most intimidating person in your group acquire a bank of tables. This casual spot near Union Square serves tacos and a few small plates, but they specialize in Mexican sandwiches (our favorite is the one with pork carnitas and chipotles). Everything on the menu is around $10, so you should order a lot, which will also help balance out the pitchers of margaritas and caipirinhas.
Trying to get into the downtown location of Han Dynasty with a group requires impressive connections or waiting for a long time. You can get the same great Sichuan food, including the phenomenal Dan Dan noodles, without the waits at their outpost on the Upper West Side.
There’s no better way to unite people than over a heaping pile of meat. Admittedly, that statement breaks down if you’re with vegetarians. Anyway, this Prospect Heights BBQ spot is ideal for groups who want to eat meat, like excellent fatty brisket and pork ribs that fall off the bone. It’s an especially good option when the weather is nice and they put a bunch of picnic tables out front.
We know you’re on the edge of your seats, so we’ll just tell you now: 12 Chairs does, in fact, have more than twelve chairs. The Soho and Williamsburg locations rarely get as crowded as other bright, all-day spots nearby, every dish on the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern menu is under $20.
The next-best thing to a group dinner in a Mexican courtyard is the Manhattan version of a group dinner in a Mexican courtyard: Tacombi Fonda Nolita. The menu is simple - mostly tacos and a few apps - which makes it perfect for a big group situation (because no one is actually excited about dealing with sharing). A sangria pitcher or three won’t hurt, either.
Do not - we repeat - do not come to Paulie Gee’s with a crew not expecting a wait. But it won’t be hard to convince your friends that it’s worth it - just assure them that there are plenty of bars nearby (like Ramona’s for fancy cocktails or Brouwerij Lane for unusual beers). Once your name is up, the picnic tables inside will be yours and you’ll have the chance to to eat your weight in some of the best pizza in the city. There needs to be more than one Hellboy present.
Margaritas and tacos and guacamole. Tacos and guacamole and margaritas. Repeat as necessary for a highly successful - and cheap - group dinner at La Superior. You’ll leave ready to conquer the world. Or at least a few bars in Williamsburg.