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 34 of our favorites.
Some of your friends are punctual, some are not, and one is known for occasionally not showing up at all. So you want someplace casual where people can come and go, and order at their own pace. Go to Mekelburg’s in Williamsburg. Get one of the big communal picnic tables in the back of this high-end grocery store, and walk up to the bar whenever you want to order a growler of unusual craft beer or some of the best sandwiches in the city.
Picking one or two dishes at Ayada is nearly impossible. The menu at this Elmhurst Thai spot is massive - there are eight whole fried red snapper options - and the portions can all be shared by multiple people. In other words, the bigger the group, the better. The good news is that no matter what you order, like raw shrimp salad or phenomenal drunken noodles, you’re going to get some of the best Thai food in NYC.
Montesacro has one of the nicest outdoor dining spaces in Williamsburg. Even better, you can use it all year long as the big, plant-filled backyard is enclosed like a greenhouse during worse-than-LA weather. So no matter when you go, you can have a big outdoor pizza party a few steps from the Lorimer L stop. It will actually be a pinsa party - these Roman-style flatbreads with focaccia-like crust are the speciality here. They all cost around $20, and are packed with enough heavy toppings that you can order a few for the table to share.
With all due respect to The Boss and Washington’s surprise attack on the Hessians, perhaps the most noteworthy thing about New Jersey is its abundance of BYOB restaurants. One of our favorites in Jersey City is Broa, a Portuguese spot a block from the Grove Street Path station. The menu changes daily, but everything written on the chalkboard by the door, from razor clams and bacalhau to housemade sausages and piri piri quail, is delicious. Get a table inside surrounded by Portuguese street signs and smells of grilling seafood, or in the big backyard when there’s live music.
If you go to Chama Mama by yourself, it’s going to take Tony Robbins-level willpower to stop yourself from totally filling up on flaky, cheesy khachapuri. While we fully condone that, bringing a group to this Georgian spot in Chelsea will allow you to save enough room for a few plates of fist-sized Georgian dumplings as well.
We like Golden Unicorn and Jing Fong a lot, but we also know that we tend to lose our friends with short attention spans as soon as we walk through the door. For similarly excellent dim sum in a more low-key space, go to Dim Sum Go Go. Get one of the big round tables upstairs, and if you start to lose your easily distracted friends to the very long menu, just order a few samplers, which each have 10 types of dim sum, for the table.
Just because the night’s primary objective is drinking with friends doesn’t mean dinner has to consist of dry buffalo wings or dollar slices. Check out Ainslie, a three-floor beer garden serving pizzas, housemade pasta, and bar food near the Lorimer L stop. Share a burger topped with prosciutto and a pizza with pancetta, or opt for the multi-course family-style dinner for $38 per person, and then get some drinks at any of the three bars or rooftop while a DJ plays until close.
Going to Urubamba, a Peruvian spot in Jackson Heights, with only one other person is like going to Easter Island and not seeing the giant heads. You’ll still have a good time, but you’ll miss out on the bulk of the experience. That’s because the very long menu at this all-day spot, which looks like a bed and breakfast in the Andes, is mostly made up of large plates meant to be shared. And after tasting the shrimp paella with perfectly spiced rice or the stir-fried steak served over french fries, you’re going to want to try the ceviches, stews, and grilled meats that occupy entire sections of the menu.
Bread And Salt serves some of the best pizza around NYC, and yet even if you’re not in the mood for pizza, we’d still tell you to head to this counter-service spot in Jersey City. Bring a group and whatever you want to drink (it’s BYOB), and order every small plate on the menu, like bread and butter topped with bottarga or meatballs in a pool of bolognese-like tomato sauce. Of course, you should get lots of pizza as well.
All of the sugar and lime in the caipirinhas at Favela Grill make it so you don’t even notice the heavy pours of cachaça. They’re delicious, and worth feeling like the personification of the upside-down head emoji the next morning. But matter what you drink at this Brazilian spot in Astoria, a few things need to be on your table, like Brazilian-style beef jerky and moqueca packed with big pieces of tender fish. During the week, it’s a low-key place filled with dates and families, but on weekends, the space fills up with groups drinking giant towers of beer while live bossa nova plays in the corner.
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.
One order of marinated kalbi at Mapo - a Korean BBQ spot in Flushing costs about $35, but you’re not just getting a plate of grilled meat. Each portion will be grilled for you in the middle of the table, includes enough sweet and smoky meat for two people. It also comes with more than 10 types of banchan, from dried squid to sweet potato noodles, and as much rice as you want, all of which helps balance out the inexpensive bottles of soju and Korean beer.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you can’t have a fun group dinner when you’re surrounded by flamenco dancing, pitchers of margaritas, and huge bowls of moqueca or platters of fish tacos, then you should consider hanging out with some new people. But assuming your friends are into those things, then go to Esperanto in Alphabet City.
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.
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 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.
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 smoked 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.
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.
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 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.