The Best Restaurants For Affordable Group Dinners
Where to get dinner with a group when you want the food to be more memorable than the bill.
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 share of the meal (which wasn’t even that good) could have cost $107. Plus, you only had one drink with well vodka. The walls are closing in on you, you're starting to resent your friends, and you certainly can’t afford drinks at the next place, let alone brunch tomorrow.
Fortunately, there are places where you can go with a group, eat more than free bread and bottomless chips and salsa, have a couple drinks, and get out for less than $50 per person. Here are some of our favorites.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
Some restaurants are ideal for solo dining, but Ugly Baby in Carroll Gardens is not one of those places. To eat here, you have to place your order ahead of time on Tock—and if you have four or more people, you can get a set menu for $40 per person. This set menu will involve some of the best Thai food in NYC. Gather some fellow bird's eye chili enthusiasts, and enjoy a spread that might include a whole crispy sea bream topped with fried shallots and a salted mackerel dip that comes with what we can only describe as a cornucopia of fresh vegetables.
Michelada House II
Michelada House II in Jackson Heights has perpetual party energy. This is, in large part, because they serve about a dozen varieties of cartoonishly large micheladas. Their family-style Mexican dishes could very well feed the majority of a subway car, and the dining room is decorated as though a sparkly green, white, and red firework exploded inside. Of the near-infinite things to order on the menu, be sure to get the chilaquiles torta and at least one of the dozen varieties of the restaurant’s titular drink. This is the kind of place that reminds you that more is actually more.
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photo credit: Emily Schindler
Albadawi is from the same people who run Ayat, although it’s a little more formal than its sister restaurant. Rather than order at a counter, you sit down at this Brooklyn Heights spot and have your food brought to you on terracotta plating. When that food arrives, you’ll look at the huge portions and immediately think something along the lines of, “Are you serious?” We suggest trying the ouzi lamb, tender to the bone, served alongside cardamom-spiced rice topped with almonds, peas, and herbs. The bamia, which is full of pleasantly bitter okra, is even better the next day after marinating overnight (and we’re pretty sure you’ll have enough left on your table to take home).
photo credit: Adam Friedlander
Rolo’s is a little like Applebee's in that they serve a wide range of food that includes a burger, pasta, and ice cream. But this restaurant is located in Ridgewood, and they go the extra mile to make just about everything in house. When you come with a group, it’s a good idea to share their very good burger and some of the more inventive stuff like the crab salad with habanada peppers or the Szechuan cabbage that's charred so it's a little like jerky. But you could also come for the ice cream, naturally fermented polenta bread, and house-cured meat. Just those three items are worth a trip.
Let’s Meat is loud, so if towers of beer and unlimited marinated hanger steak, pork jowl, and teriyaki chicken breast turn your group outing into a Major League Eating competition, feel free to cheer each other on without holding back. Your party will have 100 minutes to order as much as you want from the $39 classic or $45 deluxe meal set. Invite a bunch of friends to pregame from a beer fountain before heading to Karaoke City around the corner afterwards, where you can keep the party going for $8/hour per person.
One of the best Indian places in Queens (and all of NYC), Seva is a restaurant that you won’t be able to shut up about until someone from your social circle tries it for themselves. If you want to keep things more affordable, you can go for the prix fixe sampler, which includes an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert of your choosing for around $20—but then you might miss out on the lamb spring roll, intensely flavorful chicken tikka, or lamb saag. Make a reservation, bring friends, and see who can best handle their spice when the lamb vindaloo hits the table.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Inti is a quiet restaurant on 10th Avenue that feels unremarkable in almost every regard, aside from their very good Peruvian food. Every meal at Inti starts with a little bowl of fried corn kernels and spicy green sauce (good for dipping the corn and everything else). All the items here come in large portions at pretty affordable prices, including things like ceviche and a whole rotisserie chicken with french fries, fried plantains, rice and beans, and salad that will easily feed five adults. So the next time you need a group dinner before a show at Terminal 5 or a Peruvian feast in a quiet setting, Inti is the place.
The space where Peaches Hot House used to be in Fort Greene is now this casual Caribbean restaurant serving jerk chicken that we can’t remove from our dreams. Whether you get this chicken in wing form or as an entree, it’ll be covered in a smoky dry rub and doused with sticky, spicy sauce. Island Shack’s menu shows a range of influence, with everything from Jamaican oxtails and rice and peas to Trini-style roti and curry goat. The space isn't huge, but there are few big tables, so grab a few of your “fun friends” and come to this high-energy spot for a group dinner.
photo credit: Chris Stang
J.G. Melon opened on the Upper East Side when Nixon was president, and it has an unimpeachable reputation (see what we did there?) for having one of the best burgers in NYC. If you haven't been, there are a few things you should know: It will probably be crowded, you need to order the cottage fried potatoes, and you will (if even for a split second) consider ordering a second burger after you finish your first one. Come here when the group you’re with happens to be experiencing a burger mind meld, and make sure to bring cash because this place doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.
SriPraPhai is a Woodside classic, and, after all these years, it’s still where you should be sharing a large plate of soft-shell crab with a table of your very best friends (or even a few people who are “just fine”). Peruse the large menu that doesn't stick to any one region of Thailand, and be sure to get some curries and seafood, as well as the fragrant pork leg that falls apart as soon as you touch it. This spot is cash-only, so be sure to stop by the ATM beforehand—and don't forget to grab some to-go desserts from the fridge on your way out.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
Ace's Perfect Pizza
Ace’s in Williamsburg makes the best Detroit-style pizza in the city. Their shop might look like any old slice joint, but they serve wine and beer, and you can play Mario Kart on N64 when you want to get away from your group for a few minutes. While they also do a grandma pie, your first move at Ace’s should unquestionably be some iteration of Detroit-style pizza. A large pie feeds two to three fully-formed humans, and each airy, thick slice comes with crispy cheese-webbed crust that will provide you and your friends with profound joy.
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.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
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. Although it'll actually be a pinsa party—Roman-style flatbreads with focaccia-like crust are the speciality here. These flatbreads all cost around $20, and they come packed with toppings like lamb sausage, guanciale, and butternut squash.
If you go to Chama Mama alone, it’s going to take some serious 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.
photo credit: Jesse Hsu
Dim Sum Go Go
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 in Williamsburg. Share a burger topped with prosciutto and a pizza with pancetta, or opt for the multi-course family-style dinner. Once you're done eating, get some drinks at one of the bars 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. 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.
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. The caipirinhas are delicious, and they're worth feeling like the personification of the upside-down head emoji the next morning. But no 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, this is 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.
Peking Duck House
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 and 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.
L&B Spumoni Gardens
L & B should be on everyone’s NYC pizza bucket list. The saucy, cheesy, doughy, Sicilian pies at this Gravesend institution are phenomenal. 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 your 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 platter of tater tot nachos covered in cheese, beef chili, and guacamole is exactly what you’ll want after a bucket of Coronas
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
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. This place has 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.
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 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.
We don’t know why there’s not a huge line of people every weekend waiting to eat Sally Roots’ 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 choice for a fun night involving smoked pork with plantains and tostones with garlic sauce. If it’s warm outside, be sure to sit in the big backyard.
West New Malaysia
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 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.
Bati Ethiopian Restaurant
The most expensive dish on the menu at Bati, an Ethiopian spot in Fort Greene, is around $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 platter for the table, both of which come with unlimited injera—and don't forget about the kifto. It’s spicy, buttery, and the best thing here.
Jing Fong's newer, single-floor space on Centre Street is much smaller than their previous 800-seat banquet hall, but the dim sum is better than ever, and it remains one of the best destinations for all your dumpling-loving friends. There are still roving carts with chicken feet, fried turnip cakes, and egg tarts, but none of these dishes ever seem like they've been sitting around for more than a few minutes. If you don’t see a dish you want rolling by, just get someone from your party to mention this to the accommodating staff, and someone will bring it to your table straight from the kitchen.
Trying to get into the downtown location of Han Dynasty with a group requires a long wait or impressive connections. 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.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Taqueria St. Marks
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 group not expecting a wait. Fortunately, the wait will be worth it, and there are plenty of bars nearby where you can hang out until your table is ready (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 on your table.