Occasionally, you have a birthday. And every once in a while, someone gets engaged, or people you barely remember decide they want to see you again. Camp friends, for example, or everyone who lived on the same floor as you well over a decade ago. If you need a place to plan a dinner on one of these occasions, pick a place from this guide. All of these spots are ideal for groups of 10+ people, and they aren’t so expensive that no one will show up after you were forced to plan the whole get together.
Maybe your cousin is visiting, and your cousin has 12 children. Or maybe you spontaneously got married to the person who cleans your teeth, and now you need a last-minute spot to celebrate with your friends. Go to Golden Unicorn. It’s a Cantonese spot in Chinatown with two floors, dim sum all day, plenty of big round tables, and some colorful lighting and long golden curtains. Plus, you probably won’t be the only wedding party here.
When we want to BYOB with a really big group, we go to Wu’s. This place is just one big room on the Lower East Side filled with round tables that come topped with lazy susans, and you can bring as much wine as you want. Start with a big vat of wonton soup for the table, then get some jellyfish, crispy chicken, and a whole crab or two. Once you finish dinner, 169 Bar is waiting for you a few doors down.
If you ever need to plan a casual group meal with a bunch of people who appreciate smoked meat, go to Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook. The space is about the size of a deluxe barn, with high ceilings, plenty of tables, and some quality taxidermy. It’s counter-service, and there will probably be a line when you go, but just take that as a sign that you’re dining at a quality place. Once you get to the front of that line, order brisket, several types of ribs, some tacos and wings, and (this last is important) one lamb belly banh mi for every two people in your group.
Brooklyn Crab is just down the street from Hometown Bar-B-Que, and it’s one of favorite places to hang out in the summer. There’s a big backyard with mini-golf and a sandpit for children who don’t yet have enough sand in their pockets, as well as an outdoor patio with a view of the water. And if you happen to come here during winter, don’t panic. You’ll find plenty of room inside the bi-level space, and from the top dining room you can see the Statue of Liberty.
You want to eat fried chicken. That wasn’t a guess or a weirdly phrased question - it was a fact. And when you’re with a big group, you should be eating your fried chicken at Amy Ruth’s. This is one of our favorite spots in Harlem, and it’s a casual two-story space covered in murals that’s been open for decades. You can get your chicken roughly 20 different ways here - including fried, smothered, and on top of waffles - and there’s also stuff like shrimp and salmon.
Telly’s is a huge place, which makes sense, because they serve some of the best Greek food in the city, and people like that sort of thing. As soon as you walk in, you’ll see a bunch of different kinds of fish on ice (like flounder, porgy, and red snapper), and it’s important that one of these fish winds up on your table in its entirety. The very normal-sounding “mixed vegetables” are also surprisingly delicious, and if you get some lamb chops and saganaki, the people at your dinner will develop a newfound appreciation for you.
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong is big, fun, and smells like grilled meat. It’s a Korean barbecue spot on 32nd Street - and, while you’ll find plenty of other barbecue spots nearby (and a few of them don’t get as busy), this one’s our favorite. They don’t typically take reservations, but you can book for groups larger than six, in which case you’ll have to order from a (mandatory) set menu, starting at $50 per person. You’ll get things like cheesy corn, egg souffle, a bunch of other banchan, and your choice of beef, pork, or a mix of the two. And if you say it’s someone’s birthday, a server might light a big sparkler for you.
When you’re organizing a big-group dinner, there a lot of potentially stressful elements. First, you have to figure out a time, then you have to see if anyone in your group currently hates anyone else in your group. Then you have to worry about feeding everyone. But Hometown Hotpot is all-you-can-eat, and you can do hot pot, barbecue, or both. Factoring in both price and quality, this our favorite hot pot place downtown, and they have some of the biggest, roundest tables we’ve ever seen.
The specialty at La Casa Del Mofongo is, unsurprisingly, mofongo. An entire page of the menu is devoted to it, and you can get it with everything from cod and longaniza to lobster and spaghetti. But we usually just order ours with pork. And if someone in your group doesn’t feel like mofongo, there’s plenty of other stuff like steak and paella. The Washington Heights space also has multiple floors, and there’s a bar area to the side in case anyone from your group wants to hide from everyone else.
Freemans looks very much like a grand hunting lodge you’d find on a mountainside. It’s a two-story space hidden at the back of a narrow alley on the Lower East Side, and it’s filled with taxidermy, candles, and old paintings that have a 50/50 chance of being haunted. The menu consists of pretty standard American stuff like trout, duck, and roast chicken, and it also has some good snacks like artichoke dip and mac and cheese (in case you’d rather just drink and pick at a few things). Private rooms are also available if you want your own space.
Jackson Diner looks like a big bowling alley or small airplane hangar, only instead of 747s or any of the cast members from The Big Lebowski,you’ll find some of the best Indian food in NYC. Most things cost less than $20, and this is a great place to share a bunch of things with a group while you drink a few tall blue cocktails (or some beer and wine). Plus, this place is only a block away from the subway in Jackson Heights, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get people here.
Of the many Han Dynasty locations, the one we frequent most is probably the one in the East Village. But the UWS outpost of this Chinese restaurant is roughly 10-times the size, and it’s a much more impressive space that looks kind of like an old ballroom with lots of tables and big fish tank. If you want to share a big round table with nine other people, you can absolutely do that - just be sure to get at least one order of dan dan noodles for every two people.
Ayada is one of our top-five Thai restaurants in the city - and you could easily plan a last-minute big group dinner here. There are two big dining rooms side by side (we prefer the one on the right), and you can call ahead for a reservation. Once you get here, focus on the seafood, like the raw shrimp, crispy catfish salad, and a whole fried fish on your table. The panang curry with duck is also outstanding, and they might have our favorite drunken noodles in the city. It’s hard to pick favorites, which is why it’s good that you’re going with a group.
If you’re planning a group dinner in Midtown, and you’d rather not go to Bubba Gump or a steakhouse where your check will creep into the quadruple digits, we suggest Bukhara. This place has three floors, it isn’t tough to get into with a big group (even last-minute), and it also makes some of the best Indian Indian food in the city. Plus the naan here is about the size of a dinosaur’s footprint, and this place does a lot of catering, so they know how to handle large groups.