Where To Have A Last-Minute Group Dinner
When you’re heading out with a group and no one made plans, try any of these 15 spots.
There are a few things that will have you heading for a last-minute group dinner: an unplanned pop-up by your parents, your group chat assuming others made that birthday reservation for the third-tier friend in the crew, or the Sixers are playing and a power outage hits your neighborhood in the second quarter. For these moments—or other occasions when people unexpectedly want to hang out with you—we’ve got you covered. These are the 15 best places that are relatively easy to get into with a group.
Located in a converted school building, Irwin's might surprise you with a dining space full of retro furniture and an outdoor patio that’s perfect for watching the sunset on a summery date night. One of the best restaurants in town (which makes it one of the best Italian spots by default), Irwin’s stand-out dishes are the juicy whole fish topped with citrusy salsa, and an orange-glazed half agrodolce chicken (it’s our favorite roast chicken in the city). Plus, after eating pasta and sipping on wine, you'll probably sit back with your friends and marvel at how they made an old South Philly vocational school feel like one of the coolest places on the planet.
photo credit: EMILY SCHINDLER
Between all the neon colors and hanging plants, this place might be more in its element on South Beach than in Center City. Maybe that’s why Mission Taqueria is always busy at Happy Hour–or maybe it’s because they have delicious $10 margaritas, like the mango-pineapple or the mezcal-green juice variety. If you’re looking for a more laid-back dinner with friends, though, try coming a little later in the evening, when it’s much easier to snag a table. Try the Oaxacan Express–you get soup, tacos (of your choice), agua fresca, and a house margarita for just $24.
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With bright neon pod seating in the corner for private dinners, a long sushi bar, and a huge dining room, you can fit a group of any size into this lively University City restaurant. Aside from the colorful dining space, they have shareable plates, like a crispy seafood pancake, Korean fried chicken coated with a chili glaze, and a selection of hand rolls that you should get for the table (we like the yellowtail, which has a nice crunch from ginger and crispy shallots). There are murals on the walls and movable mini lamps on the table, so you already have a cool backdrop and good lighting if your group wants to take a few pictures to remember the night.
Where To Have A Group Dinner In Philly
photo credit: Tuna Bar
With massive picture windows, intimate lighting at night, and a long u-shaped bar, Tuna Bar makes for a great group spot when you want a bunch of sake options and some of the best sushi in Old City. Plus, you can usually stop by without a reservation, order a few small plates like the crispy miso brussels sprouts and oysters, and spend the rest of the night drinking Junmai sake and eating too many spicy crab-filled Liberty Rolls. An added bonus if you’re here in the spring–you’ll have a great view of the cherry blossom trees or a Ben Franklin impersonator walking the streets.
Humans love to drench things. We’re betting a lot of people exclusively order pancakes just to douse them in syrup, and we love to drown our mashed potatoes, turkey, and stuffing in gravy. Callowhill’s El Purephecha takes the drenching game to the next level by packing homemade masa tortillas with things like chorizo or garlic shrimp and then smothering them in a spicy rojo or peppery salsa verde. Come to this Mexican spot with friends and split the seafood tostadas, al pastor tacos, and grilled steak quesadilla dripping with crema. And since it’s ideal for walk-ins, the only thing standing between you and rounds of strawberry margaritas is deciding if you want them frozen or not.
photo credit: GAB BONGHI
Come to this Turkish spot in Northern Liberties to share things like perfectly charred, citrusy shrimp, lamb kebabs, silky babagannoush and humus, and fluffy pita. The juicy and lemony grilled dorado will be a favorite with everyone at the table. The corner restaurant is also a BYOB (there’s a wine and spirits store up the street) so you can take over any of their large tables with a few friends and a couple of bottles.
While we love Fishtown for all the good, casual options, sometimes you just want somewhere that will give you an excuse to wear the one outfit that you mentally reserve for “special occasions.” Kensington Quarters is that place. They have raw bar options including fresh oysters served with a house-made hot sauce and onion mignonette, and mussels in a coriander kosho. Outside of the seafood, they also have a Happy Hour (even on Sundays) if you’re looking to try a few small bites like littleneck clams or tuna crudo before committing to a New York strip smothered in a sweet red wine sauce.
photo credit: Rachel Lerro
If there’s one thing that a big group can (probably) agree on, it’s pizza and wine. And Nomad does those two things very well. This Bella Vista spot makes great wood-fired pies that can be topped with anything from local bufala and basil to spicy sausage. The pizzas are the perfect size to split between a few people, and their long tables can fit your entire spin class or fantasy football league.
photo credit: GAB BONGHI
Fette Sau is one of the most dependable spots for a big group dinner in Philly. And with long communal tables and massive trays of pulled pork, a rack of ribs, and a few large sides like smoked corn that can feed at least six people, you’ll soon understand why it’s one of our favorite BBQ spots, too. At this Fishtown spot, everyone orders at the front, heads to the bar to put in their drink order, and then parks up at a picnic table inside or outside where they wait for some tender, juicy chunks of meat. Plus, they have one of the best Happy Hours in town with $5 beers, $4 chicken legs and spicy slaw, and $3 smoked deviled eggs.
Hawthornes Beer Cafe
You don’t need this meal to be too complicated. But you do need a place with guaranteed open tables, lots of room to spread out, and food that can please everybody. Hawthornes checks all of those boxes. It’s a beer bar in Bella Vista with big charcuterie boards, a great burger, and a ton of fried things. They also carry over 500 beers, so it’ll even please your friend who only drinks IPAs that are from a specific town in Minnesota.
Cantina Dos Segundos
You’re a simple person with simple needs. All you’re looking for is a fun space that’s big enough for a group and access to margaritas by the pitcher. Cantina dos Segundos provides both of these things. Get a few orders of nachos topped with roasted corn, black beans, pickled jalapeños, and pepper jack cheese, and try out as many tequilas as you want (they keep over 100 varieties on hand). Afterward, head a few doors down for a few frames and some tater tots at North Bowl, which may become your new favorite nightcap.
photo credit: RACHEL LERRO
Finding a place for a spontaneous dinner in Center City with a big group is like buying Wicked tickets the day of the Broadway show–it’s nearly impossible. This is why Alimentari is a good place to know about. The huge all-day bistro and wine bar is located on the top floor of Di Bruno Bros., and it’s always relatively empty (even during peak hours). Book a last-minute table here and grab some of their (mostly) Italian selections like creamy cacio e pepe, pan-seared octopus, and charcuterie plates. Everything is delicious, the wine list is long, and your friends will be impressed you found somewhere right by Rittenhouse Square that isn’t crazy busy.
photo credit: Keith Tinari
Pub & Kitchen
Finding a restaurant that everyone in your group text can agree to is always a challenge, but that’s why Pub & Kitchen is so special. There’s something for everyone here, from a burger with whiskey sauce to crispy Brussels sprouts and a pasta option that changes daily. There’s sidewalk seating, too, in case half of the group bails last minute and you end up wanting a smaller table with more people-watching potential.
photo credit: KERRY MCINTYRE
A Mano is an Italian spot in Fairmount where you’ll see everything from first dates to big groups starting a night out. The pasta is the best thing here, and ranges from parsley cavatelli with bone marrow to goat cheese gnocchi covered in a wild boar ragu. It’s also BYOB, so bring a few bottles of your favorite red to split among the group.
Dim Sum Garden
Yes, Chinatown's Dim Sum Garden in can get busy, and they don’t take reservations. But the line moves quickly and the food comes out fast. Everything on the menu here, from pork soup dumplings to dry-fried string beans, comes out on huge plates that you can pass around like it’s Thanksgiving. It’s also BYOB (though they charge a corkage fee), and you’ll see people show up with backpacks full of beer, ready to hit the bars as soon as they finish their scallion pancakes.