Group dinners are a good idea in theory, but choosing a place for your monthly team dinner/book club meeting/coven tribunal can be a nightmare. You want to account for all the different budgets, tastes, and dietary restrictions of the day across the group without sacrificing quality. Group dinner winners (say that five times fast) do exist - you just have to know where to find them.
We’ve put together a list of spots that are aren’t impossible to get into or absurdly priced, with food that will appease every member of your crew. Use this guide whenever the group text is blowing up with indecision and you need to put a stop to the maddening notifications before you put your phone in airplane mode and begin to ponder the pros and cons of an Amish commune. Pick one of these restaurants, stay in the modern world, and go have dinner with your friends.
This German spot in Hayes Valley will transport you back to junior year abroad at Oktoberfest, without the stitches or dirndl wedgie. Every menu item comes with a German-to-English translation, so if you didn’t know Käsespätzle mit Zwiebel-Buttersoße und gemischtem Salat means cheese spätzle, now you do. Almost everything here is worth trying, but we tend to go for the meatloaf or the bratwurst - they pair nicely with the wide selection of beers.
Hong Kong Lounge 2 is not a place you go to for the ambiance, or if you’re planning on going out afterward. It looks like a retirement community cafeteria, it’s not really near anything we’d classify as ‘nightlife,’ and the only place you’ll be partying after is the “I-ate-too-much-but-it-was-so-good” aisle of a CVS. But none of this disqualifies groups from having a good time here because the Chinese food is incredible. Everything from the scallion pancakes to the pork siu mai to the dim sum delivers so go with a group, try everything, and ponder what happened to Hong Kong Lounge 1.
Lark flies pretty under the radar, so it’s an easy bet for last-minute group reservations. The charcuterie board and truffle fries are good places to start, but the Lark burger (with a lamb and beef pattie) with burrata is the ultimate grand finale. Lark is also only a block from Market St. so it’s a great spot to eat before a night out in the Castro.
Ace Wasabi’s is a fun izakaya with plenty of good sushi, and plenty of non-sushi for the pickier members of the friend group. Start with the fried chicken and lobster gyoza before diving into the ridiculously-named rolls. Spoiler alert: the Victoria’s Secret Roll isn’t just seaweed infused with air - the crab/tuna/jalapeno combo is worth a try. This is the kind of place where sake bombs are practically compulsory.
Maven might be a great date spot, but the long communal tables are perfect for group dinners. It’s also one of those beautiful restaurant anomalies that always seems full, but also always has a reservation available when you need it. The menu involves pretty standard bar food, but for that one member of the group who can never decide on a drink, every dish also has a cocktail suggestion to go with it.
Zazie might be known for their brunch (that pancake special does god’s work on a Sunday morning), but this French bistro is low-key excellent at dinner. Reservations are easy to come by, and the atrium is perfect for anyone who suffers from FOMO (fear of missing outside) - a Bay Area epidemic that needs to be promptly addressed by the CDC. Gratuity is included too, which makes bill-splitting that much easier.
Most people go to Chubby Noodle for bottomless brunch or Marina-nights pre-game, but these activities overshadow the fact that the food here is actually really good. The garlic noodles and pork ribs are good hangover preventers and the small plates (especially the pork tacos) are great to share with a bigger group while you swap Kel’s war stories.
If you have a group of 10-14, you can reserve this entire tiny spot in Bernal Heights and have the place to yourselves. It’s a great way to get a four-course meal without any pretension or having to burn down your bank account in the process. The $35-per-person menu changes every night but is built around their amazing arepas. Take advantage of the entirely flexible BYOB policy (you can bring pretty much anything from a bottle of wine to Granny’s moonshine) or delve into the not-at-all average wine list (choices include a Muscadet sold in 40s).
People always say that North Beach has the most authentic Italian food in the city. Usually those people are old, resentful of millennials and the tech bubble, and stand a little too close to you on Muni, but that doesn’t make them wrong. Every single pasta on the menu at Firenze by Night is ridiculously good, so go with a group who’ll be willing to share or are historically easy to pilfer from.
Sparrow is great if you’re wandering down Haight Street and need a brief respite from the pawn shops and fun local ‘characters.’ The small plates menu is pretty cheap and great for sharing and the baked brie will make you begin to question your feelings about all other cheese. Stop by for happy hour with your work crew and collectively eat away the sorrows of the week on the string light and heat lamp-filled outdoor patio.
The Mill is filled with neutral tones, ceramic pots, natural light, and gluten-filled treats. By day, it’s a bakery that belongs in a Nancy Meyers film, but at night they serve pizza, and the toppings change daily. It’s BYOB, so it’s the ideal spot to enjoy two important pastimes - observing self-conscious Nopa newbies in their unnatural habitat and drinking wine you stole from the office.
4505 is home to what is easily one of the best burgers in SF, as well as some excellent fries. Plus, it gets you all the backyard barbecue feels without any of the heavy lifting, like buying a grill or figuring out what lighter fluid is. The free-for-all seating can be a little intimidating, so be strategically late and let your friends deal with getting the table.
Waraku is one of those places where one night you can walk right in, and the next have to wait three hours for dinner - but the ramen is some of the best in the city, so it’s generally worth taking that risk for. Just make sure the rest of the group is on board before you force them into eating at 9pm on a Tuesday night. Both the Shoyu and Spicy Tan-Tan are excellent choices, but you pretty much can’t go wrong with anything on this menu.
Delarosa only takes reservations for groups of six or more, and only the day before you want to eat, so if you were put in charge of dinner and forgot to do anything, here’s your solution. This pizza spot in the Marina has great cocktails, plenty of small plates to share, and a burrata pizza we’d cross town for. The bill always ends up being a third of what you anticipated, so it’s a great place to pull a real adult move and treat to your friends to dinner.
El Techo is the perfect spot to take out-of-towners because it’s one of the only rooftop bars in the city that also has decent food. The outdoor seating, covered roof, and heat lamps mean you get a great view of the city skyline over easily shareable tacos and margaritas without having to be at the whim of San Francisco weather. Don’t skip the life-changing pork chicharrones.