SFGuide

11 Great SF Restaurants For A Last-Minute Group Dinner

When everyone forgot to make a plan, here’s where to go.
Mini tabletop bbq with meat and veggies, surrounded by small plates

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

Maybe you have a big gathering planned, and no one bothered to book a place. Or your casual group of four just turned into ten. Use this guide. It has 11 spots where you can easily walk in with no notice, sit down with your entourage, and have an excellent meal. And maybe next time, suggest takeout in the park. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Erin Ng

Turkish

Mission

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsCasual Weeknight DinnerOutdoor SeatingOutdoor/Patio Situation
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Next time your uncle and five cousins spring a visit on you, make things easy by suggesting dinner at Tuba. The Turkish restaurant in the Mission is a breeze to walk into, with a low-lit space ideal for catching up on the last seven years of life. Their house bread and mildly spicy cevizli ezme is a great way to start things off, and be sure to order the sarma beyti kebab for the table—the creamy beef and lamb kebabs are ideal for sharing while you explain how fog works. 

Mumu Hot Pot is a Parkmerced spot specializing in individual hot pots, which is great news for anyone who had trouble sharing as a child. The space is also big enough to drive a car through, so you can roll up with a crew and dunk thinly shaved meat into boiling broth alongside SFSU students and entire extended families. Everything for your personal pot is customizable, from sides and sauce to soup type (we like miso), so even the group’s resident picky eater will be satisfied. 

This Mission-Bernal spot has loads of tables, big bowls of hearty guisados like the tangy green pork costillas you can split, and handmade tortillas you’ll want to order by the dozen. Getting a seat is easy, but make sure to budget enough time because they close at 9pm on the weekends, and they have no qualms about kicking you out. 

There are three Lers Ros-es in the city (this Mission location, one in Hayes Valley, and another in the Tenderloin), and you can walk into any of them. But we like the Mission outpost as a jumping-off point for a night out in the area. The laidback Thai restaurant is the poster child for a casual weeknight dinner: there’s enough seating for your whole team to have a spontaneous bonding dinner, and the long menu of solid noodles, curries, and soups is the size of a short novel. Fill up on duck curry and then hit up one of the nearby bars after dinner.

If you walk into Anh Hong with a group of about eight, you’ll be immediately seated at one of their massive circular tables. And if your group is larger, well, they’ll push a bunch together to make one long table for you and everyone who RSVP’d last minute. Either way, you’ll spend the entire meal busy rolling (and eating) the excellent bánh hỏi at this Outer Richmond Vietnamese spot, where the beer never stops flowing, and piles of mint, bean sprouts, and basil seem limitless. 

When you have a friend who is trying to “be chill” about their birthday, only to reveal two days before the big day that they want an intimate gathering with their entire contact list, the answer is Woods Lowside. The Lower Haight beer and wine bar serves Joyride Pizza in a long space with tons of booths and a secluded back patio, where you can easily fit 20 people around the picnic tables. Stick a candle in one of the hefty Detroit-style pies and call it a party. 

New Eritrea is a deceivingly large Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant with a ton of bar seating, a front dining room, and a back area with even more tables and skylights. So it’s the natural choice when you’re in the Sunset, with a group that’s half herbivorous, and are getting hangrier by the minute. Their house special runs through all of the menu’s vegetarian hits, and comes with enough injera to go around. For the meat eaters at the table, the puffy beef sambusas are non-negotiable. 

OK, it might be hard to show up entirely unannounced to R&G Lounge and be seated right away. But this Cantonese seafood institution in Chinatown is one of the few places in the city that typically has same-day (or next-day) reservations available for big groups. This is thanks to their multi-story space that includes a full bar by the front door and two levels of tables. Book one, crack into some roast crab while throwing back a lychee martini or four, and pretend you made this plan weeks ago. 

photo credit: Carly Hackbarth

$$$$Perfect For:Big Groups

Getting a last-minute trip in at Muukata6395 in the Richmond is easy most nights of the week. There are a bunch of tables in the back where they pack people in, and the Thai barbecue spot has even more seating in the long entryway. Big groups constantly line the grills, Singha flows, and the smoke billows. Come with people who are willing to yell over the sound of sizzling meat, and don’t mind putting in the work to get this DIY situation going. You’ll be rewarded with enough pork belly, shrimp, and rich broth to feed your group of 12. 

Unlike its splashier “Dumpling + Noun” friends, Dumpling Zone is a place where you can walk right in, fill up on xiao long bao, and get out within 45 minutes. The Forest Hills restaurant rarely has a wait, making it an ideal candidate for your next book club meeting that no one remembered to plan. And apart from being a convenient place for procrastinators, the dumplings are also fantastic, especially the plump shengjianbao and soup dumplings crowned with crab. 

San Tung in the Sunset doesn’t take reservations, and crowds wait on the sidewalk to get their hands on a plate of their legendary dry-fried wings. Basically, coming here means waiting regardless of how many people you’re with, so might as well do it with a group of people you like. Once you’re in at one of the big round tables, it won’t be long before you’re playing table Tetris with mountains of boiled dumplings, black bean noodles, and fried chicken. 

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