9 Fun Places For Your Last-Minute Group Dinner

When you forgot to make the reservation, but don't want to cancel.
9 Fun Places For Your Last-Minute Group Dinner image

The group chat is live and miraculously, for the first time in a long time, everyone’s free to grab drinks or food. Now you’ve only got a few hours to find the right place that will seat all six of you. Lucky for you, there’s no need to panic. Here are some great restaurants with last-minute availability that offer both delicious food and a good time.


photo credit: Dana Balding


Penn Quarter

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerBig Groups


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This American brasserie in Penn Quarter is simultaneously always busy yet always available for last-minute bookings and walk-ins. The venue is big for DC standards—you won’t bump shoulders awkwardly on your way to the bathroom and you can choose from various seating options including booths and high-top tables. Notwithstanding the size, there’s still an intimate feel to the space, the lighting is warm and the art deco design and architecture feels luxurious. On the menu, there are clear standouts like salmon tartare and the lychee gimlet but it's the sticky toffee pudding made from medjool dates, brown sugar and molasses that has us reeling.

Place a reservation online an hour or so before dinner, and you and your friends will be good to go at Georgia Brown’s. This Black-owned restaurant, which has been open since 1993, combines upscale dining with classic southern cuisine. The restaurant whisks you away to a New Orleans jazz club, complete with a grand piano and arched windows. And although we’ve had better soul food, the meals here leave us incredibly satisfied. The catfish fingers, the fried green tomatoes and the banana pudding are popular and worth the hype.

Lauriol Plaza is always a good time and always has space for you and the homies when you’re tired of Saturday afternoon restaurant-hopping while trying to find a place taking walk-ins. There’s nothing special about the Mexican food at the Dupont Circle institution, but the frozen margaritas will get you right and you can laugh as loud as you want. With all the hustle and bustle, it’s also a great spot to come if you’ve got kids in your group because no one will notice if they throw a tantrum. On a nice spring day, you can’t beat Lauriol’s patio, so if you can stand an extra wait (and there will be a wait), take advantage.

photo credit: Nina Palazzolo

If you're looking for a sushi menu that caters to everyone's diets, vegans included, Sticky Rice on H St. is the place to be. And the best part is that you can walk right on in. The restaurant is larger than it appears, with a two-story layout and booth seating. It’s a mix of grungy and campy, thanks to a gong that awkwardly sits behind the bar, a spaceship painting on the wall, and lanterns. So many lanterns. But it all comes together to create a wonderfully ridiculous atmosphere. The menu has a wide selection for both the picky-eaters in your group (shoutout to the Sweet Jesus Bucket of Tots) and the more adventurous ones. We love the vegan tuna, which is so close to the real thing we still can’t believe it’s not.

It’s almost impossible to do anything at the Wharf last minute, and if you have more than two people, go ahead and forget it. Except at The Brighton. The sports bar sits right in the middle of all the bustle on Wharf St., but even on a Saturday night, you can walk in and find a table. There are games projected against the wall on the top floor and televisions all around the bar on the floor below. The food is pretty middle of the road, but you can land an entree for less than $20 (which doesn’t happen often at a sit-down spot on the Wharf) and there's also two floors with lots of seats for your friends.

This Spanish spot in Dupont Circle has a huge patio and interior that will definitely work for your last-minute group dinner. There’s even a little alcove (complete with a curtain) off the main dining room that will give your group a little extra privacy. Don’t be deterred by the steep brick staircase out front. There’s an elevator that makes the inside more accessible. Grab all the tapas, including the infamous patatas bravas, which are some of the best in the city, and don’t leave without trying the churros.   

You never have to make a reservation at Ivy City Smokehouse. The restaurant is an ideal spot for a casual night out with friends thanks to ample seating, long tables and, yes, the fact that you never have to make a reservation here. That said, it's clear that people come here more for the ambiance than the food. Even so, Ivy City delivers on a good a*s time. Catch regulars reminiscing about the good ol’ days and catch a glimpse, for yourself, of all the things that made Okie St. so special in its prime: a personable bartender, good banter, strong drinks.

You can walk right in at Panda Gourmet and find a table. Even better, most of the tables are tailored for big groups eating family-style at this classic Szechuan restaurant. Located off of a Days Inn in Gateway, (yes, the hotel chain), it's easy to overlook Panda Gourmet. But if you follow the signs, you’ll find a restaurant that delivers a solid food experience at a great price. The extensive 14-page menu includes traditional dishes like mapo tofu, beef burgers, and double-cooked pork alongside Americanized faves like general tso chicken.

Family doesn’t take reservations, but the two-story Ethiopian restaurant in Shaw easily accommodates large groups and will often seat you right away. The family-owned restaurant is eclectically decorated with bright yellow chairs that match the sunlight pouring through the windows overlooking 9th St. The food here is fantastic. The restaurant opened in 2020 and has made a name for itself as one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in the city, thanks in large part to huge portions (the biggest we’ve seen in the city) and seismic flavors. The succulent beef tibs, for example, are marinated with onions and peppers and the fresh, pillowy injera complements every dish.  

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