A sentence that can send fear into our hearts: “There’s fifteen of us for dinner, where shall we go?” Never mind that it took two weeks on a group text to actually find a day that works for everyone, now you have to find somewhere that will fit all those bodies, but also doesn’t suck. Plus, you don’t want that one friend who’s always calculating the check down to the closest penny to have a heart attack at the price.
Sharing is one of our standbys when there’s a crowd in tow - a good izakaya or barbecue situation is always fun (and means the server doesn’t need to take 20 individual orders). So next time all your college friends are town, know you have the answer to a dinner with the entire soccer team that won’t take a dive.
Two words: arcade restaurant. These would normally send us running in the other direction, but not at Button Mash. Full of the arcade games of our childhood (you will not beat us on NBA Jam), there are plenty of ways to stay occupied if there’s a wait. There will probably be a wait. But it’s definitely worth it for the crispy tofu balls and the double-fried chicken wings, both great for sharing. The burger is not good for sharing, but you should order it anyway.
The Westside is not an easy place to find affordable craft beer, but Library Alehouse is the exception. It’s in the not-terrible part of Santa Monica on Main Street, and while the indoor space can get pretty crowded, the back patio has picnic tables and is a great place for a casual, beer-filled meal. During Happy Hour you can get most of their beer and wines by the glass for $5, and the menu is big and covers all possible bases. We always start with the fried pickles.
La Cabaña is where to go when you’re having dinner with that group of friends who always cause you to miss your (admittedly ambitious) 7am pilates class the next day. They have margarita pitchers, and almost anything on the menu will stand up to the tequila in your stomach. None of the burritos, quesadillas, or enchiladas are over $16, and you will almost definitely have some leftover for later in the night.
You’re really more of a mushroom person than a margherita person, but the mushroom pizza is at the other end of the table and Carol’s new boyfriend has already had three slices. Triple Beam solves these group eating problems. You pay by the ounce for exactly the amount of each pizza you want, so you don’t have to deal with check-splitting or mushroom pizza-hoarders. You can still all get a bottle of wine to share on the patio and drink out of plastic cups while you wonder why all group dinners can’t be this easy.
Spoke is a bicycle repair shop-slash-all day hangout spot right on the LA River that somehow also feels like a summer camp. At night it’s usually pretty empty, so you can pretend you’re next to a lake (not a stream pretending to be a river), talking about the meaning of life and maybe playing some ping pong. Unlike summer camp though, Spoke has food you’ll actually want to eat (try the veggie burger) plus great, inexpensive beer on tap.
You’re having a beach day, and by 5:30pm it’s becoming obvious that if Aaron spends another second in the sun his already-red skin might just catch fire. Go to Cha Cha Chicken, find Aaron an umbrella to sit under, and be ready to eat a lot of jerk chicken. It’s also BYOB, so you can pack up your leftover beach beers and carry them straight onto the restaurant’s patio.
Wurstküche is a group dinner slam dunk. You order and pay separately, there are big communal tables you can easily take over, and there’s lots and lots of beer. Definitely don’t bring your vegan friends with you, but definitely do order the fries. Sausages run the gamut from solidly traditional bratwurst to rattlesnake, and all of them are pretty great. Plus, there are Arts District and Venice options, so it works for both sides of town.
Chang’s Garden is a Chinese spot in the San Gabriel Valley, with lots of large tables that will mostly be occupied by couples meeting up after work and big families eating dinner. The portions are massive, and we’d recommend getting the pork steamed in lotus leaf and the fish fried in seaweed batter. Come with a big group of friends, and prepare to all go home with enormous bags of leftovers.
Look, we’re not going to pretend that the food is the reason you’re at El Coyote. There’s burritos, enchiladas, carne asada galore, all of which are perfectly acceptable, satisfying and appropriately affordable. More importantly, there are margaritas, of which it is possible you are contractually obliged to order multiples. The place is huge, a total slice of Hollywood history, and a whole lot of fun.
You just had a group viewing of whichever superhero movie came out this month, and after 2 ½ hours in the theater, you’re all very ready to eat. Tumanyan Khinkali Factory should be your go-to spot for an affordable group meal in Glendale. You’ll sit at big square tables and order Georgian dumplings filled with ground beef, cheese, or spinach and mushroom. They’re huge, filling, and only $2.50 each.
Unlike the Santa Monica original, the Culver City outpost of Father’s Office has actual space, including some big tables out the front, perfect for summer nights and multiple rounds of craft beers. If you’re coming here, you’re coming for the burger, and you better make sure everyone knows the drill. No substitutions, no ketchup, and we hope you like blue cheese. These guys do not budge, but that’s probably because they’ve managed to come fairly close to perfection.
The best part of a group dinner at EMC is the giant menu, where even your friend who’s petrified of oysters will find something they’re into. The second best thing about EMC is their late night Happy Hour, which runs from 10pm during the week and 11pm on weekends, until they close. It involves $6 drinks, $1.50 oysters, and a bunch of other food options for less than $10.
If it’s Tex-Mex you want, Bar Amá delivers. A DTLA staple that’s filled with people who actually live there, we could eat queso and down margaritas all day here if we could. You should probably (definitely) make a reservation because every other person is also here on the weekends.
A little piece of you dies every time you look at a dinner bill and see that you and your friends somehow spent $150 only on drinks. Escuela’s very generous BYOB policy is your solution. Whether you bring a bottle of wine, a six pack, or a full handle of tequila, the staff at this laid back Mexican spot on Beverly will open it for a flat $4 fee. The homemade chips are very good, and if you get them with guacamole they’ll keep refilling your basket until you don’t even want those tacos you ordered anymore.
If you’re looking for great Neopolitan pizza at a price that won’t make you wonder if you should have just flown to Italy instead, Desano is the place to go. It’s a huge warehouse in East Hollywood, with multiple wood-fired pizza ovens as the main form of decoration, which is ideal for a group of friends that cares more about calzones than having a sexy velvet dining room to eat in.
If you’re in the South Bay, Tin Roof is undoubtedly the move. They’ve got a large following for basically one thing: bocce ball. There’s good food as well, but who are we kidding, we know what you’re here for. Once you’re done with the game, there’s an amazing patio, a good wine list, and an American menu with something for everyone.
Ideally, you’d be able to host a big dinner with all your friends at home, passing around excellent-tasting potluck dishes everyone made themselves. Problem is, your best home seating option is a card table and you are all terrible at cooking. Head to Messob instead. This Ethiopian spot on Fairfax has round tables that are big enough that you all won’t be elbowing each other, and their family-style combo platters come out to under $20 a person.
Any one of the restaurants in this stretch of Thai Town would be a good choice for a group dinner that won’t make you sweat your bank account, but Hoy-Ka should be your top choice. You won’t wait for a table, you’ll be able to share everything, and the food is going to make you wonder how you ever thought of frozen egg rolls were an acceptable alternative.
Another day, another chance to argue the Chicago-style vs. NY-style pizza debate. We’re not here to cause a turf war, but if you’re pro-Chicago (or simply over having your pizza be a sad, unfulfilling flatbread), take your big group dinner to Masa. This is hands down the most authentic deep-dish in the city, with a fantastic family-run vibe inside. You’re also well-positioned for all things Eastside nightlife afterwards.