People want to hang out with you. Maybe it’s your great personality. Or maybe it’s your okay personality combined with the fact that you read this website and always know where to get great food. Either way, here’s where to go the next time you have to plan a group dinner last-minute. These restaurants have plenty of room, they’re relatively easy to get into, and the food is good enough that you can keep having an alright personality and still have friends.
The Lower East Side is nuts on weekends. Like a zoo, if all the animals were young, drunk, and wearing clothes they couldn’t afford. There’s also a good chance you’ll need to get dinner there sometime soon - so it’s good to know about a place like Blue Ribbon Izakaya. It’s in the Thompson LES Hotel, and it’s a pretty big space. The menu is also big, so if someone wants sushi they can have sushi, and if someone else only eats bone marrow fried rice, they’re in luck. Blue Ribbon Izakaya is on the pricier side, but if you want to have a great last-minute dinner and don’t mind spending a little money, get a booth here.
There’s a lot of Italian in the West Village. L’Artusi, dell’anima, I Sodi - the competition is stiff, and a bunch of these places are either tough to get into or not great for groups. But Frankies 570 is the group dinner sweet spot: it’s solid, reliable, and you can book a dinner there last minute. Even for a group. There’s a decent-sized dining room, and they also put a bunch of tables outside when the weather shapes up. It isn’t cheap, but as far as West Village dining goes, it’s pretty affordable.
Kings County Imperial is one of our all-time favorite places for Chinese food, and it also works well when there are six of you and you want to eat somewhere “Fun! But not crazy expensive.” Inside, there are a few big booths (complete with lazy susans), and they also have an excellent backyard. It’s best to come with at least a few other people, so you can share many things: dumplings (the long ones are your priority), long beans, sesame noodles, and the best beef with broccoli we’ve ever eaten. Kings County gets busy, but if you have to wait it’s also only a few feet away from a classic group bar, Union Pool (where you can have tacos as an appetizer).
Lil’ Frankie’s is big, it’s casual, and it’s near a lot of great bars. We’re also fans of the food. It’s Italian, but it isn’t fancy one-ravioli-per-plate Italian. It’s more like the stuff an Italian grandmother would make (except the chef is a guy named Frank who loves social media more than most teenagers). You can also come here with a group of pretty much any size. We can’t guarantee there won’t be a wait, but you can usually get a last-minute reservation for up to 20.
There was a time when the Speedy Romeo on the Lower East Side wasn’t good for groups - then they expanded their dining room, and now it’s great for them. You should still make a reservation, but if you like to live on the edge, just stop by, put your name down, then take your group to a nearby bar. Once you get seated, don’t just focus on the pizza. They do a great burger, and their caesar salad is excellent.
This place is the total package. As long as your definition of “total package” includes Korean barbecue and private karaoke rooms. Insa is a big, modern space in Gowanus where you can grill meat on your table and/or eat a good number of Korean dishes like bibimbap and tofu stew. There’s also a separate bar area where you can drink fancy cocktails in big booths, and, most importantly, there are several karaoke rooms. Try it for a last-minute birthday.
Walter’s figured out how to make the perfect neighborhood restaurant in Fort Greene, and then cloned it in Williamsburg. Grab a big booth inside, or if it’s nice outside head for the backyard - there are some long tables that should fit all your friends (unless you’re also hanging out with a few second-tier friends you don’t really like). Eat some heavy-ish American food, like a French dip sandwich, fried chicken, or a whole trout. The vibe here is classic, and it’s a good casual place in Williamsburg for a group hang.
If you want to get a little more adventurous than Walter Foods, try Dokebi. It’s also in Williamsburg, but they do things like bibimbap and shabu shabu. It’s a Korean/Japanese place where you can cook meat at your table, get into some hot pot, or just order a few dishes like pork belly tacos or fried chicken. It’s a very laid-back restaurant/bar, everyone should find something to eat, and after dinner, you’ll be in prime position to check out some bars in the neighborhood.
If you’re instinctively skeptical of any restaurant that happens to be on St. Mark’s place, we don’t blame you. It’s touristy, and ever since Kim’s Video and The Sock Man moved, it hasn’t been the same. But Taqueria St. Mark’s is still there, and, it’s a great place to have a pitcher(s) of margaritas and some guacamole with friends. And also tacos. This isn’t the best Mexican in the city, but it’s solid and incredibly affordable. So if you and your friends are trying to save money for booze, stop by this two-story Mexican spot the next time you’re going out in the East Village.
The Ribbon is one of the biggest, vibiest restaurants on the Upper West Side, and it’s perfect for when your family comes into town and insists on staying near the Lincoln Center due to its cultural significance. It feels upscale but not stuffy, and the menu is serious (and huge). You can have a steak, some bone marrow, an open-faced burger, or even a quinoa salad. This place covers all the bases, and you can either go all out with some prime rib and a shellfish platter or you can stick to their solid French dip.
Emporio might not make a lot of “top Italian” lists, but it’s worth knowing about for a few reasons. First off, it’s in Soho, and it isn’t impossible to get into on a Friday night. Even with a group. They also do some good pizzas and salads, and the back dining room has some tables big enough for all your friends. It’s a little more expensive than a place like Ruby’s or Westville, but it also feels like you’re eating at a real restaurant. Not, like, a cafeteria for the recently graduated. So come here if a convenient downtown location is one of your top priorities, and you suspect that everyone will be down with Italian.
All of your aunts are visiting, and they want to pick at pasta with their favorite niece or nephew. Go to L’Amico. This place is good for when you want to sit in a big, attractive room in the vicinity of Penn Station and have some pizza, pasta, or tuna crudo. The food is solid (especially for the area), and last-minute reservations for large parties aren’t impossible to come by.
As far as places for dinner with friends go, Malaparte is pretty ideal. Everyone will like it, and it isn’t quite as pricey as some other nearby spots like Barbuto. They also take reservations for parties of four or more by phone (which you can often get day-of). And the best part of all? It’s in the West Village. The Cadillac of neighborhoods (and the Escalade of Cadillacs). Eat some spaghetti with pesto so green you’ll be checking your teeth every five minutes.
Golden Unicorn is above a bank in a Chinatown office building that looks like it was built in the early 1960’s, but that’s part the appeal. It’s a little cheesy, but fun. When you get off the elevator, there might be a wedding reception going on or there might be a birthday party you can pretend to be a part of. Observe it all while you eat some peking duck with nine other friends around one big table. It’s also pretty inexpensive - and, while you might not see any carts at dinner, they do serve dim sum all day.