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.
We’ve put together a list of spots that aren’t impossible to get into or absurdly priced. Use this guide whenever the group text is blowing up with indecision and you need to put a stop to the madness and actually land on somewhere to eat. Pick one of these restaurants, and go have dinner with your friends.
It doesn’t matter when you head to Dumpling Time, there’s usually going to be a wait. Go with eight friends instead of two so you have more people to talk to while you do. This place in the Design District does dim sum for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and their dumplings - from the xiao long bao to the peanut butter char siu buns - are some of the best in the city. Coming with a crew also means you don’t have to hold back on what you order - just wildly point at the menu and enjoy whatever ends up on your table. It’s all that good.
There’s only one big table at Elephant Sushi on Hyde Street, and if you show up a half-hour after they open at 6pm, you could end up in line for a while. The wait is still worth it, though. This place serves some of the highest quality fish for the price in SF. Order all the nigiri and Himalayan trout you can handle, and get a flaming seabass roll for the group so everyone can take a moment to feel like they’re hanging out by a campfire.
Everything at Flour + Water Pizzeria is under $20, which is a steal considering how good everything is here. They have great pizzas with crispy crusts and toppings like speck and burrata - plus excellent salads, gigantic meatballs, and mozzarella sticks that more than make up for the ones served at your childhood laser tag arena.
We like to come to this Japanese hot pot place to split giant cauldrons of soup before a night out in the Marina. As a general house rule, you’re only supposed to split a pot with one other person, but they’re not sticklers for that. That’s fine because each costs around $23, and shouldn’t be the only thing you get - the gyoza and chicken karaage should both be on your table too.
If the term “economies of scale” conjures up memories of cramming for econ finals, you can change that by going to Mister Jiu’s with a group. Simply put, the more people you come with, the less your individual cost will be, and because this restaurant is one of the best in the city, that really matters here. You can get everything from sea urchin cheung fun to Peking duck to crispy turnip cakes, have a few cocktails, and get out of here only spending about $80 a person. That isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s a great way to make this place more affordable.
Lers Ros is always in our back pocket for big dinners. It has a bunch of large tables, and you can somehow always walk in with a crew and get seated immediately. Plus the portions here are huge so everyone can share. No matter what you’re thinking about getting, order the pad kra pow moo krob pork belly and spicy tom kha kai.
If getting together was contingent upon half of your group being able to watch sports, go to Little Skillet in SoMa. This place has a bunch of TVs that are great for watching Warriors and Giants games, and a good menu of Southern and Cajun food. The chicken and waffles are great, but if that’s more breakfast food than dinner food for you, they also make a good catfish po’boy.
San Tung in the Sunset is way better when you go with a bunch of people. The portions are huge, and if you only go with one or two friends, you’ll either have to pass on dishes you want or commit to taking home a lot of leftovers. Whatever you order, though, don’t skip their sticky, crunchy dry-fried wings, or their three deluxe spicy sauce noodles with scallops, shrimp, and squid. They also take reservations for groups of six or more so you won’t have to camp out front for an hour before you finally eat.
The last time you all grilled at someone’s house, your best friend lost their eyebrows from that lighter fluid stunt. But you shouldn’t give up on the whole grilling idea. Go to Carbon Grill in the Richmond instead. This Korean barbecue place has a $30 all-you-can-eat special that includes things like pork jowl, lemongrass chicken, and bacon-wrapped asparagus. They also have pitchers of beer and TVs - two things your friend’s backyard doesn’t have, so in some ways coming here is even better than a barbecue.
There are rare cases when using the buddy system applies outside of free swim at summer camp, and going to Suppenkuche for dinner is one of them. The portions at this German restaurant in Hayes Valley are large enough to easily split with one other person. While that sounds like it could also work for a date, this place has a lot of large tables and a great beer list, all of which make it a fun place for you and your friends to pretend like you’re escaping a freezing winter in the Alps - or the fog.
We still can’t figure out why, but Lark always takes last-minute group reservations. The charcuterie board and truffle fries are good places to start, but the Lark burger (with a lamb and beef patty) and 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.
The big back room at Ace Wasabi has a lot of tables for your group, and the nightly bingo Happy Hour gives you something to focus on if you get stuck sitting next to your friend who won’t stop talking about their favorite new true-crime podcast. But even if you don’t want a distraction from that, the Happy Hour from 5:30pm to 6:30pm has deals like $6 beers, half-off sashimi, and $6 rolls. We like the Rocket Man and the Victoria’s Secret Roll.
Maven has long communal tables that are strangely always available, so we love dropping in here on short notice. This Lower Haight spot has a menu of nicer-than-average bar food like lamb riblets, mole-rubbed flank steak, and one of the better burgers in the city which has bitters in the patty. If you want an actual cocktail, Maven pairs dishes with different drinks from the menu, so even your most indecisive friend won’t be able to slow the group ordering down too much.
Sparrow is great if you’re wandering down Haight Street and need a break from the tourists and people attempting to hold on to the ’60s. The small plates are pretty cheap and great for sharing, and the baked brie will make you question your feelings for all other cheese. Stop by for Happy Hour with your work crew and stop talking about work on the heat lamp-filled outdoor patio.
At night, The Mill shifts from making $8 avocado toast to serving pizza, and it’s our favorite time to come here. Slices are $3.50 and one is all you really need since they’re large and the crust is heavy and bready. When you’re here with everyone from your favorites list, get full pies, split the garlic knots or a salad, have a few beers, and leave spending about $20 per person. Just make sure that you get one of each type of pizza. The cheese is great, but the pie with the weekly-rotating topping is always incredible.
You can get the complete backyard barbecue experience at 4505 without doing any of the heavy lifting, like buying a grill or dealing with charcoal without staining everything you own. They have some of the best brisket in the city as well as an incredible burger, and all their sides are great, too. The free-for-all seating might involve circling around a table like a vulture. If that bums you out, be strategically late and let your friends deal with grabbing one instead.
Delarosa 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 plan, this is a good solution. This pizza spot in the Marina has solid cocktails, a variety of small plates to share, and a burrata pizza we’d stare at all night if it wouldn’t get too cold to eat. The bill always ends up being a third of what you anticipated, so it’s a great place to come for dinner with your friends.
El Techo is 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 the weather. Don’t skip the pork chicharrones.