Whether it’s a birthday celebration, a client dinner, a going away party, or just an excuse to get together with friends, eating out with a big group can be a ton of fun, but also a total hassle if you don’t plan ahead. And the reason you’re probably reading this is because you’re not the type of person to plan ahead.
Usually that would mean your spontaneous group dinner would have to be at some crappy restaurant that only has room because it’s sub-par at best. But luckily, we did some investigative research (like actually trying to make tons of last-minute reservations) and found that these restaurants, all of which we would happily dine at with just one other person, will probably be able to accommodate your group of six to eight. Yes, even at the very last minute. And yes, even on the weekend. Guess good things really do come to those who wait.
Don’t let the fact that 1601 Bar & Kitchen serves contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine scare you and your group away; the food that comes out of this adorable SoMa spot is some of the best we’ve tasted all year. Lucky for you, it’s still a little under-the-radar, which means you should be able to snag a table for your group. If it’s a special occasion, convince the group to partake in the Chef’s Tasting Menu with the beverage pairings; it’s a dining experience so exquisite, your group will be talking about it for months to come.
This Belgian-inspired brasserie on Union Street has a ton of seating and a back room with a fireplace that gets opened up when the restaurant is busy. Basically, whether your group is six people or 12 people, there’s a good chance that Belga will be able to accommodate you, even at the last minute. Order some of the more shareable menu items to start (oysters, large board charcuterie or cheese, a board of house-made sausages, steamed mussels), and then order a beer (Belga has an awesome selection) and toast to good times and procrastination.
Bluestem is located right by the Moscone Center, so if there’s a conference in town, you may have a hard time getting a table. That being said, if there’s not, this sleek, sexy restaurant is a perfect place to dine with a group. Bluestem’s creative menu will satisfy even the pickiest of diners and the menu easily allows for sharing (or not). Don’t miss the chicken liver toast; it can easily be shared by four people (although it’s so good, you’ll want your own piece). And definitely don’t skip dessert, all of which are sizeable, shareable, and so tasty you’ll be fighting over who gets the last bite. Or, you’ll just order a bunch so that everyone can remain on good terms.
If you’re into stunning Bay Bridge views and excellent service (and who isn’t?), Chaya is your group’s go-to for a baller-style seafood platter tricked out with lobster, oysters, prawns, sashimi and scallop ceviche, plus gorgeous plates of shareable dishes like tako tacos (braised Spanish octopus, papaya, avocado, and cotija), tuna tartare (which Chaya actually invented in 1984), baked oysters, and 10 types of sushi rolls. Plentiful patio seating, a dedicated bar zone, and the dining room give groups plenty of seating options.
This modern Asian restaurant spans three floors, so there are tons of seating options; plus, it has a private dining room (the Pearl Room), which accommodates 10-14 guests. The menu also has a lot of great small plates for sharing, like beef short rib sliders, salt and pepper calamari, and chicken lettuce cups. It’s also centrally located right in the heart of Union Square, so no one can complain that they’re trekking all the way across the city for dinner. Our recommendation: Have everyone in the group meet in the lounge for cocktails before moving to your table for dinner. Cocktails make group dining so much more enjoyable.
The contemporary Mexican restaurant by Duboce Triangle is the perfect place to bring a group before a night out of bar hopping between Blackbird, Churchill, Lucky 13, The Residence, and all of the other great spots in the area. The cocktails are all on point and there’s a good mix of dishes you can share (guacamole, nachos, poppers), as well as plenty of things you can hog to yourself (tacos, clams and chorizo, the quesadilla). Best of all, it’s a casual spot that’s reasonably priced and will definitely be able to find room for you and your friends.
It might be hard to get a last-minute reservation for La Mar’s gorgeous waterfront patio, but it can’t hurt to ask, and even if the patio isn’t available, the expansive and lively dining room is also stunning and should have space for your group. That being said, once the gorgeous food starts arriving you won’t even notice the view anymore because you’ll be too busy savoring Peruvian dishes, like 10 different ceviches, empanadas, arroz la mar, and whole grilled fish.
One Market has front row views of the Embarcadero and Ferry Building and serves delicious farm-to-table food that showcases local ingredients. Sounds like the kind of place that would be booked every night, doesn’t it? Well, it is popular, but it’s also huge. The dining room can seat 145 guests and the bar holds another 42, so even on the busiest of nights, there’s a good chance One Market will be able to find room for you and your dilly-dallying dining companions.
The interior of Pabu isn’t just gorgeous, it’s also really, really big, which means you and your group of procrastinators will have a good chance of being able to get a table. Of course, Pabu isn’t cheap, so it will come at a price, but the exquisite food is well worth it with options ranging from sushi to skewers to shabu shabu. The $110 tasting menu is also worth considering as it’s truly an experience you won’t get anywhere else.
If your guests are beer lovers and don’t mind heading out to Ocean Beach for dinner, then Park Chalet is a great option as it can usually accommodate last-minute groups, has a cool indoor-outdoor vibe because of the glass ceiling and windows, and has eight beers brewed in-house, all of which are available by the pint, stein, or pitcher.
Pro Tip: Get there before the sun goes down, so you can enjoy a beer on the lawn before settling in to feast on ocean rolls (shrimp, lobster, or Dungeness crab) and seafood platters.
Presidio Social Club is housed in an old military barrack building that was built in 1903. “Former military barrack” translates to “lot of space,” which makes PSC a great option for you and your large group. It’s also the perfect combination of upscale and casual (a.k.a. not too stuffy or pretentious), so even the pickiest person in your group will be satisfied.