Planning a big group brunch or dinner is a MAJOR responsibility in NYC. You can’t just go anywhere because 1.) You might not fit, and 2.) It might not be everyone’s favorite. Thus, I compiled my favorite places to eat with a big group in New York City. As usual, I’ve eaten at all of them personally and thought verrrryyyyy carefully about places that are both impressive in terms of food, and very accommodating in terms of giant-ass groups.
Playa Betty’s – Mexican
Talk about a fantastically large surf-style restaurant in the heart of Manhattan’s gritty streets. Playa Betty’s is a place for fun people. First order of business? Order a round of Margaritas (make it a classic “Betty’s Margarita”), and some make-your-own guacamole while you wait. It would be soooo much fun for a big group of friends, say, after a Central Park baseball game this summer. After that? Fire away and order a bunch of tacos – my fave? The Baja fish. We also tried a ceviche tostada – so fresh and citrusy. Oh! And don’t forget the churro ice cream sandwich – one of the most Instagrammed desserts in NYC.
Miss Lily’s 7A – Jamaican
A big loud Jamaican brunch is in your future. I went here for my birthday brunch – it was amazinggggg. Not only do you get unlimited Jamaican cocktails, but you get to choose between classic Jamaican dishes (yes yes yes that ackee and saltfish), and something more traditional and “brunchy” with a Jamaican twist (like the coconut pancakes). My friends and I all had a blast – and we can’t stop talking about their birthday song/dance routine. I don’t want to give it away, but I’ll just say the servers are SERIOUS about birthdays.
The Boil – Creole
Time to get messy. Bibs and napkins at the ready, The Boil delivers a crawfish-cracking experience right in NYC. There are two locations – I went to the Lower East Side location before a concert at the Bowery Ballroom which was super convenient. We ordered a bag of crawfish, shrimp and lobster. A bit pricey, but totally worth it for the taste and the experience. Ca$h only – but there are ATM’s outside if you forget.
Panna Garden II – Indian
If you haven’t been here before, you’ve certainly seen pictures: people ducking as they walk to their tables under strings of colored lights. Panna Garden II is part of a quad of Indian restaurants in the East Village. There’s always a little wait, but once you get it, the experience is OUTRAGEOUS. It’s BYOB, so get on that – we brought an entire handle of Vodka once. The food is decent, but the atmosphere is what’s noteworthy. The lights and music and service are arresting – so intense – but it’s SO amazing and hilarious to be a part of. Definitely pretend it’s your birthday, so they do their strobe light birthday celebration for you.
Tum & Yum – Thai
I think I must have been here at least 10 times. It’s one of my favorite places in the city. If you’re not in a rush and you want to get tipsy on some sugary cocktails, this is the place for you. Tum & Yum is on 105 & Columbus, so it’s a convenient stop-off if you’re hungry after a day in the park. Go before 7:00 p.m. to get their 2-for-1 happy hour special. You can get beer, but I would get the fancy cocktails – they take forever to land at your table, so order both at once, but they are VERY strong. Food is not a side note to the drinks, it’s very good, authentic Thai food. Order the curry puffs and chicken wings for appetizers, and then either the Drunken Noodle, Green Curry or the Roast Chicken Special with sticky rice.
Boulton & Watt – American
Here it’s all about the mac & cheese and burgers. Set in the very cool Lower East Side, this is your spot to start off the night. Order a few beers or glasses of wine for happy hour at an outside table, nosh on some bar bites and do some people watching. The restaurant’s decor influence is from the industrial revolution, but the bar starts it’s own revolution every Friday and Saturday night – Boulton & Watt is at the corner of all Lower East Side nightlife festivities.
*I received a complimentary meal at Playa Betty’s but have been back on my own dime since!