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The Bigger, the Better: Best Restaurants for Groups in San Francisco



Whatever side of the equation you happen to be on, if a large group comes into a restaurant that's not prepared to accommodate them, it's a nightmare for everyone.

For other diners expecting a quiet, intimate setting, there's nothing more upsetting than the entrance of a big crowd. And if the restaurant itself is not set up for large groups, it only makes matters worse. Chairs and tables have to be dragged together, multiple food orders can easily be mishandled or forgotten altogether, and what was once a restaurant is now a three-ring circus.

And for the large group, it might be the most disappointing. If you're traveling with many people, you already have the stress and complexity of trying to juggle multiple expectations and plans. If a group that is already stressed-out gets mean stares from other diners, not to mention getting even hungrier from incompetent service, well, a trip can really start to unravel.

That's why we've put together a list of restaurants that specialize in large groups. If your group is interested in the cutting edge of California cuisine, Nopa is an excellent choice. If it's a fog-less San Francisco day or night and your group wants to eat outside, the Foreign Cinema has a wonderful outside dining area. 

Whatever your preference, pick one of the restaurants on our list and keep your group - and everyone else at the restaurant - happy.


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The reason behind the name of 21st Amendment is the reason why you need to visit this brewery. When founders Nico Freccia and Shaun O'Sullivan learned about the rich history of breweries in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th Century - and how these civic meeting places were shut down during Prohibition - they wanted to celebrate the amendment that brought the breweries back. And that engaging civic atmosphere is what you'll find at 21st Amendment Brewery, a lively crowd of locals and visitors eager to discuss the events of the days - or the latest Giants game - over a fantastic beer, like their popular "Brew Free or Die!" IPA.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: With a generous outside seating area and ample room around the bar inside, 21st Amendment is built to keep big crowds happy.

Tom's expert tip: Perfect spot before - and after - a Giants baseball game.

Read more about 21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant →


DOSA on Valencia


Dosa provides some of the finest authentic Indian Cuisine in San Francisco. The restaurant derives its name from its specialty dish, the dosa, which is similar to a crepe, it is made from rice & lentils (no wheat) and served with a variety of fillings. The excellent Indian cuisine is mixed with a casual yet refined atmosphere, making Dosa the perfect venue for a night out with a little bit of international flair. And DOSA was popular even before the recent surge of new restaurants opening up and down all of Valencia Street, so they're more tried and true than some of the more recent arrivals.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: DOSA's lad-back arrangement of chair and tables makes putting together a big space for a group easier than most restaurants.

Tom's expert tip: The Valencia location int he always hoppin' Mission District can be very busy.

Read more about DOSA on Valencia →




Absinthe recalls the days of Dorothy Parker and her circle of witty, sardonic critics. Along with dicing celebrities, they took great pleasure in good food and drink. Plenty of both can be found here, and weekend brunch is especially delightful. Champagne and wines balance the cuisine, which includes cold seafood platters, imported French cheeses, and coq au vin. A tasty caesar salad and a risotto with fava beans, basil, and parmesan are also great options. To sum up â€" absolutely faultless! If you can't make it for brunch, its' definitely worth visiting at night, where the bar serves some of the most inventive cocktails in the city.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Absinthe is a favorite spot for large groups coming and going to the opera, so they know how to cater to large groups.

Tom's expert tip: Also a great spot for cocktails.

Read more about Absinthe Brasserie and Bar →


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Foreign Cinema
Photo courtesy of Postcard Communications


While Foreign Cinema's misleading moniker may seem a better fit for a movie theater than an oyster bar, this restaurant's real attraction is their Mediterranean-inspired menu and outstanding oysters. They do, in fact, offer film showings in the adjoining courtyard, an added perk for those savoring tasty shellfish like the Hog Island Sweet, Marin Gem, Chatham and Steamboat oysters. The dinner menu changes regularly, and brunch is served on weekends. In addition to oysters, Foreign Cinema describes their overall cuisine as "a California/Mediterranean-inspired menu in an industrial chic setting located in the heart of the bustling Mission district." DJs often accompany the lively, after-hours crowd.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Foreign Cinema has an open-air area that's perfect for larger groups.

Tom's expert tip: One of the most romantic restaurants in the city - and the oysters don't hurt that a bit.

Read more about Foreign Cinema →


Boulevard
Photo courtesy of used in book.


If romance is the reason you've come to The City by the Bay, Boulevard is the picturesque place to dine. Located in an historic waterfront building, this eatery's intimate Belle Epoque aesthetic and sumptuous food hit all the right notes. The menu showcases regional flavors and French style with dishes like Sonoma Foie Gras and California Sea Bass a la Plancha. A sommelier and 500-item wine list ensure the perfect pairing. Surrounded by Pat Kuleto's timeless Belle Epoque inspired design, Chef Oakes wonderful expression of American regional flavors with a French influenced style has made Boulevard a culinary landmark on San Francisco's revived Embarcadero waterfront.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Boulevard is right on the Embarcadero, which offers a high concentration of tourists, so they know how to accommodate big groups.

Tom's expert tip: Check out the gorgeous Bay Bridge Lights display after your romantic meal.

Read more about Boulevard →


R&G Lounge


Known for its innovative yet traditional Chinese dishes, R&G Lounge is a relative newcomer to the Chinatown restaurant scene, having opened its doors in 1985. While nearly thirty years of experience might seem a long time, in Chinatown, where traditions in cooking run thousands of years deep, it's just a passing second. But R&G's popularity can't be denied, having expanded from one to three floors in that time. Most patrons credit the success on R&G's ability to follow the traditions of Chinese cooking (namely balancing the elements of Wood, Water, Earth and Fire) but adding their own innovations. The simple but sumptuous Chicken Salad appetizer is a great example.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: R&G Lounge is always loud and bustling, so big groups should feel right at home.

Tom's expert tip: Try their signature salt and pepper Dungeness crab.

Read more about R&G Lounge →




With all the fuss about the French and the Italians and their romantic ways, we shouldn't forget that the Greeks have been in the business of pairing food and love since ancient times. One of the most enchanting dinner destinations in the city, Kokkari Estiatorio offers a refined yet cozy ambiance that sets the mood for a perfectly picturesque evening. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are carefully combined to create Mediterranean delights like moussaka, zucchini cakes and grilled lamb chops. There are plenty of suitable wine pairings, as well, no matter what menu item you choose. The traditional walnut and honey baklava is a must for dessert.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: The enthusiasm and joy of your Greek hosts makes this a perfect spot for big groups.

Tom's expert tip: Top off your meal with some grappa!

Read more about Kokkari Estiatorio →


Lolinda


If you want to experience the cutting edge of California cuisine with your steak, Lolinda is the best place to capture that avant-garde spirit. Situated in the red-hot Mission district, where new and inventive restaurants seem to pop open overnight, Lolinda combines the rich history of Argentinean steak with the new-wave foodie fanaticism that has grabbed this town by its collar-tucked napkin. That means you can start your meal off with traditional pequeno, an appetizer that can be cold like ceviche or hot like croquetas, and finish with an inventive peanut butter mousse. In between you can delight yourself with tira (crosscut short ribs), matambra (flank steak), or ojo de bife (ribeye steak).

Recommended for Group Friendly because: The loud and spicy Argentinian atmosphere is perfectly suited for big groups.

Tom's expert tip: Hot Argentinean-style steakhouse in the smoldering heart of San Francisco's Mission District.

Read more about Lolinda →


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Noe Valley
Firefly


Marked only by the image of a firefly, this neighborhood restaurant features a fabric-draped ceiling and impeccable seasonal cuisine. Local, organic ingredients play a major role in the menu, especially in favorites like shrimp and scallop potstickers and scrumptious fried chicken. Richly creative dishes also include roasted duck breast with chestnut bread pudding, slow braised beef short ribs, and cornmeal-crusted rock cod with bacon-braised cabbage. A three-course, prix fixe option is available for $35 Sunday through Thursday and is a great deal. Wonderfully unpretentious and casual. Although the restaurant's founders, Brad Levy and Veva Edelson, are not around as much, their playful spirits still rule the magical atmosphere of Firefly.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: The restaurant's founders, Brad Levy and Veva Edelson, give this restaurant a big, warm heart that ivies everyone in, including large groups.

Tom's expert tip: Check out Firefly's unique "Fried Chicken of Your Dreams" on Tuesdays.

Read more about Firefly →


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Hayes Valley


Nopa defies categorization as either old or new because it has some of both. Although it's only been around since 2006, chef Laurence Jossel worked at several traditional and popular restaurants before Nopa and brings professionalism and expertise to every dish. But tradition bends to experimentation, and that wonderful blend creates some of Nopa's most famous dishes, such as Moroccan vegetable tangine and wood-roasted king salmon. Nopa describes its cuisine as "urban rustic food," but it really has to be experienced to be understood. What's more, as one of the more popular restaurants in the city, Nopa makes a concerted effort to be a friendly, active, and concerned neighbor.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Not only is Nopa a good option for groups, it's one of the best restaurants in San Francisco.

Tom's expert tip: Fantastic location - smackdab in the middle of San Francisco.

Read more about nopa →


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Meet Tom Molanphy

The only thing that Tom Molanphy loves more than the food, art, music, and culture of San Francisco is sharing it with others. San Francisco never gets old for Tom.

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