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an affordable, and trendy if possible, place for a birthday?

i'm looking for a place to host my 21st birthday dinner. i've got a group of 12 people, many of us college students so we need something affordable, something $20-30 per entree? but i've also got out of towners coming in so i want to show them something a little special, perhaps trendy, and not too casual.

i'd appreciate any suggestions. thanks!

also, has anybody tried eating at paragon?

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  1. Not necessarily trendy, but a friend of mine recently hosted a party for 16 20 somethings for her boyfriends birthday at Al Masri. It is an Egyptian restaurant and is very accommodating. They have belly dancing which adds to the festive mood. It is sort of out of the way and not "hip" per se...but sounded like it was a great time. She thought if they had kept their drinking in control (which they apparently did not) the price would have been quite cheap. I think it is $30 per person for a full-on meal served family style.

    You can also find a report of mine on a recent dinner that was held in honor of my engagement at The Cosmopolitan Cafe. A little more expensive than what you are looking for, but definitely will impress out of town guests and provides an area to hang out in afterwards.

    Finally, Aziza is always a good place to check out. Their full group dinner is $45 a person, I believe, and is a ton of food. Again, if you can keep the crazy drinking to a minimum it is quite reasonable for what you get.

    Happy 21st!


    1. I've been to Paragon for a birthday dinner--the prices are decent and the drinks are good, but I had the dryest chicken served at a restaurant in my life there..

      Down in the SOMA district there's a Thai restaurant called "Koh Samui and the Monkey." It's trendy, affordable; food's served family style, cocktails are pretty to drink and better to taste; and it accomodates large groups easily. On top of that, parking is easy to find. Dinner will set each person back about $25-40 w/ drinks.

      The website for Koh Samui is down right now but to get an idea on the prices and the type of food served, check out its sister restaurant's website

      Hope you find the perfect restaurant to celebrate your 21st!

      1. There is a new bar/lounge in the upper haight
        The Alembic, 1725 Haight Street, at Cole Street (415-666-0822 or alembicbar.com).

        Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton Avenue, between Masonic and Central Avenues (415-441-1710). Sharable fair- you could order items for all of you to share that might average out to be about 30.00 per person. http://www.polenglounge.com/about.html

        Farmer Brown, 25 Mason Street, at Market Street (415-409-3276). This is a fun, hip place. There is a large table in the front, sorta private where you could have your group. We had a b-day party there and I think it is resonable.

        Levende Lounge-1710 Mission Street. I think you can make arrangements with them for set menu items this might be in your range.

        NOPA- fun and good food and reasonable.

        Have super happy 21st Birthday.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lori SF

          I recently called Nopa about a group of ten. The response was A: they can't take reservations (changes decmber 1, don't know when your event is) and B: they can't acommodate a group as large as 10.

        2. Are you JUST looking in the City? Or . . . ???

          1 Reply
          1. re: zin1953

            in the city and maybe around san mateo

          2. Check out Gordon Biersch on the Embarcadero. The food is good, and definitely in the price range you mentioned. There was a posting yesterday that the upstairs dining area is great (surprisingly nicer than the downstairs bar area). Plus a view. And beer. Happy 21st.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sgwood415

              I only recommended Gordon-Biersch for the view. The upstairs dining area is not particularly great, it's just nothing like the zoo downstairs.

            2. I second Farmer Brown. It's hip, eclectic, fun & fairly priced. They have terrific drinks and DJ's spinning most nights. It's also close to transit, so don't be put off by the Tenderloin location. You can search "Farmer Brown" here for many good reviews.

              Levende Lounge's small-plates menus is easy to mold to your tastes and budget. The Mission location makes for a good starting point if you want to do a club-crawl later that evening.

              Tablehopper may also be able to help you with a hand-tailored suggestion. She will totally get what you're looking for.

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodiegrl

                Levende would be a great suggestion for a birthday party dinner, but it might be a bit expensive for college students, especially if they plan on drinking cocktails, which at Levende approach ten dollars a glass.

              2. Have you considered a tapas type of place? Solstice has some a good menu.

                1. I've always enjoyed Paragon, but more for their starters.

                  Other suggestions:

                  OSHA Thai Restaurant (2nd street location): 149 2nd Street. Good food and decor and definitely affordable.

                  Esperpento (in the mission): 3295 22nd St (Cross Street: Valencia Street); oh so tasty tapas and fun with a big group!

                  1. Happy 21st,

                    Here's a list of what I could think of off the top of my head:

                    1)Restaurant LuLu (california cusisine)on Folsom in SF, comes out to about $30 or so for food (it's always good), nice large space, somewhat casual but there are plenty of trendy people there as well, and also close to a bunch of clubs and bars in the SOMA. Everything I've had there has been good (quail, suckling pig, pizza, apps...etc). Go to XYZ bar at the W hotel (trendy Bar), Le Bar Rouge inside Supperclub (trendy Bar/club)
                    Mr Smiths on 7th.

                    2)Andalu (fusion small plates)on 16th in the Mission District in SF, comes to around $30 too. Lots of food choices, trendy, valet parking and close to a bunch on bars and such in the mission around 16th. Try the coca-cola spareribs and the ahi tartare tacos.

                    3)Betelnut (asian small plates)on Union St. in the MArina in SF, definitely under $30 for food, nice space, though I'm not sure if they can accomodate 12 people. Drinks are good. It is super trendy (it is union street after all), call way ahead of time b/c they'll probably be booked. Get the ribs and the green beans. Go to the Bluelight (casual), Matrix lounge (uber-trendy) or Bar None (college type Bar) after.

                    4)A16 on Chestnut (Italian), in the marina in SF. Good food, should cost no more than $30.00 for food alone. Nice restaurant, pretty trendy. The pizzas were excellent. See above for MArina Bar suggestions.

                    I have not been to Farmer Brown or Poleng lounge, but they both could fit your criteria especially since farmer brown has a DJ and Poleng Lounge turns into a club at like 10/10:30. Plus they are affordable and trendy.

                    If you go to Berkeley, there are a couple of places that actually are fairly close by as well. Caesar on Shattuck, Fonda on Solano. Both meet your criteria, except that there's no music and there not as trendy as those places in the city (especially those in the Marina).

                    Good Luck. Hope this helps.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: DavidB

                      We have found A16 to be more expensive than any of these other places listed, but that may be because we always get wine. On that note, their wine-centric menu doesn't leave much room for cocktails. In addition to entrees, you HAVE to get the burratta and the pizza. Also, I doubt they'll be able to get a group that size in there without a lot of advance notice.
                      If they are going to go do the "Marina crawl", I'd suggest Mamacita for upscale latin small plates and Margaritas, Betelnut, or the new place that replaced Cozmo's.

                      1. re: foodiegrl

                        A16 has room for one large group in the enclosed patio at the back.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Yes, but if the event is soon, the patio may have already been booked up by the 2-tops and 4-tops they seat out there. If the party is on a Friday or Saturday, they're full about 30 days in advance for this space. It's worth a call, just didn't want them to get their hopes up.

                    2. I would recommend going to one of the Spanish tapas places in the Mission (Ramblas, Esperpento, or Picaro). They are all good and lots of fun for a big group. They have sangria by the pitcher and a very laid back vibe. I always bring out of town guests there and the food is just like what I ate when I lived in Spain.

                      Another option would be Dosa in the Mission. I'm not sure if they take reservations for that many, but I went there Saturday night with a group of 8 and we all ate and drank wine for $25 a person including tip. All my out of town friends really liked that it was unique.

                      First Crush downtown is also fun. I'm not sure if it is in your budget.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: leaht

                        Esperpento's really fun for a party. The place is anything but trendy.

                      2. thanks for all the great ideas (and birthday wishes) so far! i'm definitely checking out the menus and websites for all these places. keep the suggestions coming if there's more.

                        1. A lot of good suggestions here. I'll add Sutra (where La Suite used to be, at Brannan and the Embarcadero, across from Delancey Street Cafe). The lounge area is cool, hip and comfortable for pre-dinner drinks, then you move to the more formal back area for dinner. The food is pan-asian-fusion-whatever, but tasty, and easily shared (keeping costs down).

                          1. I've been to a couple of bday celebrations at Circolo. Good food, reasonable in price (both times, the organizer worked with the staff beforehand to come up with a 3 course prix-fixe for $35 or thereabouts before tax/tip, and you could probably go even lower if you didn't want dessert or separate apps for everyone), upscale and trendy environment/vibe, and if you time it right, you can stay for the club event that the resto morphs into on Fridays & Saturdays (though you should ask if there is a promoter for that particular night, and what kind of crowd it will be if that's the case).

                            Have eaten at Paragon many a time when my office was based a block and a half away. Nice vibe, though it can be loud at times. For a group of your size, try and get the semi-private table at the back of the restaurant (it's not a private room, but it is curtained off from the main room and thus a bit quieter). Cost can add up pretty quickly if you go the full app/entree/dessert route.

                            1. I arranged a large dinner at Limon that was quite fun and successful. We had a prix fix menu and I remember being surprised that the bill was not that bad at the end of the night. Indeed, we were so under-budget we had to order a bottle of champagne before we could leave.