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Rehearsal Dinner - anything under $3000?

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Hi - I'm having a rehearsal dinner in April in the District and am having trouble finding anyplace that will do a basic meal with wine and beer for 30 people that will come in under $3000.

This is taking us a bit by surprise since many of the same restaurants we're contacting have entrees for less than $25. I guess they're padding the prices to make up for the private room and large group service. We just hadn't figured on $100 a head.

Any ideas? We do want a private room and a sit-down affair. Perhaps this is just the going rate.

Dino's looks like they might be able to keep it under $3000.

If I'm gonna splurge and go for an over $3000 joint, I'm liking Zola.

Other thoughts? We could do Maryland too - as our hotel will be in Silver Spring, but Ray's the Classics doesn't have their party room ready yet and the Macaroni Grill isn't really what we had in mind.

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  1. Depends on how formal you want. We had luck with Austin Grill, they opened the entire menu to us. Each site has a diffent seating arrangement. Not sure if you can cut the same kind of deal with new management. Have you tried Mrs K's Tollhouse?

    1. Mrs. K's seems a bit frumpy for us.
      Cubano's is excellent but won't do a Friday night event.
      The Golden Flame would be a decent option if we weren't having Lebanese food the very next day at the wedding.
      So we're looking for something European or American and reasonably fancy with a private room.

      Thanks for the Austin Grill idea.

      1. I would think that Zaytinya might be able to do this in one of their private rooms

        1 Reply
        1. re: jpschust

          If Zaytinya has private rooms (have no idea, I'll trust jpschust knows!), I think that would be a great choice. Lots of fun, lots of variety of foods (something for the vegetarians, the south beachers, the terminally picky and everybody in between). The biggest difficulty might be that you said you're looking for something European/American, and I think this might be leaning a bit too close to Lebanese (which you said you were already doing for the wedding).

          I wouldn't say that the restaurants are padding, even if the restaurant's entrees are routinely under $25. If you assume tax and tip is included in the $100, then you're down to roughly $80/person. I assume you want an appetizer or salad (nothing hand-passed, just sit down?), entree and dessert? That's generally going to set you back $40/person (depending on what you choose for your entree (or, entree selection). If you want to cover the wine and beer, that's what's really going to get you in trouble. In my experience both in catering and in throwing my own wedding, no matter what the situation (whether it's your most intimate friends or a group of strangers at a fundraising dinner for a beloved charity), if the bar is not a cash bar, people liquor up. So, $20/person for liquor (depending on how long the bar is going to be 'open' and whether you're really doing a cocktail hour or not) is not that much. Then, when you remember that you said you want sit down service. To give you decent coverage, they're going to need to dedicate at least two wait staff to your room. And then, of course, they're going to need to provide you with plates, silverware, glasses, linens. All stuff they have in stock, but, essentially, you need to pay to 'rent' them that night. Not to mention the fact that they need to cover the cost of that private room. That's space that they're not giving over to their regular dinner service. It's expensive to have space that may be dead many nights.

          I'm not trying to tell you that you're being cheap (at all), because I don't think you are. More that I think this is the going rate (as you postulated). You can limit costs by limiting the food options that your guests have (don't let them choose from the entire menu--the restaurant should be able to help you with choosing popular items that keep the price in a reasonable range) and by limiting the wine/beer choices. The fewer choices people have, the lower your costs will be (in general). I assume that you've talked with the restaurants you're considering to find out what your options are? Ask them for creative ideas to keep costs down--they can probably help you with that as well.

          Good luck! (Oh, and I agree, Mrs. K's seems frumpy and I have NEVER heard a single good thing about the food there.)

        2. May be a little far but, did rehersal in July at Trapeze in Fulton, just up 29 a bit. It was marvelous. They didn't pad bill, it couldn't have been nicer. Service was out of this world. Food was good, not memorable but; good. The bill came in right around $2000 and this included wine, and open bar. No heavy drinkers though.

          1. It gets a fair amount of abuse on this board, but I have to say the M&S Grill downtown did an excellent job with our rehearsal dinner. We had about that many people and while I don't remember the exact price it was well below $3,000.

            1. I had my rehearsal dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill with about 25 people and the total came to $1500. And we had an open bar too. They had us in a nice area, separate from other people and we had a great meal and evening.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ssssssandy

                Wow, I can't get out of OEG for under 250 for 2 of us.

              2. Bistro Francais? I believe they have a private room, their food is fairly good and the prices are very reasonable.

                1. Does anybody know if Bistrot du Coin rents out the balcony? That might be worth looking into.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MalinDC

                    I'd say no to Bistro du Coin- it's very loud in there if there are others in there plus since the bathrooms are upstairs you are going to have folks coming in and out through your party. That and the food sucks.

                  2. Morrison-Clark Inn at 11th and Mass, NW - lovely porches and patio for cocktails
                    Sea Catch in Georgetown - nice outdoor space on the Canal for drinks.
                    Both are very popular for rehearsal dinners and do excellent jobs. Check their menus online to see if they fit your taste.
                    Treat yourself to a dinner out at each of them. Sea Catch has excellent fresh seafood. Morrison-Clark, good seasonal menus.

                    1. We had our rehearsal dinner upstairs at Meiwah. They let us choose our own set menu, and it was very reasonable, including appetizer, entree and dessert. Drinks were additional. It was practically private, although it is a loft-style space, but it was certainly quiet enough to do toasts and that kind of thing. For us, location was key, and it was right across the street from the hotels everyone was staying at.

                      Just a thought - choosing a location that is convenient for your guests goes a long way. You might not be paying the $20 in cab fares to and from the rehearsal dinner or valet fees if it is in a busy location, but someone has to.

                      1. Maggiano's is amazingly good for dinners like this. I chose the Maggiano's in Tyson's (they are also in Chevy Chase) and everyone loved it. Excellent value, surprisingly good food, stand up bar (huge hit!) in the room with a bartender. Unfortunately a lot of people know this: they book up six to eight months in advance.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Joe H

                          We had our rehearsal dinner at Maggiano's last June. Her idea, not mine. But she'll be happy to hear it has your imprimatur. Who'd a thunk it. The food we had was the usual all you can eat version in the regular room. No different from other times we've been there. But I agree it is good for a group like that, and economical.

                          And in a similar vein I'm sorry I read about your thoughts on grilled fish at Outback only shortly after she dragged me to one in Macon Georgia a few months ago, and I had some awful thing.

                          And welcome back to CH. Quite a shock.

                          1. re: johnb

                            YOUR rehearsal dinner, John? At Maggiano's? WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!! It will take you a while to live this one down!
                            I was really impressed with it-for the price. Perhaps because I had expected something a bit more than awful I really liked it. The stand up bar in the room really did make a difference. I think for most, if not all of the 35 or so people we had they liked it, too.
                            I'd go back. BUT, to tell the truth, I haven't been back to Maggiano's for dinner, though. For a rehearsal dinner they were very good. For dinner, I'll spend my calories elsewhere.

                            1. re: Joe H

                              Well, as I said, it was not my idea. But since mostly everybody there was family, mostly very non-foodie family (including her four nephews whose idea of dinner is, and I am not exagerating, to pour ketchup over everything), it probably was a good choice. I paid, and I'd have hated to pay big prices and watch them dumping ketchup all over their food. I suppose this illustrates how decision making for big groups, especially when it's family, differs enormously from decision making for oneself and close friends.

                          2. re: Joe H

                            Thanks to everyone for your input.

                            I had started this search with an eye towards convenience - trying to keep it within walking distance of the hotel and there's just truly nothing that will work. Silver Spring is awash in lunch places and casual joints but very little that's a bit finer with a private room.

                            Zaytinya is lovely but too much like what we'll be having the next day.

                            Maggiano's is booked.

                            Old Ebbitt hasn't responded to my inquiries.

                            We're meeting with Dino tomorrow to see how that goes. If we don't end up choosing them, we'll try the other places you've recommended. Luckily Cleveland Park is in between the church and the hotel - so it's fairly convenient.

                            Thanks so much!

                          3. FYI: Ray's The Classics was seating the private room last night, so maybe they are ready (or will be by April) to start taking parties.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: nc213

                              Thanks nc213. I actually spoke to Ray's The Classics less than a week ago and they were not entertaining the notion - and were very abrupt in trying to end the conversation. I had called previously and not gotten a call back - then when I stopped by they were abrupt. So I don't think they're really interested in our business. To be fair, this location is still getting on its feet and the manager said as much. He seemed to think they weren't ready for an event of our size yet.

                              The folks at Dino, on the other hand, were exceedingly gracious and caring in explaining the menu and how they would host our event. We're leaning that way.

                            2. What about Mrs. K's Toll House? It's in Silver Spring and it is a really nice place.

                              Just a thought!