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Cheap 60 People Luncheon Location Needed

I'm looking for a place to host my mom's 60th birthday. It's not until next March, but I need to figure out now if this is something I'll be able to afford.

I'd like to invite 60 people, but if this ends up being impossible with my budget, then I'll scale it down.

Now for the bad part, the budget. I'd really like to keep it below $2000, total-tip drinks everything. That's why this is a lunch thing.

I've searched the boards and internet and have come up with a few options.

Dim Sum-which would be fine. But has anyone ever been to a dim sum private party for that many people? Was it a good experience? Do you feel like you were offered enough food? I'm worried some people might get screwed by being skipped or something. Also, how are you charged?

Castaway-I saw on their website that they have a Saturday Brunch! Score! Since there will be kids there, I thought this would be great! Has anyone been to a function there?

I wouldn't even mind renting out a location and getting it catered. I'll totally pick up tables on my own and set the room up. I'm considering the Infusion Gallery, but I think all these things will add up and I'll be over budget.

Ideally I'd love to do it on a boat/cruise. But that's impossible-even though the party would be a few hours.

I don't care about location-OC, LA, Westside, whatever-I'm open to any suggestions! Age range will be people from 80 y/o to 0 y/o. (So ample parking would be nice for the people who need the handicap spots). Type of food, doesn't really matter. Mexican or italian would work too. But we're an asian family and I'm thinking the elders would prefer asian.

I look forward to your recommendations!


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  1. You can definitely do lunch dim sum for that many people! My mom did a lunch at 888 Seafood for 40, and we had plenty of room for at least two more tables. They have a back room; call and talk to the manager and see what he can do. He might ask you to come towards the beginning or the end of dim sum service, but for a group of 60 I think he'd appreciate the business.

    We ordered some things ahead to make sure the table would get enough food, then alternated between asking the servers for things to be brought to all tables and letting each table pick as carts came and went. There is also the option to mix dim sum item with family style big plates of food. Very affordable on your budget, since it's hard to eat more than $25 a person at dim sum unless you go absolutely nuts with the seafood!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Pei

      Hi again. So I'm doing the math, and it looks like as long as you stay under $33 you can invite 60 people. So let's say $30/pp to give you a little wiggle room. That's about $24 a head plus tax and roughly 20% tip. You have a lot of choices! As long as you pick a lunch spot with a lot of $10-15 choices, assuming everyone gets even a $10 drink you'll be okay.

      How about Il Fornaio? I know it's a chain, and not exactly exciting, but the various branches are lovely, able to accomodate 60, have friendly service, and the food is palatable to most people. We took my fiance's parents and they loved it, especially the bolognese and the arugula prosciutto pizza. We spent about $25 a head for entrees, coffee, juice, no dessert, and had enough leftovers for another person.

      Even Jar is doable, though it would be a little harder. I like Jack N' Jill's and the portions are enormous, but the space is too small.

      Wherever you end up, you should consider at least some pre-ordering to get a sense of your budget. If you do Chinese, just order banquet tables ahead of time in the $200/table of ten range. If you do Western, perhaps have the restaurant print up a shortened menu of entree choices you can afford.

      1. re: Pei

        Wow! Thanks for crunching the numbers for me!

        I checked out Jar, but I think it might be a little too much. Il Fornaio looks great. I especially love the lunch buffet they have, although I wish pizza was an option. But I'm sure I could work something out with the manager. If I go the Italian route I was looking into C&O, I read a lot of threads where people recommended that place for big parties. But Il Fornaio is great because they have an AV outlet for some entertainment I have planned.

        1. re: bigtums

          I would do Il Fornaio 100% over C&O, especially for an older person's birthday. The space is more elegant, the service more professional, and the food more refined and prettily plated. C&O is great for a casual family meal, or even a rowdy party, but if it were my mom's birthday I would go IF. Maggiano's might also work, I believe they have rooms upstairs.

          1. re: Pei

            I have to say Maggiano's is nice because people who drive all far can go shop after so it's not a total waste to make the drive. Big plus, they have a cheap brunch buffet. We may have a winner!

            1. re: bigtums

              Same with Il Fornaio! One's in Old Town Pasadena, the other is near Rodeo Drive.

              1. re: Pei

                There's one a couple of blocks from 3rd St Promenade too.

    2. Instead of Dim Sum, do Chinese family style. ABC, CBS, NBC any of the bigger places in China town should be able to help you out, heck even Won Kok has that huge back room. If you are able to be really flexable with your time, like come early say 9 AM or when they slow up, maybe 1:30 or 2.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Burger Boy

        I think 9am is a little too early because I'll have people coming from as far as San Diego and Chino Hills. Then my mom lives in Marina Del Ray so people will be coming from the west side too. I think family style chinese will be my last resort. I'm going to have to choose some place that will knock her socks off, she's kind of got a refined palate. Sure, she wants her carnitas taco every now and then, but for something like this I might have to do better than that. We usually do family style chinese for yearly special occasions like holidays, graduations, and birthdays (non 60 y/o celebration birthdays). If you know of an AWESOME chinese restaurant that would be great-but I'm sure the cost will be higher too. The grandparents live in Monterey Park so we hit up the places around there a lot.

        1. re: bigtums

          The Castaways could be very nice for a celebration like that. They have a number of private rooms too. The food won't light your fire, but this occasion isn't about the food, is it? Not to say it's bad, it's just okay.

          1. re: compucook

            I see. Would you be able to compare it to the other suggestions like Maggiano's? Il Fornaio?

            1. re: compucook

              Eeew, Castaways has horrible food.
              Even way back in the late 80's, when I was in high school, and had to go there on a prom date, I thought the food was vile...then again, I had gone to Valentino for Junior prom so maybe I'm spoiled....Hell, Pickwick Bowl has better food than Castaways...great view, food, not worth it.

            2. re: bigtums

              Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park would be a great choice for a family-style Chinese banquet. We were able to have an awesome 11 course dinner for a little more than $200/table (10 persons per table).

              1. re: raytamsgv

                But Elite is so small, we'd end up taking most of the restaurant. That's too bad because I've had some amazing dishes there.

                1. re: bigtums

                  You still should be able to reserve six tables. The atrium (or whatever the new addition to the building is called) holds four tables alone. My guess is that the main part of the restaurant would hold at least twelve tables.

              2. re: bigtums

                Talk to 26 Beach, they have a slow time from 2-5 usually and I know they will cut you a deal, everyone wins! They give you a time limit, just like most places. The food is great and if you do it at 2:00 they still serve breakfast. Great french toasts, Burgers & salads, if you stick to that you should be around $13-$18 with drinks, you could even do a nice dessert and come in under your budget!

            3. 1. The Summit House is a restaurant in OC that does a lot of wedding and other events. It's v. pretty - the food isn't earth shattering but the atmosphere and service are great.

              2. For vietnamese food that is semi authentic in a nice atmosphere, check out S restaurant. The food is not expensive compared to western restaurants.
              S Restaurant
              545 Westminster Mall Dr.

              3. Brodard Chateau is a v. pretty VNese restaurant that is not expensive - although I've never been there for a banquet or organized party event. You may want to check them out if you're looking for Asian food in a pretty atmosphere. www.brodard.net/chateau/tour.html

              2 Replies
              1. re: annabananaoc

                i LOVE the Summit House! i've been to 3 events there. each time, the food was excellent! nice atmosphere. i think your mom would love it there! it's in fullerton near CSUF.

                1. re: fatnoodles

                  I like the Summit house too, but I think it's going to be way out of my budget. Bummer.

              2. More ideas for you:

                Descanso Gardens - I attended a really pretty bridal shower here and I think it would so lovely for your mom's 60th b-day. This would also give the guests something to do if they come early or want to hang out afterwards. You can do a breakfast buffet for $18/pp (I think it's catered by Patina).

                1. Napa Valley Grille might work.

                  Chaya Venice

                  La Cachette would be perfect, but may be too expensive... You could call and see if they'd work with you to accommodate your price range.

                  Could also rent at the Olympic Collection and cater---did it for my sweet 16 umpteen years ago.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Emme

                    I think it will be very hard to rent a space and cater for 60 for under $2000! I've been talking to a few places about catering a lunch for 20, and the price is already over a thousand. Of course, I'm also talking about renting linens and plates, but I'm not looking at renting a space or having as many as 60 guests.

                    1. re: Emme

                      You couldn't do La Cachette for 60 people at a total budget of 2000 (incl. tax, tip, etc.) Heck, you could barely do La Cachette with that budget for 20 people.

                      The restaurant could make like Mary Lou Retton and still probably couldn't bend over backwards far enough to accommodate.

                      Chaya Venice might also be problematic budget-wise as well.

                    2. I had my Dad's 80th birthday in March of this year at CBS downtown. I couldn't have been happier. The menu included 5 to 6 types of dim sum but we also had duck, lo mein, and some type of shrimp dish (sorry- my memory is shot!) I dealt with the manager (of course I can't remember his name) and he was so wonderful and accomodating. He could only offer me a private room after the dim sum rush, about 2:00 pm. The party was on the weekend. They let us decorate the room and they cut and served the cake we brought in from Phoenix Bakery, for free. The service was excellent and we had a ton of really great food. The room had an entrance from the parking lot which made it easier for the older people. Another plus is the free parking lot adjacent to the restaurant. This was all for about $12.00 a person including tax and tip. It was an unbelievable deal and we were happy in every way. We left them an additional tip because we were so impressed with the service and the food. I highly recommend CBS.

                      1. It's not on par with the likes of 888 or Ocean Star, but how about Hop Woo in Alhambra.

                        Order off the menu, or get a set banquet/family style menu. It's definitely within budget.

                        Personally, I just don't find dim sum to be a good food choice when it's such a large crowd where you'll be forced to pre-order the dim sum items. One of the major appeals of dim sum is the sense of serendipity -- as in, get whatever you want in any order you want.

                        Hop Woo Chinese Restaurant
                        1 West Main Street
                        (626) 289-5072

                        1. Okay so the number has gone from 50-60 to 60-70 people. So that means that I think I need to do the chinese/dim sum route.

                          Being that my mom is use to "higher end" food, I was looking into Mission 261.

                          I've heard a lot of mixed things about it. Granted it won't knock my socks off, but I think it might do. (I'd do Elite, but it's just too hard with a small restaurant).

                          So my question is, has anyone had dim sum there in a private room before? I've read about meals banquet style starting at $50/person, which is out of budget for me.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: bigtums

                            If you need to stick to dim sum I think Mission 261 will fit your bill in terms of good private room, not so hard to find parking, and more elegant surroundings.

                            As the dim sum is not on carts you should be able to just tell them your dim sum order (at least the basic stuff like har gow, egg rolls, etc.) for each table when you reserve the room, I think. Also, you can probably order chow fun, chow mein and maybe BBQ items for the table in addition to dim sum.

                            Yes, I think the best dim sum in the city right now is Elite and Sea Harbor, but the parking at both places are a bear and I don't think you can get anything private that's big enough. Not everyone is a chowhound and Mission's food is good.

                            Haven't done dim sum in a private room, but I would think that their normal dim sum rush hours they have to handle at least 100 people at capacity, and they steam/fry to order, so I don't think your party size should be a problem as long as you let them know in advance.

                            1. re: notmartha

                              Great! My only concern would be the budget, I hope I'll be able to stay within the budget.

                              1. re: bigtums

                                $2000/70 = $28.57 per person, which is a lot of money for dim sum. Assuming even a 20% tip that's $23 per person.

                                Unless you get alcohol (unlikely for dim sum) or if Mission 261 charges you a lot for the use of a private room. Did you talk to them at all?

                                1. re: notmartha

                                  Okay....so I just called them.

                                  The guy told me that the room that holds 60-70 people would have a $2000 minimum. Yikes. We're just pushing the budget.

                                  But....I think this might be the all around option for me.

                                  My mom asked me if we could do it at Crustaceans. I almost fell off the chair when she asked me. I told her I'd consider it. (What's the punishment for lying to your Mom, to her face?!) I called them for the hell of it and they told me that they weren't open for lunch on the weekends. But I could buy out the restaurant for $7,000. When I told them I had about 60 people, give or take, he said I'd reach that minimum for sure and then some.


                                  1. re: bigtums

                                    For a minute I thought it's $2000 to rent the room, and dim sum is additional.

                                    Not surprised. 90210 comes with a price tag.

                                    I guess another option is to check out English-tea rooms. I haven't been, but Scarlett Tea room in Pasadena seems close to the ballpark in terms of guests and price.


                          2. We had a party at Tokyo Table for 50 people--$30 pp (drink, tax and tips all included). They are very accommodating, and will work out a menu with you if you give them your budget.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fdb

                              Thanks, I'll look into that. The place looks really nice from the website.

                            2. Taix in Echo Park could definitely accomodate your group size and budget, especially for a luncheon.


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: DanaB

                                My family did a birthday thing for my cousin there so unfortunately I can't do a repeat trip. Bummer because I know they'd be in my budget.

                              2. Not a boat but front row Harbor views and a great outdoor pato that can seat 60. Check out Shanghei Reds in Marina del Re at Fishermans Wharf. They have a Sat?Sun champagne brunch that could accomodate you. IIRC 20-25 pp. Vast array of decent food (carving stations, pasta, omelets, seafood, lox, etc) but you really go for the view. Lot parking b/c at FV so your guests will not have to worry about the logistics of that.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: marlane

                                  Wow, this may be the runner up is things don't pan out at Mission 261. I just sent an email to banquet coordinator, so we'll see what they say. Thanks for the suggestion!

                                2. Try Coconut Bay in Rowland Heights. I had an engagement party for 30 in their back VIP room in November and it went well. The whole event cost me ~$500 (for 30 people). My fiancee's brother threw a party for 50 in the same room and it went well. I suggest that you preorder several items for the group to expedite preparation. You can give guests the option of ordering additional items on top of the preordered items.

                                  1. You might check with The Café and Rose Garden Tea Room at the Hungtinton garden. Tea for large groups $25.50 per person with tips and tax included. I second Mission

                                    1. I just wanted to thank everyone for their help with this. I finally had the event at.....The Riviera Country Club. My mom got wind that I was having her party at a dim sum place and she said she didn't want that. It was WAY out of my budget but I had some other sponsors to help out so it worked out.

                                      The food was good. But I think it was the ambience we were paying for.

                                      Either way, thanks again for all the recs!