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Oh. Dear. Lord. Holiday lunch for 55 people.

Yep. It's that time of year. An assistant at my work skipped town without finishing some of his projects, like setting up the office holiday lunch. Which is in 3 weeks. For 55 people. And because we work for a nonprofit in San Francisco, the total budget is $27 per person, including tax and gratuity.

I'm not in charge or setting this up, but the person it fell to asked for my help, and I'm asking you. My first thought was Crossroads Cafe, which would have been perfect and within budget, but it's booked.

Other specifics include:

-A restaurant in the Mission or accessible via BART
-We will not drink any alcoholic beverages, so the budget need not cover it
-No Italian, specified by the big boss

Again, we work for a nonprofit, so we're looking for a place that has a nice feel to it, but doesn't need to be Financial District fancy (like Town Hall or Perbacco, which would also be too expensive and booked already).

Any ideas?

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  1. I wonder if Bar Tartine would let you rent out their space. Foreign Cinema is another option, though I don't know how close you can get to $27/pp. there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: david kaplan

      Those are both great ideas--thanks, David. So far we have a call in to Chichen Itza, which has nice food and presentation (especially for the budget), but I'm not a fan of the dark dining area.

    2. What do you think of the Sky Terrace spot above Medjool in the Mission? I've noshed at Sky Terrace before, just for drinks and appetizers, and I noticed they do large groups. They have space heaters and the view is nice...

      1. Hmmm, Luna Park? It's open for lunch, not sure if it's already booked though, but it may be able to work with your guidelines. Osha Thai would work if they can book that many people, especially if you do a preset menu.

        1. I'm not sure how big the space is at Tao Cafe http://www.taocafe.com/ but there is some kind of upstairs space, and I really liked the atmosphere and the Vietnamese food.

          And, maybe not big enough or fancy enough, but the people at Florida Street Cafe seem anxious to please, and they're a nonprofit themselves. http://www.floridastreetcafe.com/

          1. I am a huge fan of Lotus Garden in the outer Mission and they are definitely open for lunch and would meet the budget. I think they could accommodate 55 if you took the entire restaurant.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Seriously, have you checked into either of these places because they were the two that jumped to mind. Since you were considering Crossroads Cafe, both are in that exact area. TownsEnd had those $10 lunches and $21 three course dinners.

              2. Update: so far, no luck. Understandably, though, as this is pretty late in the game to plan a holiday lunch for so many people.

                I thought of Chichen Itza, the former Popul Vuh, but they couldn't do it; neither could El Delfin. Luna Park was booked, Bar Tartine would not rent space for the price we offered, and Foreign Cinema was too expensive. Lotus Garden is a good idea--we'll look into that. I thought of Hong Kong Flower Lounge, which is accessible via BART, but the group meals advertised on their site are wedding-fancy and wedding-expensive--around $42 pp, not counting tip. I might call to see if they can do a custom (cheaper) menu, minus the shark fin soup and baked lobster.

                3 Replies
                1. re: pane

                  You should definitely check with HK Flower Lounge -- my (small, poor nonprofit) office is doing a holiday lunch there, and I don't think that we're paying anywhere close to $42 a person.

                  1. re: pane

                    S&T on Noriega has a side dining room that can seat 70 people.

                    S&T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant
                    2578 Noriega St, San Francisco, CA 94122

                    1. re: pane

                      don't get me wrong: I LOVE Lotus Garden. Was just there with my friends from Phoenix and we had a great time and excellent food...

                      that said, two cautionary notes: 1.) IMO, dinner is their strength, not lunch. 2.) More importantly, I really doubt if they have EVER served 55 folks at once there. While I have had good luck there with groups of ten to twelve, I'd be very leary of taking a group of more than 15 or so....

                      Could Ramblas Tapas do it? I recently had a very nice much smaller event there, but their website mentions large groups and buyouts. Not expensive.

                      Ramblas Tapas
                      557 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    2. Is there any way you can set up your lunch at work? And maybe just get something catered?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sugarbuzz

                        That's a good question, and one I asked.

                        My boss doesn't think it's festive enough--plus this group of 55 is just of my peers, not the whole office. Other groups are going out, so there might be bad blood if we're in the conference room with paper streamers and a boombox sputtering Feliz Navidad, even if the food's great.

                      2. would BART to Oakland Chinatown be too far? New Gold Medal? Binh Minh Quan?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: zippo

                          Thanks for those recommendations--I will check them out.

                          1. re: zippo

                            New Gold Medal is probably less festive than your average office. Think zero ambiance, unless your idea of ambiance is getting to see the guys deliver the whole pig (happened to us once, kind of fun to see a delivery person walk through the room with a pig slung over his back).

                            That said, one of the most successful holiday parties my office ever had was in their upstairs room (not sure if it would hold 55 though). Food was great, everyone had a very nice time.

                          2. BART and walk to
                            4 Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
                            (at the top of the spiral walkway) at Sacramento and Drumm Streets
                            San Francisco 94111
                            Banquet Contact: Moira Beveridge (415) 362-0645
                            - ask Moira about a menu for your $27 pp budget; she's very helpful.

                            1. Finally! We found a place! Hong Kong Flower Lounge it was--they were really good about working with us on price, and the very BART-able location was perfect. We also called Koi Palace (which is preferred by the people I work with--about 50% are from HK), but after a few days they still haven't been able to propose a menu.

                              Thanks, Chowhounds, for all of your help and advice. I'll post back with a meal review after the event in mid-December.

                              1. Update: we went to HKFL today, and considering that we set this up only a few weeks ago, it was a pretty good time.

                                For our $27 pp budget, we got:

                                vegetable spring rolls
                                har gau
                                siu mai
                                peking duck
                                honey walnut prawns
                                sweet and sour pork ribs
                                pan-fried sole
                                seafood and chicken fried rice
                                mushrooms and bok choy
                                tofu and bok choy

                                Not as much dim sum as I would like, but everyone left full. My favorites were the shrimp and pork dumpllings. The duck was good, though I like the skin to be a bit more crispy.

                                I liked the walnut prawns, Everything else was ok to pretty good, but I wouldn't say anything stood out. The mushroom/bok choy and tofu/bok choy dishes were in the same starchy sauce; the tastes were too similar, so my table only finished about half of each.

                                The good was that the restaurant was very flexible about working with our limited budget. The bad: the space wasn't great, they gave us a corner of the downstairs dining area (for 60 people) rather than a private space. We had games and speeches (which we told the restaurant in advance), and I'd imagine that the noise was unpleasant for the other diners.

                                The pacing also wasn't great. Lunch was scheduled to start at 12, but the first dish didn't arrive until 12:45. We tore through the spring rolls, dumplings and duck, then everything else came all at once. Not a disaster by any means, but a little overwhelming.

                                For a last-minute holiday lunch for nearly 60 people, this was a pretty good time. Next year a little more advance planning will help us smooth out the bumps.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: pane

                                  That's so funny -- my office went there today too (which likely may be why you couldn't get a private space, we were in the private space upstairs). We also had the honey walnut prawns, and those were definitely my favorites -- the prawns themselves were good, but the nuts were really amazing, I'd love to know how to replicate those. I think that they have timing issues, because our lunch was also supposed to start at noon, and we didn't get any food until after 12:30, so we were all pretty hungry. Other than the prawns, my favorite was a whole fried fish (that came still whole and on the bone). We also had some sort of prawn/crab puffs, broccoli/bok choy/baby corn, vegetarian noodles, hot and sour soup, beef and nuts in a bowl made out of noodles (reminded us of the presentation of a taco salad), peking duck, and a few other things. I wish there had been more dim sum, and I felt sorry for the vegetarians, but otherwise the food was fine, though not amazing.

                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                    I accidentally walked into your office's party--we may have seen each other.

                                    Yeah--that was one thing I forgot to note. Vegetarians were screwed, and we had one lady who was allergic to prawns and had to forgo quite a few dishes.