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Dec 9, 2007 06:24 PM

Birthday Party in Northern NJ--HELP!

Myt wife's 30th birthday is coming up end of January and I'm trying to find a place in Northern NJ for a party for her. We haven't lived here long, and I also have never planned a party this big and don't have an unlimited budget, so I need some suggestions. BADLY need suggestions.

Here is what I know I'm looking for:
- Very good to great food
- Space for 20-25 people
- We live in Madison and would like to do it near us--towns we're thinking of would include Madison, Chatham, Morristown, Bernardsville, Summit, Montclair, Millburn. I'm open to other suggestions. The challenge is that I just don't know many good restaurants around here yet.
- Should be easy walking distance to a train for easy access for friends coming from NYC who won't have cars.

Here's what is flexible:
- Budget: I haven't decided if this will be a big sit-down dinner in the main dining room of a restaurant where everyone contributes to the final bill, or if it will be a private party in a reserved room where everyone mingles and I just get the check at the end. I feel like in the latter option, I'm almost obligated to get the check, whereas in the former scenario it's easier to get everyone to contribute. The reason I lean toward the former is that, simply put, I really can't afford to pay for dinner for 20-25 people at a great restaurant. So, this is the biggest sticking point. I would rather go to a great place that everyone could afford to go to if they all contributed and where we would have a meal to remember, than to go to a mediocre restaurant where at least I knew I could afford the bill. Are there nice restaurants where I could reserve a table for 25 and get a separate room and still have a sit-down dinner? If everyone contributes, I want to keep it to $40-$50 a head (including alcohol if it's not BYOB). If I have to pay for the whole thing, I've got to get cheaper than that. I can't afford to spend a couple thousand dollars on the party, as much as I would love to.
- cuisine: I'm open to a lot of different kinds of food. My wife is a little picky, but we can always work around that. I guess I'm imagining something with family style platters
- BYOB: In many ways I'd almost love a place that is BYO so that I could just bring a couple cases of wine and everyone could drink to their hearts content without worrying about a staggering liquor tab, but I'm open to suggestions.

Can anyone help? I thank you in advance for your guidance.

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  1. While I don't have a restaurant suggestion just yet, I want to remind you that Montclair doesn't have train service on the weekends, so unless you're having the party on a weeknight, your city pals will have to take the bus. Yes, you read that correctly.

    ETA: Having done this type of party myself, I can definitely tell you that BYO is the way to go!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Curlz

      Wow, thank you for the tip on Montclair. Well, then cross Montclair off the list of potential towns. And I want to make one other modification to my original post--while I guess I have imagined something with family style portions to make it easier to serve everyone, that is not a requirement by any means. Just one thought.

      Anyway, thanks again for any suggestions anyone might have.

    2. HEADSMACK. I know it's not one of the towns you listed, but have you considered going to the Ironbound (Newark)? It's easily accessible and safe walking from Penn Station, and you'd have your choice of Spanish, Portuguese, and Brazilian food, the prices are VERY reasonable ('tho not BYO, you can do pitchers of sangria), and I think it's a festive way to celebrate!
      If you'd consider it, I would recommend Adega Grill, which is on Ferry Street, all of a 4-block walk from the train, and it also has a parking lot for those who would be driving. They have a back room for private parties, and VERY reasonable party menus--with the food served family style. The place is also split up with a bar area separate from the restaurant, separate from a dance club, so if your group was so inclined, you could stay and dance off dinner afterward!

      Told you I'd start thinking about suggestions! :-)

      1. For 30 year olds from the city with a taste for food, I would look into the following:

        1. Ora on South Street in Morristown, which has a large room, the back half of which is rarely full. Creative American food and BYO. Has some negative reviews on here, but then when I look at what people are suggesting in the alternative, I think it's a matter of taste. My personal favorite in the Madison area. Walkable from train station.

        2. Ming II or Mendi (connected Pan Asian and Indian restaurants) in Morristown's HQ Plaza on Speedwell Ave. I just had a work part of 20 at Mendhi. Quality and mildly creative Indian in a nice room. The room for Ming II is a little nicer and more chic, though I think the food is not quite as good. It's not a BYO, however. Both are festive spots. Walkable from train station.

        3. Brix 67 in Summit is a large multi-national place that has a decent room and the back half of which is quite large. It's closer to NYC than Morristown. I think the food there is pretty mediocre, but it's festive, fun and popular. Also, not a BYO. Next to train station in Summit.

        That's a start. Good luck.

        2 Replies
        1. re: brownhound

          Hi. I believe that Ora has shut down and is no longer in business. In regards to Ming II I respectively don't think that it will be in your budget especially since they charge for extra rice.

          In Madison I would look at Il Mondo Vecchio (BYOB).

          In Morristown you might want to consider Origin (Thai). They have a large downstairs eating area that could easily accomodate your party and it's BYOB.

          I've been to parties at the Side Bar (next to the Famished Frog) which is fun since it's basically a large bar with lots of couches and TVs.

          Lately our new favorite place has been Tashmoo. It's an upscale whiskey bar with a limited bar menu but the food is above average for these type of places and the atmosphere is a little more upscale. Good luck and please report back!

          1. re: Tasi

            These are random suggestions not based on recent experience. i haven't been part of the jersey dinning scene in a few years...

            is Thai Cuisine in Chatham still around? i thought they put out a good product

            i always loved l'Allegria in Madison and also La Campagna in Morristown.

            Brix 67 isn't anything special. my in-laws keep talking about a new steakhouse stype place that opened in summit a few years ago. i believe it is located in the old Roots department store.