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Mission Impossible?: Group dinner for grad students near Union Square

Hi everyone,
I’m organizing a group dinner for an alumni/grad student group as we converge upon SF for our annual conference in early April. I’m having a heck of a time finding a place for us to gather, but that is most likely because I’m asking for too much. Here’s what’s on my wish list, in rough order of preference:

1) no more than $40/person, including drinks
2) private room/area
3) no time limit
4) NOT a seated dinner – more of a mix & mingle reception with buffet dinner
5) walk or easy transport from Hilton SF (O’Farrell & Mason)
6) food that doesn’t make you want to shoot yourself

Can you give me some leads on places I should check out? I know that placing such a low bar on the food requirement is not exactly chow-ish, but I trust you folks.

Another tidbit of information: I’m willing to entertain ethnic food options, even though the bulk of the crowd is non-adventurous New Englanders… I’ll take the heat for daring to expose them to food from other cultures. :o)

thanks so much!

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  1. One possibility is Thirsty Bear.

    http://www.thirstybear.com/

    According to the website a group function for dinner runs between $30 - $50 per person.

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    Thirsty Bear Brewing Co
    661 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105

    2 Replies
    1. re: Scott M

      I would second Thirsty Bear -- the private area is upstairs, has great homemade beer, a pool table, and really good food (tapas).

      1. re: Carrie 218

        I met up with some British friends a few weeks ago who just had been at a conference at Moscone for three or four days and were basing their entire impression of San Francisco dining on Thirsty Bear -- and they loved it.

    2. Since you're open to "ethnic" I'd give Sultan a call. I don't know if there's a private room/area in their new digs, but if there is, it should fill the bill perfectly. The food is delicious, including some regional offerings beyond the usual fare, and the people there are very nice and easy to work with.

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      Sultan
      340 Ofarrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        There is a separate area suitable for perhaps 15-20. It's the same room, but still reasonably private. The food is wonderful--much better than Thirsty Bear, which is really a beer hall with food

        415 775-1709

      2. I 3rd or 4th Thirsty Bear, it can get loud but everything else works. You might try Town Hall but they might need a deposit, etc. I think they do a reasonable fixed price per/person.

        This is a good resource,all private rooms, breaks down the restaurant and group size. You could then cross check against here. http://www.sfpdv.com/

        1. Thanks so much for the quick and promising recommendations.

          I called Thirsty Bear (looked perfect!), and their private rooms are already booked for both April 10 and 11th. The woman I spoke with there was very helpful (and I credited chowhound.com for the recommendation). She mentioned that they have an area near the bar, to the left of the host stand, that didn't open until 4:30pm. Apparently, we could send someone to hold tables for our group to meet there. Does anyone have a sense of what this space would be like? I'm willing to grab a friend and gab until my group can get there, but don't want to go to that effort if the space isn't worth it.

          Also, I tried to find a website for Sultan (www.sultan360.com?) and tried to call, but struck out on both counts. Is there a website I don't know about, or is theirs out of commission? If so, I'll just keep trying...

          2 Replies
          1. re: LisaLM

            I think you'll do just fine at The Thirsty Bear -- yeah, it is near all their smaller tables but the space is long enough that you guys will be relatively secluded.

            1. re: Carrie 218

              Thanks for confirming - I really appreciate the help.

          2. a bit further by a few blocks but great food and generally gets good reviews on this board would be http://www.helmandrestaurantsanfranci...

            1 Reply
            1. re: chutney

              Many blocks. Helmand's current location is 2424 Van Ness, about two miles from O'Farrell and Mason. Their old location at 430 Broadway (reopening someday) is about a mile and half.