Searching for birthday restaurant
I am a month early, but my monkeymom taught me to be a prepared primate...
The monkeyboyfriend turns 30 next month, and I really want to do something cool for his birthday. Dinner for a group of about 8 people at a nice, moderately priced restaurant seemed good (moderate as in $30-40 a head, not including drinks, most everyone I know is a struggling screenwriter). As some may know, the mbf is reluctant to leave the Westside, so it would be terrific if we could find someplace west of La Brea, but it's not a requirement. We're open to just about all cuisines. Incidentally, since I am also a struggling writer, I can't possibly cover the bill for the mbf's friends, so what is the etiquette in terms of paying the tab? Do I tell people in advance to bring cash, credit cards? Should I not mention it at all, lest I appear a gauche monkey?
--P.S., on a side note, is Angelini Osteria any more quiet if you go earlier in the evening, or is it pretty much a nonstop blabfest from 5 p.m. until closing?
I think someone on this board will recommend against Taylor's. But seriously, my then-girlfriend threw me a surprise 30th b-day party three years ago at a place on Melrose, just barely west of La Brea, called either LaLa (pronounced Layla) or Lu Lu. It's a fairly casual Argentinian steakhouse. Nice outdoor patio, with vine-covered red brick walls. There were about 20 - 25 of us. The party worked because it wasn't the kind of place where impeccable service was key, we didn't feel like we were imposing on anyone, and the price was reasonable. BTW, the place has a killer appetizer, a sort of cast-iron/fried cheese thing. The this awesome dulce de lece crepe dessert. I honestly can't remember what the pay arrangments were, but I tend to believe that all my friends kicked in a share of the bill. The details were hidden from me. She had tried to arrange Bouchon just up the street, but they weren't able to accommodate the party size.
Hmmm..you didn't specify what day of the week, but how about Alto Palato on a Wed for their regional dinner? A 3-course Italian meal for $25. Otherwise, entrees run $15-$20 so it's easily in your price range. Plus, wine on Wednesdays are 40% off. A steal, if you ask me! The food is generally fantastic and they have the decadent gelato for dessert...
Last time, I held a Holiday Get Together there and everyone really enjoyed it, food, atmosphere and all. There were 10 of us and they accomodated us nicely, setting us up at their big round table so we could all talk with one another. Another plus: we got there early around 6:30, had happy hour cocktails (in the cute front room with the couches and big windows) before heading to the main table.
As for the tab, this usually works: let it be known that you're covering the birthday boy's meal and everyone will get the hint that they should pay their own way.
AXE on Abbot Kinney has been the venue of choice for many a birthday for thee of the struggling screenwriting trade. You get a nice big, wooden table; delicious food; mellow atmosphere; excellent and selective wine choices; and all on the west side (to keep mbf happy). The warm chocolate desserts are not be missed, and especially moving when marked by a sole, burning birthday candle. And, hell yes, shoot out an e-mail to the friends saying something to the effect of "...since these things are always such an opportunity for the fledgling Anderson VP to start practicing his/her trade, PLEASE keep our country honest and bring cold, hard CASH to dinner."
I think a "no host" dinner party is fine if it is to include close family and friends. If you cannot afford to host the dinner party, I suggest that perhaps you could just get together at your place for cocktails and snacks - or do a potluck. That way, you eliminate the awkwardness that sometimes prevails at no-host events (tipping, coming up short on cash, etc.). A home atmosphere would also allow you to spend quality time with your guests and be a "cash-friendly" alternative.
If you do decide to do a no-host party, make sure it is stated in the invitation as such. At a minimum, I would recommend that you spring for drinks at the bar and/or provide the cake for your beau.