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Party of 13 at The Hollywood Bowl, dinner budget: under $500

We're having a birthday celebration at the Bowl in September and would like to treat our group of 13 to dinner for under $500 (including wine) without buying "to-go" food at the Bowl or picnic boxes at Gelson's (we like ethnic grub). We don't have box seats, and it's my first time there - any suggestions? Is there anywhere to sit together before we take our seats that we're guaranteed to find spots at? How hard is it to "schelp" food from an outside restaurant on the Hollywood & Highand Shuttle? Thanks!

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  1. Here are a few things I've picked up over the years. First, room temperature foods are really best, considering the amount of time it takes to drive, park, take the shuttle, and walk up the hill. I'm sure that other hounds have great ethnic grub ideas, so I'll just speak on the logistics. Since you don't have a box, I would recommend arriving early, and grabbing table and chairs at one of the picnic areas. I have never been able to enjoy myself when eating at the bench seats, so this point is rather important to me and my group of friends. There is usually a line up at the turnstiles (next to the will call area) with like-minded folks, so I like to arrive two hours before the show in order to snag a seat on the "Plaza". Just take a sharp left just after going through the turnstiles, and you will easily find it. There are other picnic areas around the bowl, but I prefer this one since it is close to the restrooms and Staccatto, where you can purchase any last minute items that you may have forgotten. Once on the plaza, grab a table and chairs, and spread out your tablecloth, utensils and grub. I personally believe that part of the Bowl experience is having the niceties like linen, so I don't skimp on this. You and your friends, of course, may be different! After a nice, leisurely meal, I like to save dessert (easy to eat stuff while in your seats) for intermission. Cookies, brownies, nice fruit...but a birthday cake may be much. If you need a birthday cake, I would have that down at the plaza with the rest of dinner. And, if you split up the duties among your friends, you should be able to get away with a shopping bag of materials per-person. Have a great time!

    1. M Chaya Cafe has To Go bento style meals that hold up nicely for trips to the bowl. Mako has bento boxes, probablly not in your budget... $68 per box (feeds 2).

      You can eat at your seats even at the benches if you don't picnic first. I actually prefer it. Perhaps it's not as tidy as sitting at a table, but I think it's part of the fun. I agree with parmamon to save desert for intermission. Maybe don't do a cake - pick up your favourite individual desserts from the bakery instead (fruit tarts, napoleons, brownies, etc.) - unless you get Mako's boxes which include dessert.

      1. A note about the wine. The leased shows don't allow glass, so if you bring wine, you'll have to eat at the picnic tables just outside the Bowl. They also don't allow you to transfer wine to a water bottle.

        If it's a Phil show, wine is allowed.

        1. We went recently for the Les Mis show and picked up custom boxes from BLD. Great and not too pricy. Add your own wine and you are good to go.

          1. I would make pressed sammies on big loafs of bread - chicken, pesto, goat cheese pressed. Grilled veggies with a tomato relish and swiss...make the morning off. pressed the sammis in the fridge and cut and wrap individually before you go. I would also make a huge pasta salad with roasted veggies and a nice feta cheese - Ina Gartner has a great receipe. I would bring fruit salad. I would bring a bunch of meats and cheeses with great breads and dips. Cookies work best for dessert...make a bunch of differeent ones.

            If you are hell bent on serving in your seats. Then I would tell you to go to Smart and Final and get the dispossable to go contains and fill them before you get to the Bowl. Then just pass the containers out to your friends. You can do 2 different containers...one for dinner items and 1 with dessert. Remember that it is a balancing act, and drinks, passing, coffee may be difficult for your guests. You could always go out for dinner and fjust bring dessert and coffee in.

            1. lauralaguna,
              Do I have a great idea for you! Last weekend, we had the most delicious picnic from a company called Large Marge Sustainables (310) 902-4104.
              It was the most imaginative menu, really mouth-watering !
              The food comes delivered in a picnic basket or bag with glasses, napkins, plates, utensils, votive candle, and small herb/flower arrangement.
              Also impressed by their friendliness and sustainable approach.
              We liked it so much we decided we're going to continue to order from them even after picnic season.
              You can email them at largemargesustainables@gmail.com. They have a website too -largemargesustainables.com
              Great idea- a birthday at the Bowl!

              1. Parmamom, that's a lot of great advice...

                Definitely get there early as the demand for picnic tables and/or prime picnic spots is very very high. Since you'll be in a group of 13, needing a minimum of two tables is probably reasonable, but getting them will require some effort. Use your numbers to your advantage. Send out four of your 13 as runners (really - they will need to run) to find and hold the tables (hopefully next to each other). You can send back one or two of the runners to meet up with the rest of the group and show them where the found tables are.

                As yogachik points out, you also need to determine whether or not your show is leased. This could kick out conventional wine bottles as an option. But given the size of your group, maybe a box of wine might work - easy to transport (especially with 13 peeps), and very economical. Has anyone ever tried bringing one into the Bowl?

                Don't forget to grab enough seating pads early for the actual show - they go fast. I think it's $1 per and well worth it if you're sitting on the benches...

                As you mention that you like ethnic food, and guessing you're OC-based by the "laguna" in your name, if I were coming from OC, I'd definitely pick up a truckload of banh mi. They're usually $2-$3 per, incredibly delicious, and they keep well. Empanandas also keep well, but depending on the type, some may not be as appetizing when served cold. You could also supplement or have instead the usual cheese, charcuterie, fresh fruits and fresh or roasted veggies. Given the size of your group, you might consider Costco for cheeses as well as bread. They have a decent selection of "gourmet" cheeses in large sizes at very reasonable prices. La Brea Bakery bread is okay - not great - but again, it's reasonably priced - this will help you stay under the $500 threshold. If you decide to go the banh mi route, you can pick up freshly baked baguettes at most places that serve banh mi.

                As others have mentioned, a birthday cake may or may not be practical, but given the number of folks in your group, maybe you can. But another option might be cupcakes? Bakeries specializing in cupcakes are all over the place...

                You can also do a search on all of these particulars - just "picnic hollywood bowl" alone has 146 hits... keep it simple and have a great time!

                1 Reply
                1. re: bulavinaka

                  I recently had a stupendous lunch at La Espanola with a party of 13 which consisted of nothing but: 5 types of jamon/chorizo, few types of cheese, some bread, and... 16 bottles of wine.

                  After that 4 hour siesta, and holding onto 3 d'frent Hollywood Bowl tix for next month, may I suggest some high quality jamon, quince and jam (lord, please tell me why women love quince and manchego sooo much?) and loaves of baguettes/bread and call it a day? Beyond that, you just need to light people up with wine, be it boxed or otherwise.

                  We had "some" 86 pt tempranillos for $6 from La Espanola which just tasted perfect in the open air setting.

                  La Espanola Meats
                  25020 Doble Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90710

                2. 1. Agree with others, check to see if it's bowl or leased first. No alchy on leased shows.

                  2. I have always found eating at a picnic table to be so much less of an experience than eating at the seats. yes, it can be trickier, since there is no table and you have to pass and balance, but it just is more fun. Picnick tables and eating sitting outside the bowl is just wrong to me.

                  3. You can get great food, ethnic and not, bread, cheese, prepped salads, pates, hummuses, spreads, sauces, wines, cakes, deserts, cookies and more at Trader Joes, easily for under your price there will be enough to stuff your whole crew. Much better and more affordable than any of the admittedly good food from a restaurant!

                  4. With 13 people, carrying food from the HH shuttle is no problem. My husband and I do it all the time. Are you fit? it's a brisk walk, but a good way of working up an appetite! Lots of people do it, no problem!

                  5. Bring plastic bags (from a grocery store or something) for trash, plastic cultery, paper plates and plastic cups. So much easier!

                  6. Don't forget a cheese knife and a corkscrew!

                  7. bring a comfy blanket to sit on, or game seat pads for you bum bum. the seats are kinda hard.

                  8. Bring a long sleeve cover up, it can get chilly.

                  9. Bring a flask of coffee or hot cocoa, too. or a good bottle of port will do!

                  10. Have a great time!

                  1. How about picking up a great Chinese meal enroute to the Bowl?
                    I suggest
                    New Dragon Seafood Restaurant
                    934 N. Hill Street
                    Los Angeles, CA 90012
                    (213) 626-6050
                    It's about 7 miles from the Hollywood Bowl and very close to freeway exits. If you're coming from Orange County, it is a quick stop before continuing on toward the Bowl.

                    My Taiwanese friends found this place in July. It's a hole in the wall at the end of a short walkway of shops from the street, but there is signage on Hill Street. Cross street is College. Very reasonable prices for what my friends found to be excellent food. As an American, I thought it was better than most Chinese restaurants I have tried. I had brocolli beef, but tried some of the other dishes orderd. The food is fresh, authentic, not greasy, with an offering of tamer dishes like brocolli beef that I had. Very interesting menu, but there is none online. Maybe they can fax you one.
                    You can pre-order if you have a menu and call for the daily specials. Or, if ordering there, give yourself a good half hour to get everything.

                    If you have a liteweight cooler, I suggest you just pack it in that and carry with two people, one on each side. It should stay warm for a half hour or so. Chinese food isn't that bad at room temperature, right?

                    Looks like you're getting all kinds of other advice for your outing.
                    Hope you have a great celebration.

                    1. That's hugely ambitious of you, especially since you've never been before!

                      Some tips I've learned over my many years of Bowling:

                      Sounds like you'll be doing a lot of coordinating with people re where you're set up, so be sure to fully charge your cell phones before you go!

                      As others have said, the first thing to do is check whether it's a lease or regular season event, as that will hugely determine what you can bring/ how you bring it. If it's a lease event, Tupperware is your friend! Basically they'll let you in with anything as long as it's in Tupperware. Technically no outside alcohol is allowed in a lease event, but I just put it in Tupperware containers and have never had a problem. Put the alcohol toward the bottom of your carriers just in case.

                      I often pack picnics for large groups at the Bowl. I use my rolling, collapsible coolers. They hold a lot yet are easy to manage on the bus and walking, and fold and fit nicely under the bench seats. You can get them at Costco for about $20 or in Chinatown for about $10 (let me know if you want me to figure out the exact intersection.) For a group of 13 you'll need about three or four of them and you'll haveto assign other people to carry one.

                      Other than the food, pack a few tablecloths, napkins, utinsels, serving utinsels, cups, plates, a few candles, a lighter, a wine bottle opener (if it's a regular event where glass is allowed), some extra bottles of water and extra plastic bags for trash. Also pack a few picnic blankets to be able to throw on the ground, in case you can't find tables.

                      As others have said, go as early as possible -- as in, if the event starts at 7:30, try to get there by 5. There are tables all around the Bowl and some near the parking lots.

                      I strongly disagree about trying to picnic in the regular seats as opposed to tables, especially with such a large group. It would be a huge pain for everyone and you're not able to face each other and interact as you would at tables.

                      Although I am a huge fan of the Park and Ride and avoid parking in the stacked lots whenever possible, if I were packing picnics for 13 people I would probably drive. You'll have more control of when you can get there, so you'll be able to get there super early, and since you'll be getting there so early, you'll be able to park relatively close and wouldn't have to shlep too far with all the food and stuff. You'll have at least some people there in the car with you to help you bring all the stuff in, right?

                      As far as food goes I agree with whoever said room temperature food works best: salads, gourmet sandwiches, pasta salads, cheeses, fruit, desserts. Ethnic food suggestions: an assortment of rolls from the CA Roll Factory on Santa Monica Blvd. I like the Agape, Chenzo, Yammy Jammy (there's no or minimal raw fish so you're okay not eating them right away.) But note they close for a few hours every afternoon, so you'd have to arrange the pick up accordingly (I think 3 pm would be best.) Or you could do Chinese dim sum or dumplings from Yum Cha or Won Kok in Chinatown or a number of places in the SGV (e.g. dumplings and beef rolls from 101 Noodle Express.) You could get samosas from Samosa House in Culver City. With such a large group, you could do a combination of the above, although that's a lot of running around!

                      If I think of anything else I'll post again... have fun!