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Graduation dinner for 17? 30 miles radius West LA. ~$40/person

Hey guys!

Anyone have any suggestions for a nice dinner on Saturday for 17 ppl within 30 miles radius of West LA? Budget around $40/person. I'm considering a few potential places (Carlitos Gardel, The Jar, Tony's Italian Steakhouse, Lucques) but I've never been to any of those places so I would be grateful if any of you nice people out there could point out their suitability.

So, summary! I'm looking for a place that is...
*Roomy enough to accommodate a group of 17 without being cramped
*Reasonably priced (~$40/person)
*30 miles radius of West LA
*Reasonable noise level so that we won't get dirty looks but is at least conducive for conversation

We also have 3 kids in our group (age 12, 9 & 2) so a nice place that's not too formal is a plus though not necessary.

I look forward to your suggestions. Feel free to recommend any other places that might be suitable. Thanks in advance.

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  1. imho, you will not come in anywhere near your budget at lucques.

    1. does your budget of $40/pp include beverages, alcohol, tax, tip?

      2 Replies
      1. re: westsidegal

        I'm not including beverages/alcohol since the group doesn't usually drink. With tax/tip I'm expecting $50/person

        1. re: sevter

          You should figure that at least 30% of the total bill will be for tax and tip. If you are capping the total at $50 per person, that means you are realistically looking at a cap on food (not including any drinks at all) of $38.50 per person. I don't think any of the places you've listed are very realistic if you really intend to stick to that limit. And, while I mentioned Il Moro, I doubt you can do dinner for that amount.

          Just thinking of places where my friends have held parties when we have had concerns about budget concerns, you might consider Gaucho Grill in West Hollywood or Border Grill in Santa Monica (though it can get very noisy).

          One other option, though it is pricier, is Fogo de Chao. I am not sure what the per-person dinner cost currently is. (It was $44.50 when it opened, but it might have increased to closer to $50 per person.) But it is a nice celebration place and can surely handle 17 with ease. And you would have a general idea of the likely cost in advance. (For a lower-priced variation, Sampa Grill in Encino is a good, but reasonably priced churrascaria. The meat is not as great as at Fogo de Chao, but the salad bar is nice and I believe Saturday dinner is about $30 per person. I believe they could rearrange tables to fit 17 people.)

      2. Try Shanghai Red's in Marina del Rey. It's in your budget range, they specialize in groups, there are a number of smaller rooms which can accommodate the size of your group, and most of the restaurant offers views of the marina. www.shanghairedsrestaurant.com

        1 Reply
        1. re: missmobe

          for dinner, if any of the guests have more than one course (i.e. a starter and an entree) and order a non-alcoholic beverage, they will be over budget.

        2. c & o cucina will work. they serve American-Italian food.

          1. 26 Beach should work also, burgers, salads and sandwiches start around $12-13 and steak & lamb around $31-32. You should average out around 23-24 then add drinks, tax and tip. I am sure they add 18% gratuity on a group that size. www.26beach.com

            3 Replies
            1. re: Burger Boy

              fwiw, a glass of wine at 26 beach normally runs me about $10, this means that having a glass of wine practically doubles the cost of a hamburger meal. if your guests order an dinner entree rather than a burger or salad, a glass of wine, coffee and dessert, you will be well be over your budget.

              1. re: Burger Boy

                The group isn't very fond of burgers but thanks for the suggestion. I'll probably check it out with a different group some other time.

                1. re: sevter

                  It is so much more than burgers, look at the menu before you dismiss them, www.26beach.com Now that we know drinks are not an issue, you should do fine.

              2. This children give me pause. It depends on how well-behaved they are, but if there is the chance that they might run around, I would aim for something more informal. Perhaps Guelaguetza on Olympic at Normandie would be a good option. It has excellent Mexican food (though it might be challenging for people who are unfamiliar with Oaxacan food) and you might be able to get a private area. We had a large group for a cousin's graduation at the Italian restaurant in The Grove (decent, but not great food), but it otherwise fits the criteria you laid out.

                On the more upscale side, consider Pastina Restaurant on Westwood Blvd. It might be tight with your budget (I'm assuming the $40 per person does not include alcohol, and the kids are unlikely to order $40 in food each). I went to a wedding shower there, so space should not be a problem.

                Probably just above your price point is Il Moro on Olympic in West LA. Depending on food choices, you could come in around your budget. They also do some set dinner menus for $45 and $50 per person, which include four courses (appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert), plus ice tea and hot beverages. Alcohol and other drinks, tax, and tip (at 20%) are extra.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Jwsel

                  Napa Valley Grille in Westwood (maybe)
                  Hop Li on Santa Monica Blvd. in West LA (they have a private room in back and I see lots of kids running around there)

                  1. re: Bria Silbert

                    I've been to Hop Li and I can't say that the food was spectacular though I agree that it's good for groups (went there once for a friend's graduation).

                    1. re: Bria Silbert

                      I was also thinking Napa Valley Grille. Reasonable, if you don't have wine. Roomy enough for a large party, even with younger ones.

                    2. re: Jwsel

                      il moro, realistically, after adding tax, tip, and ANY alcohol will not come in anywhere near budget.

                    3. Carlitos Gardel is a pretty small place, 17 people would definitely be a stretch, not to mention, for around $40 a person.

                      Check out AOC.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: subcrtical

                        i've never been to aoc and been able to come in AFTER tax and tip at $40 or less

                      2. if the graduation is ucla's graduation, be aware that all the westwood restaurants will be jammed

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: westsidegal

                          It is UCLA graduation. That's why I was thinking Hollywood for some of the initial potential places. Just scratched Lucques out of the list and adding Il Moro.

                        2. Border Grill - Santa Monica - has an upstairs that can be arranged Boardroom Style (I assume that means 1 long table) that can seat up to 25. Do they have a minimum room charge ? If not, then their dinner banquet menus start at $29.95 p/p and with no real adult beverage drinkers, you shoud/could come in under $50 p/p with T & T.


                          Great Greek - Sherman Oaks - Take the 405 or Beverly Glen from UCLA over the hill, and order the 14 course Greek Family Style Feast for $23.95 p/p (It looks like no dessert so add $4 ? approx.). I haven't been in a while, so hows the food there these days ? Anyone?


                          3 Replies
                          1. re: JBC

                            I wouldn't recommend Great Greek to anyone. I find the food to be terrible.

                            If the OP is willing to go into the valley, Cafe Bizou would be another good option. The food is well-priced and should fit the price points. They have a back room that they often use for showers and parties.

                            1. re: Jwsel

                              i was thinking about bizou as well, but thought it in the same price range as my other initial thought of Il Moro... you think Bizou is cheaper than Il Moro?

                              Can't remember exactly how many the back room at Musha holds, but might this be fun... and be within price point?

                              1. re: Emme

                                10 people fit in the back room at musha.

                                had dinner there toinight--fantastic price/quality price/quantity ratios.

                          2. Chaya would be fantastic! I held mine at the downtown location for about $50/person including alcohol, tax and tip. I recommend the BH location, given your UCLA starting point. Enjoy.

                            I also like Il Moro, and actually held my rehersal dinner at Guelaguetza at Sepulveda/Palms.

                            Chaya Brasserie
                            8741 Alden Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                              Try Guido's in West LA. Good Italian food, a bit expensive, but should come under $50 a person if you don't load up on drinks. It has a large room that you can reserve for a big party that always looks like a lot of fun. It is a bit on the dark side, but I think that is a great bet if you want to be a bit loud.

                              Guido's Restaurant
                              (310) 820-6649
                              11980 Santa Monica Blvd
                              Los Angeles, CA 90025

                              1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                                I've just made reservations at Chaya Venice. Thanks for the suggestion!

                              2. how about porterhouse bistro? the prix fix menu is $43. each person gets 2 drinks...can be coffee, teas, juices, or liqour. bread, soup or salad, choice of entree (steak, fish,lamb, etc) and dessert..
                                havent been there in a while, but i remember their porterhouse steak to be very comparable to ruths, or mortons.

                                1. The P-E-R-F-E-C-T restaurant for your needs is Campagnola Trattoria. Located at 1553 Westwood Blvd, south of Wilshire, Carlo can easily accommodate your celebration. The Italian food is superb. The lasagna is the best in the city. Carlo can set up a private room for you and your party. (310) 476-7376.

                                  1. Thank you good people! =) I read all your suggestions and did my research (went to see the menu, prices, yelp reviews). I'm going to go with ElissainPlaya's suggestion of Chaya. We might go over the budget a little but it should be fine since only a few items in the menu crosses the $30 mark.

                                    Will let you know how it goes. Thank you for all the suggestions! Much appreciated.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: sevter

                                      I'll be curious how close you come to $40 per person. Unless you have a lot of people who stick to entrees only or pastas, it seems like a big stretch to think you'll meet your budget. Only three of the 11 entrees are under $26.50, all but one of the appetizers/raw bar/sushi is over $10 (with most costing more than $15), and desserts are each $9.

                                      1. re: Jwsel

                                        maybe they will offer their guests some sort of limited menu?
                                        maybe the budget number was not a real limit?
                                        maybe the kids will share their parents food and will be included in the pp calculation?

                                        i completely agree with you jwsel. even if the adults ordered soft drinks and coffee/cappucino this will drive the cost over budget.
                                        ( i remember, at another such family dinner, an 8 year old ordering 4 shirley temples @ about $3 apiece) the restaurant will probably, (correctly imho) add 18% or so for gratuity. the tax is over 9% these days.

                                      2. re: sevter

                                        yelp? i dont trust those reviews! =) i only go with the chowhound crew! but yes, chaya gets some good votes here on chowhound...but i agree with the posts below. the costs are definitely going to be over $40 easily.

                                      3. Consider a decent BBQ establishment. $40/person excluding tax/tip will buy a whole lot of food and fun.