Recs for group dinner in SD on a Saturday?
I am trying to arrange a group dinner for a group that will be in SD in early September. About 25-35 people. Many are on government salaries, so need to keep the cost at around $35-$40 per person. We'll be near convention center, but a 10-15 minute drive would be ok. Looking for good food, nice/fun atmosphere. We'd prefer some place that will give us a set menu with 2 or 3 choices for entree and 3 courses.
This is a tall order, given your criteria. Typically one would be talking to the banquet department at a hotel, and you'd be getting over priced rubber chicken with zombie-like service.
Saturday night is a tough time for 35-40 people to be driving from their hotels near the convention center to a restaurant outside the area, then trying to park, then driving back to the hotel, presumably through the masses in the Gaslamp and likely with some alcohol on board. Unless you're hiring a bus, I'd very much want a place everyone could walk to.
The problem there, of course, is that Gaslamp area restaurants are usually packed on Sat. night and would, I think, be less anxious for your business than on another night.
With all that having been said, I'd offer a few suggestions for places everyone can walk to and are large enough to handle you. Salvatores's is outside the gaslamp, but walkable (www.salvatoresdowntown.com). This is upscale Italian cuisine with upscale prices, but it's privately owned, doesn't appear to be doing real well of late, and might be willing to cut you a good deal.
Two other places right in the heart of the gaslamp are Lou & Mickey's and McCormick & Schmick's. I've seen groups your size at L & M's before, dining on their outside patio. And M & S has an upstairs dining area that is never used except for groups.
CAUTION: none of these places get much love on these boards. The food would be much better than banquet food, but not nearly as good as the current board favorite in the area, Cafe Chloe (which could not accomodate your sized group on a Saturday night.