Saturday night dinner for 20 on short notice in Philly?
I'm an out-of-town eater, looking for whatever help any of the Philly area folks may be able to offer.
In short, the situation: next Saturday night, a large group of good friends are getting together. We've been planning getting together for a while, including a lot of folks coming in from out of town.
The only problem is that the person coordinating forgot to book a restaurant. So now we're scrambling a bit, and I'm doing what I can to help.
The only real criteria, as far as I see it, are that we can all fit somewhere, it doesn't cost a fortune (maybe 30-40 bucks a person, plus drinks, tax, tip, that general range anyway), and hopefully quiet enough that we can chat and catch up without too much trouble. Dinner probably on the earlier side, and hopefully a place we can stay for a few hours.
This may be an impossible task (if someone asked me where to go in NY with those specs, I really don't know what I'd suggest), but I figured I'd check.
Square on Square, near 19th and Chestnut, is a nicer-than-average Chinese restaurant with an upstairs room. They take reservations, but most people don't make them, so while they often get busy on a Saturday, it's mostly walk-ins. I suspect you could probably call today and get a large table upstairs with no problem. I've done several large meals there (as well as eaten there regularly since 2002), and the food quality and service have always surpassed expectations.
You could also probably find some place in Chinatown, but I am not the authority there.
Lee How Fook in Chinatown also has a private room you might be able to snag. Square on Square is more a typical Americanized Chinese menu (not a knock--I like it); Lee How Fook has a more exotic menu.
In Center City maybe try Branzino (BYOB) or La Fourno (not BYOB), both Italian. Both have private rooms so noise won't be an issue. I also had a nicely done dinner for 40 or so at a place called Prima Donna near 15th & Spruce; it is now called Bella Cena and while I am sure they have the same private room in the back, I don't know anything else about it.
If you can travel a little bit, these spots are good and have a good chance of accommodating you. All are accessible via subway if you can walk 4-5 blocks or short cab ride.
Distrito, upscale Mexican small plates, not cheap but you can eat very well in your price range for sure. They have a "secret" private room you can ask about. Definitely the most trendy of this bunch and probably the best, at least for Chowhounds. You should be able to do a tasting menu for the table for $45pp.
Nam Phuong, Vietnamese, not BYOB. No private room that I know of but has huge tables and I have seen large groups there. It doesn't get loud. Very inexpensive and the food is great. Bare bones atmosphere.
Tre Scalini, Italian, BYOB, has a large upstairs that can accommodate.
Mama Maria's, Italian, I don't think they sell wine but if you get the prix fixe it includes "complementary" wine. Not sure of their policy on bringing your own bottles.
Pesto, Italian, not BYOB, has a large back room. Food is good and reliable, but not quite as good as the others on this list.