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25th birthday - dinner suggestions!

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Hey all,

So my birthday is coming up (the big 2-5!!) and I'm planning a get-together with some friends for dinner. I'm looking for ideas on somewhere new - last year I had it at Tabule (which worked out really well) but I'd like to try somewhere new. Looking at having about 14-16 people and here's what I'd really like.

- somewhere nice, but not too pretentious (ruled out Ultra for this reason) - we'd like to dress up a bit but not because of a strict dress code
- good food, but enough choices to accommodate the picky eaters (which there's quite a few of in my group of friends) - some vegetarian and seafood choice as well for those that don't eat meat
- somewhere where we won't be rushed out the door after dinner, maybe a bit of a lounge vibe so we can linger - it'd probably be a later dinner (8ish) so it'd be nice to be able to hang out for a bit over dessert or move to a lounge if the table is needed
- I'm open to any type of cuisine, but would like somewhere with enough choices to appease everyone else ;) maybe somewhere new, a bit trendy but not too loud
- downtown - so between front and bloor, yonge and bathurst would be ideal, although we can definitely venture outside that area a bit if it's easily ttc-accessible

The one idea I had was Sidecar, as I've heard great things about it, or maybe the new Ciao Wine Bar. Or the patio at the Drake? We're all in our early to late-20s, and budget-wise, I guess mains in the $20-$30 range would be fine; we're not really big drinkers, some of our friends will have a couple of drinks, probably at least half the group won't be drinking at all (I wonder if the bartender at Sidecar can do up any nice mocktails!). Do such places exist??

Oh, and this would be for July 17th (a Saturday night), my birthday is always during summerlicious, so I'd like to avoid that as well (although I know the Summerlicious list isn't out yet, there seem to be some restaurants that participate regularly)
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

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Tabule
2009 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M4S 1Z8, CA

Ciao Wine Bar
133 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, ON M5R 1C4, CA

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  1. While it is a wee bit loud at times you may want to consider Buca. They have a very large menu and options that should please everyone. The space is pretty hip and you can dress up or down and be comfortable!

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    Buca
    604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

    4 Replies
    1. re: JennaBean

      Ooh yeah, I've been wanting to try Buca too - any idea if their menu is available online anywhere? And do you think they could accommodate a larger group?

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      Buca
      604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

      1. re: apple_pie

        Menu's not online because they do a new one daily. There's a lot of standard things like pastas, pizzas and a daily fish selection, but also some more unconventional things as well (e.g. lamb's brains, pigs' ears, etc). Pretty good compromise I'd say in terms of foodies vs. the less adventurous.

        The space seems physically big enough for a group of your size but chances are you'd have to reserve very early. Dress code seems flexible enough for your purposes.

        1. re: morefoodplz

          Cool, thanks for clarifying! I'll definitely give them a call

          1. re: apple_pie

            I have really enjoyed each of my visits here. I think it would be lovely venue with great food.

    2. Love Sidecar but it might be a bit small for a large group.

      Was recently at Ciao Wine Bar with a group of friends. It is a nice space, and the food was OK, but nothing special, and I think the general consensus was that it was too expensive for what it was. If you do choose to go there though, they have nice big booths downstairs and the service was pretty good.

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      Ciao Wine Bar
      133 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, ON M5R 1C4, CA

      1 Reply
      1. re: pescatarian

        Hmm, I think I'll make a visit to try it out before deciding. You're right, the menu seems like your standard fare but if the service is good and it has a nice vibe, it may still be a good option, thanks.

      2. Update:
        So I tried Ciao first since we do want to hit up Moroco for dessert and drinks after (I know it's not the greatest, but it's a nice room and it's got a bit of a novelty factor to it) - they couldn't accommodate our group at the times and weren't willing to take a group of our size without a set menu - part of the reason I liked Ciao was that they had a ton of options and I thought that way everyone would be able to find something they liked.

        Called Buca and they can't take a group larger than 12, so I'll save that for a smaller dinner as I've heard it's amazing.

        I called Sidecar and the guy I spoke to said it would be no problem for a group of 16 - he said they could do two large banquettes of 8 and they get groups of that size often, and we can order off the regular menu. Great drinks and good food done well, it sounds perfect, and then those of us who want to may just cab it to Yorkville and try Moroco if we feel like it.

        I've never been to Sidecar, but I take it from the raves on this board it's a good choice?

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        Moroco
        99 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, ON M5R 3K3, CA

        Buca
        604 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1M6, CA

        7 Replies
        1. re: apple_pie

          I love Sidecar. If they can accomodate you, it's sure to be great. Love their Mojito.

          1. re: apple_pie

            Yep, you'll have a great dinner. Really nice people, too. Enjoy and happy birthday! Have your friends buy you a "badass mojito" or two and you're guaranteed a good evening. :)

            1. re: TorontoJo

              thanks for the feedback guys! I can't wait :)

            2. re: apple_pie

              I've done two birthdays there, which should tell you just how much I enjoyed it! If possible, try asking for the back patio. Lovely space, reasonable prices, great food and equally good service!

              1. re: LTL

                good to hear :) I love places that you can enjoy going to again and again, hopefully this will become one of my go-to's

                1. re: apple_pie

                  FYI, if you decide to go with Sidecar, they let you bring in your own cake at no extra cost to you and your party, and slice and serve for you :)

                  1. re: LTL

                    oh nice! thanks for the heads up!! yes, we've booked Sidecar based on all the positive feedback, so I can't wait :)

            3. Cava is good - I went there with a party of 15-18 people. Called ahead and just got a fixed menu and it was mm mm GOOD!

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              Cava
              1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA

              2 Replies
              1. re: ekim256

                I'll definitely check it out next time, it's one of those places I've had on my list forever and haven't gotten around to trying

                1. re: apple_pie

                  I hosted a birthday dinner for 10 people at Torito Tapas Bar last October, in honour of my SO's 40th. I made reservations well in advance and we had a table in their lower level, which served us fine. We worked our way through their entire menu, ordering extra dishes whenever necessary. The food and service were phenomenal and wines were reasonably priced. I'd return there in a heartbeat and do it all over again. They also have a patio, which would be great for a summer party. You can always move next door afterward, to Supermarket, for a more lounge-y vibe. The prices at Torito were much easier to swallow than they would be at Cava. I've now dined at both and happen to prefer Torito. It's casual, yet stylish. Cava does a wonderful job as well, but I found the room tight and the volume of diners unbearable, from a conversation standpoint. Dishes were pricier, but flavours more subtle. For my tastes, I prefer Torito. There's plenty of choice for all types of diners.

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                  Torito
                  276 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2L9, CA

                  Cava
                  1560 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4T 2S9, CA