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Restaurant to buy out for rehearsal dinner?

I know I can count on the Hounds for help ...

I'm planning a wedding rehearsal dinner for roughly 80 people in April. (Everyone's invited, not just family.) The intention is for casual, stand-up food and drink. I'm guessing that the best bet will be to buy out a smaller restaurant and ask them to open the bar and just keep bringing food out until people stop eating it.


1) In San Francisco. Ideally Embarcadero/FiDi/Union Square/SOMA/Mission/Castro, and accessible by BART or Muni.

2) Willing to do a buy out on a Friday night. (OR have a separate space for 80 people.)

3) Good service, but casual atmosphere.

4) Good with vegetarian food.

5) Pizza would be a plus.

6) A cool space.

Our first thought was Beretta, but they don't do buyouts - their only offer was their downstairs room, which only seats 40 (and is frankly much blander than the upstairs).

Second thought was The Plant on the Embarcadero, which satisfies all of the above - except that the food just hasn't been that good the past couple times we've gone.

Please help! Thanks!

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  1. I have no personal knowledge of this, but I wondered if Pauline's Pizza would do a buyout of their second floor, so I checked their website:

    Both Rooms [upstairs]: Very large groups up to 65-85 people may reserve both rooms, if available, thus buying out the entire upstairs dining room for the evening. In this situation, Pauline's provides your guests a staffed bar and lavish pizza buffet. The minimum charge for reserving the entire upstairs dining room is $3,000.

    FIXED-PRICE OPTIONS (Groups of 18 or more)

    • $31.00 per person: Pizza, family-style green salad, breadsticks, and two beverages per person; tax and service included. The beverages included with this option are Pauline's own "Pizza Red" house wine, house white wine, beer, soda, or coffee*.

    • $25.00 per person: Pizza, family-style green salad, and breadsticks; tax and service included

    • Children 4-11 years old, $16.00 per child: Pizza, green salad, breadsticks, and one soda such as sparkling apple cider*; tax and service included. (No fixed charge for children 0-3 years old; you may wish to order a small pizza at regular menu price for them.)

    • Dessert–add $7.00 per person. For groups of 20 or or more, we offer two options for pre-arranged desserts: Individual petite chocolate mousses made from our own recipe (with whipped cream!) or platters of seasonally available fresh fruit, such as strawberries. Tax and service are included in this $7.00 price; this dessert option must be arranged one week in advance or earlier.


    Pauline's Pizza
    260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    1 Reply
    1. re: artemis

      Good advice! And I'll mention that Pauline's wine bar next door has a separate kitchen that makes a different menu than the main restaurant. So it might be possible to supplement the pizza menu.

    2. Go here: http://www.sfpdv.com/ (click the tab on the top that says "buyout"). No affiliation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ML8000

        This is a nice resource not only in itself but because a number of these restaurants have private dining managers who can (not always do-but can) make planning the night much easier.

      2. You might try here
        Hotel Vitale
        Ive been to a reception there that was great, they have roof top also

        1 Reply
        1. re: celeryroot

          Vitale also has suites that open up to parts of the roof top. I don't think those are big enough for 80, but it's worth asking if you'd consider doing the party in a suite and having it catered.

          In a similar vein, I once attended an anniversary at Hang Gallery (an art gallery near Union Square). It was really quite lovely, but food had to be catered from outside. I'm not sure if the tables, chairs, and linens were rentals or if Hang does enough events that they provide them. It was a really nice setup for a cocktail party, and the art gave everyone something to talk about

        2. Very good leads so far ... thank you for the help!

          Pauline's is an interesting idea, although I have to say that I don't love their pizza. The price is good, though - especially considering it includes tax and tip!

          Any other suggestions?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Eris48

            My two cents:

            I don't love it either, but for me when it comes to really big events, I start thinking about how most of my family are not hounds. In this instance, in my family, most would not appreciate, or even like, the kind of pizza offered by our board faves. Pauline's uses excellent quality ingredients, makes a style of pizza which I don't love, but does make a style that everyone likes. So, it satisfies my requirement of serving actual quality food at events I host, but without the inevitably unappreciated additional expense of serving what I would actually be excited by, as well as avoiding the disappointment of a bunch of guests freaked out by "weird" food that I went to trouble and expense to choose. Many of the people coming to my rehearsal would not appreciate a Una Pizza or Delfina pizza that much more than a Pauline's. And that Delfina pizza x 80 people would cost me a lot more money.

            As my grandmother said lovingly about parts of the family, "there's no use feeding a [donkey] strawberries." The donkey likes less expensive things just as much. So, in these instances, I pick quality food that most will enjoy and I am willing to stand behind, and then take that savings from not serving 80 people the ultimate chow to go out to a great food-centric dinner with my SO, who IS a hound :).

            Delfina Restaurant
            3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          2. Horatius in Potrero might be a good choice.

            350 Kansas Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

            1. Probably not what you're after but I did notice this weekend a sign at Mozzarella di Buffala in West Portal. There was a (not very fancy) room with a window on the street, and the sign said they rent out the room for parties.

              Not fancy, but their pizza is perfectly fine, and I could see a loud boisterous family having a good time there.

              1. I've been to a reception upstairs at Perbacco that had a a couple buffet tables and wine stations. The buffet had cheeses, vegetable antipasti, charcuterie, spiedini, and a couple pasta stations, IIRC.

                For a cool space, The Box, in SOMA. Easy to park and it has a full kitchen for your caterer. I went to a sit-down lunch there this spring followed by a walk-around wine tasting in the larger function room. I liked the space so much, I took a photo to remind me the next time I need to organize a large event. I accessed it via a couple flights of stairs, don't know if there's an elevator.
                and the restroom

                230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                The Box
                1069 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                1 Reply
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I looked into The Box, but it's quite pricey even before you get a caterer involved.

                  Interesting idea with Perbacco - is the upstairs space nice? (I.e., comparable to the vibe of downstairs.) I wonder if Barbacco would be open to a buyout?

                  230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  230 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                2. I went to Mercedes in the Financial District for a wedding reception. The bride and groom had rented the whole restaurant out on Friday and the event went over very well. Casual and festive. The staff was very accommodating. Food was buffet style.

                  Mercedes Restaurant
                  653 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                  1. Bix has a buyout option, but I think it starts at $20k for a Monday and is more than double that for a Friday and Saturday.

                    56 Gold St., San Francisco, CA 94133

                    1. OK, many months later, the report ...

                      We went with Mercedes Cantina in FiDi (thanks for the rec, tatertot!) They were by far the most accommodating and most affordable place we looked at. And unlike most places (even small ones), we had the entire restaurant to ourselves.

                      The food, drinks, atmosphere, etc. were perfect for what we wanted: casual, lively, and fun. We hooked up a wireless mike to the sound system to do toasts.

                      Added bonus: we arranged for the Twirl and Dip softserve truck to come by around 9 PM. Needless to say, it was a BIG hit with our guests!

                      Thanks for all the help ...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Eris48

                        That sounds like a lot of fun! Especially the ice cream truck.

                        We did a whole restaurant buy out for our wedding (ceremony and reception), and I would recommend it to anyone.