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Need to feed a LARGE group on the cheap in Walnut Creek/Oakland

I'm running an event for a large group of high school students at the Walnut Creek Marriott in mid-February. On the Thursday night I need to take everyone (60 students and around 40 adult coaches) out to dinner. Staying in Walnut Creek would be easiest, especially if we need to shuttle folks to the restaurant. If we cannot come up with a good option in Walnut Creek, we could drive as far as Oakland or Berkeley.

Because our guests are coming from all over the country, I'd prefer to take them someplace that is not a chain and that have some local flavor. My budget is, not surprisingly, limited. Given the budget, I think Chinese, Mexican, or burgers would be the best bets. Regardless, there must be decent options for vegetarians. I, not too surprisingly, would prefer food that actually tastes good.

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  1. How open to "ethnic" foods do you think these people will be? A surprising number of people still find even Chinese food to be uncomfortably unfamiliar, and if this isn't a food oriented group,. then many of them might consider eating at a restaurant that isn't a chain to be downright weird.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I've hosted this event in Oakland on a smaller scale (around 50 people) for a number of years. I've taken the kids for Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Fenton's (for dessert). I always buy them Banh Mi for lunch. They're pretty open-minded, nerdy kids.

    2. Picante.

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      Picante
      1328 6th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

      1 Reply
      1. re: sydthekyd

        Picante will not book a group of our size during the dinner hour. We'd take up their entire main dining room.

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        Picante
        1328 6th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

      2. For such a large group, you need help from the restaurant (w/ private room?) -- a taco bar set up (with extras for the veggies), Chinese buffet (veggie chow mein, s&p wings, brocc w/beef - nothing crazy, etc), or other that can have the food out and ready for the gang since ordering individually is out of the question.
        Sorry I'm not that WC-familiar so can't rec restaurants.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sarah

          I know what to order. Family style platters work well. I'd actually rather not do a buffet, because when 100 people hit it at the same time, it will move very slowly. The real question is where to go. I can do T-Rex, but they're a bit more expensive than my budget will really allow. I can do Legendary Palace or one of the other Oakland Chinatown places that is set up for banquets. I'm hoping, however, to stay in the Walnut Creek area to make transportation easier.

          Does anyone think we could fit into Sichuan Fortune House?

        2. Have you considered Dragon 2000?
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2724...

          I haven't been for a few years. It caters to the PF Chang's crowd but can also turn out authentic dishes. The website says it can accommodate banquets of up to 150.

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          Dragon 2000
          1651 Botelho Dr Ste 120, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

          1 Reply
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Thank you for the suggestion. I was wondering about it.

          2. Maria Maria is a semi-chain, but seems to take large groups and the food is okay. Not much in Walnut Creek that isn't a chain. My teen liked it.

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            Maria Maria Restaurant
            1470 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

            3 Replies
            1. re: Glencora

              How are the prices? The on-line menu is distressingly silent on this subject.

              1. re: lexdevil

                I've only been there once. I'm pretty sure we spent less than $15 each, not including alcoholic beverages. The food wasn't as spicy as it could have been, but not horribly bland, either. There were lots of families and people seemed to be having fun.

              2. re: Glencora

                There are a lot of Mexican restaurants on Monument Blvd. in Concord, so that's an option as well.

              3. How much are you looking to spend per person?

                1 Reply
                1. re: kc72

                  Not much. Around $15 all in. One would think that with the poopy economy someone might want my $1,500, but you never know.

                2. It's a long schlep, but I may have solved my problem. I can use the Pinball Museum in Alameda and bring in outside food (probably either Banh Mi from Cam Huong or tamales, beans, and rice from Cactus). That should keep my costs down and provide a fun diversion as well. If anyone has other suggestions for a solid, cheap Alameda catering option, let me know.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: lexdevil

                    Calafia taqueria might be a good choice to put a spread together for you -- it's just down the street.

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                    Calafia Taqueria
                    1445 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501

                    1. re: lexdevil

                      Try Aroma Restaurant in Alameda. The chef has always been great about negotiating a deal for you.

                      1. re: lexdevil

                        Take a look at Dragon Rouge - I'd walked by a few times and written it off as a Slanted Door wanna-be, but my bf was intrigued by their banh mi and milkshake special so we gave it a shot. It was actually really good - the meat was a thinly sliced beef, lots of lemongrass, cooked fresh, so it took a while longer than banh mi usually does. At $3, only marginally more expensive than the Oakland Chinatown options. I don't see the banh mi on their catering menu, but they have a lot of other good-looking options, mostly in the $8/ pp range.

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                        Dragon Rouge
                        2304 Encinal Ave, Alameda, CA 94501

                        1. re: daveena

                          They charge $3.50 on the catering menu (listed as Saigon Sandwiches), but maybe I can talk them down. The fact that they deliver is extra tempting!

                      2. if ur in alameda maybe east ocean on webster can cook up trays of delish take out...the chow mein is great as well as chicken/veggie dishes...im sure they will be stuffed for 15 per/p

                        1. What is your budget perhaps the folks at the Vineyards Chop House or the Crowne Plaza Concord could accommodate your gourp.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cathy jackson

                            "Not much. Around $15 all in. One would think that with the poopy economy someone might want my $1,500, but you never know."
                            lexdevil on Jan 15, 2011 11:18PM

                          2. Call International House @ Cal, on Piedmont. They might be willing to make a special arrangement to seat you with advance notice. Cost pp. is $10@ dinner. Organic, as local as possible, fresh, rapid turnover, huge variety, vegan/vegetarian options plus salad bar and tons of different regional "stations". So worth a try.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mamachef

                              And fortunately there is no problem parking around Piedmont and Bancroft Way.

                              1. re: wolfe

                                ROTFLMAO. First time I've ever used that acronym on Chowhound! Were it not for the parking, it would be a brilliant option.

                                1. re: wolfe

                                  Braaaaaaaaahahahahaha - oh, man, I didn't even take it into consideration. Good call. They'd be suicidal by dinnertime.