### Round tables, or seating that will allow everyone to interact

It's going to be my birthday soon and I didn't want a big party, but a small group of people to go to dinner with me. The small group grew a little and now it's about 12. My goal is to have a seating scheme that allows everyone to interact. Tall order, I know, but one long table won't cut it. I want a good meal, so although John Harvard Brewhouse has a nice, big round table, I want a better place. Ideally, the North End, but I'm open. Ideas, anyone?

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1. Sichuan Gourmet in Brookline.

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Sichuan Gourmet
1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

1. This is a GREAT question, as I'm always trying to find places with round tables for big groups. I'm kind of tired of being seated at rectangular tables with 10, 15, or even 20+ people and not being able to say more than a couple of words to people on the other end of the table. La Galleria 33 in the North End has at least one round table; a few others away from the North End that I can think of include the Mount Vernon in Somerville, Sichuan Garden in Brookline, Ecco in Weymouth, and Winthrop Arms in Winthrop.

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Sichuan Garden
295 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

La Galleria 33
125 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113

6 Replies
1. re: hiddenboston

i dont how "great" a meal buca di beppo is...
but if they have one near boston...they have a large round room/table for large groups called the pope room...

1. re: hiddenboston

Space is a big factor here. People sit around the perimeter of a table. For a given perimeter, p, a circular table occupies the most area of any shape: a little over p^2/13 units of area, compared to a square table which occupies p^2/16, or a rectangle twice as long as it is wide which occupies p^2/18. A long table, 4 times as long as it is wide, occupies p^2/25 units -- about half the area of a circular table that seats the same number of people.

1. re: FoodDabbler

Alton Brown would be proud...

1. re: hiddenboston

To make him even prouder, there's another interesting geometrical aspect to this problem: the corner effect. Rooms are generally rectangular. Round tables are, well, round. From a restaurant's perspective, there's wasted space at the corners of the square in which the round table has to be accommodated, in addition to the intrinsically bigger area of a circle. The OP wants to seat 12 at dinner. Assuming a little over 2ft of table space per person, and another 2ft of space away from the table in order to push your chair back, the restaurant would have to set aside a 12ft X 12ft square area to accommodate the arrangement, with empty space at each corner.

It's the OP's birthday, though, and all this talk of geometrical obstacles will be making him gloomy. On the bright side, I think MC's suggestion of two six-seaters is excellent. It's hard to interact with someone at the far side of a big circle, anyway.

2. re: hiddenboston

Thanks so much for the recs!

1. re: hiddenboston

I don't think 12 people would fit at the round table at La Galleria 33. I've been there with 8 and that was kind of tight.

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La Galleria 33
125 Salem St., Boston, MA 02113

2. Few places outside of Chinatown will waste the space needed to seat 12 diners in a circle. In a rectangular format, I think the biggest group that easily interacts is six or eight, depending on the spacing. Two adjacent six-tops can be better than one long 12-top. If you're not ordering off a menu, e.g., doing family style or buffet service or the like, another way to deal with this is to have people move their seating positions periodically. A private dining room makes this a bit easier, since you can yell across the table without annoying your neighbors (Tremont 647 has one just this size.) Tough problem, any way you slice it.

http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

2 Replies
1. re: MC Slim JB

How many seats are there at the round tables at Mary Chung's in Central Square? I recall big groups around those. I'm sure you could do two sixes there.

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Mary Chung Restaurant
460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

1. re: BostonZest

I've done a banquet at a round table at Mary Chung, can't recall if it was 8, 10 or 12 people.

http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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Mary Chung Restaurant
460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

2. I seem to recall big corner rounds at KO Prime and Gaslight.

1. Brasserie JO has a round table. Not sure if it will fit 12...
Bistro du Midi has an amazing private room that isn't an extra charge. They also have a "semi" private room. Pricey though.
"94 Mass Ave" doesn't have round tables but it's a good place to go for a birthday. Plates to share and the table are really wide (so it's almost like a round).

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Brasserie JO
120 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02116

Bistro du Midi
272 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

1. i believe Mama Maria's has a small private room for 12. don't recall if the table is round but i know the food is good.

1. re: teezeetoo

My recollection is that the Mama Maria table is set up in a large square, set up in a way that allows for good interaction. I think it's a great suggestion.

2. there are a couple of big round tables at green tea in newton. we sat at one with six people and were kind of lost. big lazy susan in center so you can send food around. nice people, food is pretty good.

1. Post 390 has a fantastic round table in the corner on the second floor - I know we had 10 there - you could probably squeeze two more in. Great table - long glass windows in the corner overlooking Stuart and Clarendon Streets. Get the seafood tower!!

http://www.post390restaurant.com/

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Post 390
406 Stuart Street, Boston, MA 02116

1. Jacky's Table has a lovely lone long table in it's bar area. I'm suggesting it, even though it isn't round, because the space is quieter than a main dining room. I think 12 people could interact quite nicely. I saw a large group at a long table at the Russell House Tavern. They were leaving as we were arriving, so they may have been there for most of their dinner before the place filled up. You could check it out. I've dined with large groups at Mary Chung and in the space now occupied by Sichuan Gourmet. If you're interested in the cuisines offered by them, they would be an option.

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Mary Chung Restaurant
460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

Russell House Tavern
14 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Sichuan Gourmet
1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

Jacky's Table
1414 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02135

In fact, I think a rectangular table of the right proportions is more conducive to maximizing interaction than a round one. If my calculations upthread are correct, you'd need a round table of roughly 8' diameter to accommodate 12 people comfortably. That means that every person will be 8' away from at least one other person, and almost 8' away from the two adjacent to the opposite diner. A 4' X 8' rectangular table, on the other hand, will only put the 4 people at the ends (2 at each one) at a similar disadvantage. The 4 diners sitting in the middles of the long ends will be fairly close to every diner at the table.

Round tables are psychologically and aesthetically appealing, I know, but they are not as good for interaction as people might think. I was at a wedding last year and was told I was assigned a table at which a food writer was also seated. The bride and groom wanted us to meet. But the dinner tables were round and we ended up diametrically opposite (other seats were taken). We were able to make no conversation.

2. Have you thought about going to a Japanese restaurant and getting one of the tatami rooms? The table will be rectangular, but you'll be in your own quiet room, so it will be possible to interact. Oga in Natick has especially quiet rooms because they are away from the main dining area.

Yeah, I know it's not the North End or even Boston, but there's probably a Japanese restaurant close to you that could accommodate you this way.

1. re: Isolda

Had good interactions in a large group tatami room at Fugakyu. We must have had 20 people and it worked well.

2. This is one of the reasons i miss Rocca. I hope whoever moves into that space keeps the round table setup they had. I went to a birthday dinner there and the space worked well.

1. If it is a restaurant of some size, ask if they can provide a banquet round or two.
At the holidays our college friends get together and it is usually a big, long table. Everyone ends up changing seats so it works out. We had a good time with this setup in the private room at Kingston Station. The site now mentions a 'Farm Table' in the main room you can reserve for up to 12: http://www.kingstonstation.com/

Irish pubs usually have a lot of space and seating. M.J. O'Connor's in Back Bay has an interesting space with a long, low table in front of a 'fireplace' we reserved once. http://www.mjoconnors.com/

Come to think of it, Temple Bar in Cambridge has giant round banquettes along the dining space wall. Here's a photo: http://www.templebarcambridge.com/res...

They have a vast menu too, with something for everyone.

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