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Please DON’T recommend a restaurant for 35 people…

We have planned a big restaurant dinner (75ppl) on a future Saturday night to celebrate a milestone anniversary.

But the night before (Friday), we want to provide an opportunity for our two families (35ppl) to meet each other for the first time. (It’s a long story why they’ve never met.)

Because we’re doing a sit-down dinner on Saturday, we’re hoping to do something “different” than a restaurant dinner on Friday night… while still providing food.

Ideally we’re looking for something:
1. with SF character (e.g. dinner cruise on the bay)
2. breaks the ice & provides a distraction (e.g. Giants luxury box)
3. yet allows for mingling & conversation

Our families will be staying in downtown SF, so proximity counts. This will be during the Indian Summer so weather should be nice, if that matters. Budget is not a primary concern. Mediocre food is ok if the venue/event is right.

Ideas we’ve already ruled out include bowling (fails rule #1), Teatro Zinzani (little opportunity to mingle), Beach Blanket (ditto), chartering a dinner cruise on the bay (seasickness), cooking school (great food & distraction… but too task-oriented to allow much mingling), Giants luxury box (we don’t like baseball).

Any advice / ideas appreciated!!

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    1. re: PolarBear

      That was my thought as well. Then I realized he said "dinner" -- which would also rule out the other thing I was going to suggest, which was a catered picnic in Golden Gate Park.

    2. Instead of cooking, how about a tasting at The Cheese School, with a focus on Bay Area cheeses if you want to go local? I went to one of their open-house type events, which was fun. It seems like it wouldn't be as involved as actually cooking (no tasks other than to eat) and I remember the space being pretty nice.

      Here's their link: http://www.cheeseschoolsf.com/catering/

      1. I know you said no bowling, but a Lucky Strikes just opened in the city. It may not be unique to the city, but it is somewhat unique. Years ago I went to party at the San Jose location. We all had drinks in the bar lounge area and they provided a dinner buffet, I believe in a private area where we bowled. I can't say I remember the food, but there was lots of opportunity to mingle and talk. The different bowling experience also provided a good conversation topic to break the ice.

        3 Replies
        1. re: elliora

          It's hard to imagine how you could get much less SF character than at the ~17th branch of a bowling-alley chain that already has locations in West Nyack, Ft. Worth, Torrance, and Bellevue.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I know, I said it did not fit that requirement, but I do think its fits the other wishes. Even at 17 across the country it is still not your typical bowling alley. At least 5 years ago when I went, most people in our group had never had that type of bowling experience and it was definitely a conversation starter

            ETA They also did not want a Restaurant, which is why I thought of Lucky Strikes

          2. re: elliora

            Another contender in flagrant violation of the no bowling request is Mission Bowling Club. This is the latest spinoff of Mission Street Food, so I think it actually could flout the "lacks SF character". Full bar, games, and more-than-just-chips menu by chef Anthony Myint: http://sanfrancisco.grubstreet.com/20...

          3. I noticed what looked like a private party in the bar at Waterbar the other night, people helping themselves from a buffet and mingling.

            1. How about renting a bocce ball court?