HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


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!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    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?

              1. You guys rock!

                As for Bocce Ball, are you referring to those courts just off Columbus? (Those are the only ones I'm aware of...let me know if there are others!)

                Love Cal Academy... just don't think we'd want to rent a bus to get us all out to the Park.

                Cheese school is a fun idea too!

                Thanks for all the ideas... and keep them coming.

                3 Replies
                1. re: FiestaForever

                  The big bocce ball courts are near Aquatic Park, no? I think that's near the cheese school, too. Also near Crown & Crumpet, the tea room that I've not visited but heard good things about.

                  1. re: FiestaForever

                    You could rent one of those goofy cable cars on wheels to get you there, adding a little more San Francisco flavor. A friend used one for her wedding and folks got a kick out of it.

                    1. re: lexdevil

                      It's actually a fun way to transport a group your size. You pick a route to hit the sights, prearrange a few stops for drinks, snacks, music/dancing. A friend did this annually on Halloween, and we always looked forward to it.

                  2. Pier 24 is a gallery right on the Bay, at the base of the Bay Bridge, which can be reserved for two hours at a time for private events:


                    It's also walking distance to some other fun spots for drinks, light bites, etc. before or after, all along the waterfront: Pier 23, Waterbar, the Ferry Building...

                    1. No idea on the pricing, but at a smallish work party (~50 ppl) last October, someone set up a picnic in GGPark with a taco truck and an ice-cream cart. And you can't say food carts aren't very SF...

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Oh, that's a really good idea! Very San Francisco, lots of time to mingle, something for everyone.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            took the words right out of my mouth! Get there as soon as it starts to avoid the crowds.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Fun idea, but just keep in mind that it will be difficult to remain as a group throughout the event as the evening progresses. Think food festival and it's a similar atmosphere.

                              1. re: rubadubgdub

                                the good thing about the Fort Mason OTG is they have a center area with seats that these folks could take over for a bit.

                            2. Parties that Cook! This, according to their website ...
                              Looking to bring friends and family together for an unforgettable private event? Group cooking parties and hands-on cooking classes are also a perfect way to celebrate special occasions or mix and mingle with new friends. See you in the kitchen!

                              My company did this for a speaker recognition dinner for about 80 people - all scientists attending a conference. They loved it! No cooking experince necessary. The staff were great to work with and can help you pick a restaurant, menu, etc. Here's the website:


                              1. Emperor Norton is starting up culinary tours. How San Francisco is that?




                                1. How about doing a class with Kitchen on Fire? They have great enthusiastic chefs and often do private events. It's in Berkeley, but the North Berkeley location is walkable (15 mins?) from BART. Might be expensive to do a private event, but if budget is not a primary concern...

                                  I know you said not too task-oriented, but from what I understand, they do private and corporate events all the time so if people get distracted or don't want to cook, the staff chefs ensure things get done and a full meal is served.

                                  1. You didn't mention if everyone in your group was over 21 or not; however if they are, you might want to check out Press Club in San Francisco. You can rent a room for dinner and do some wine tasting from a selection of wineries in the Napa Valley.

                                    Or, if you like ice hockey and are willing to drive to San Jose, you can rent a box at HP Pavilion to catch the San Jose Sharks.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: e_tsai

                                      You can also take the Caltrain to right outside the Shark Tank. I'm a huge Sharks fan, and this is what I always do. Renting a box would be a blast.