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Caterer or Whole Foods or Thai Restaurant or...? My mind is spinning with options for my daughter's bat mitzvah

Hi everyone! I have been researching options for my daughter's bat mitzvah in September. I thought it might be feasible to do some cooking but it's looking less and less likely that will happen. I do need to keep costs down. I have gotten estimates from a few caterers and it looks like, with food, service, meals tax, etc, I should expect to pay about $50 per person, plus the cost of china/cutlery/glassware.

When I priced out Whole Foods, with hiring waitstaff and rentals, it wasn't that much less expensive.

Am I missing something obvious here? I know I have to spend some money to feed 100 people a decent meal. On the other hand, this is a party for a 13-year-old. Should I just order burritos from Anna's Taqueria?

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated! Although names of more caterers, unless you know for a fact that they are very inexpensive, probably will only make me more confused. :-)

Thank you!

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  1. Heck, If you want Thai, I am sure Thai North in Brighton would do the job at $25 a person and the food would be awesome. These days one of my favorite places in Boston these days.

    1 Reply
    1. re: StriperGuy

      As the spouse of a Temple Administrator, I can tell you that most people reserve a caterer at least a year in advance, so you probably will not be able to get a top shelf caterer. On the other hand, the "hot" caterers charge a fortune.

      If you are having the reception in a Synagogue, be sure you follow any requirements for using a kosher caterer. It costs a lot to re-kosher a kitchen if it has been made unkosher by the introduction of non kosher food. Even if you are not using the kitchen, don't bring in pork or shellfish - it is disrespectful. Burritos with meat and cheese - your call.

      It is customary to have separate adult and children's meals, with the children's being considerably less expensive. Buffets are usually cost the same, or even more, than plated meals because of the extra food that needs to be prepared, although you are entitled to keep whatever is prepared but not eaten. Alternatively you can donate the left-overs to a food bank.

      When our daughter was Bat Mitzvah, we had a sit-down lunch for everyone, and an evening dance for the kids and anyone else who wanted to come. We handled the evening food ourselves - 6 full "buckets" of Italian food from Comella's.

    2. Where are you planning on having the reception? Must be at your home, since you haven't booked anything as yet? With such short notice, and as it sounds like you want to keep it low key, maybe you could do a combination of deli platters, home cooking, and pot luck? Comella's is a great idea, as part of the mix. At this level of informality, get recyclable dishes, cups, etc.

      Personally, I think this is a great idea. You're right, it's a party for a 13yr old. What's important is that you're all together. Order a nice cake from Party Favors.

      7 Replies
      1. re: CookieLee

        Only Comella's food is not particularly delicious. Closer to "out of the can" Italian.

        I had assumed that the reception was not in the synagogue and would certainly not bring anything trayfe to a kosher kitchen.

        1. re: StriperGuy

          ( I think you meant to link to jira's response, not mine...) I agree, Comella's is not particularly delicious. IME, the kids love it. I also assumed this event isn't taking place in the synagogue.

          1. re: CookieLee

            I was replying to both, you regarding Comella's and Jira regarding kosher food.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              I agree that Comella's is nothing great, but it is true, kids love it. As far as bringing trayfe to a kosher kitchen, you would not believe how stupid and/or arrogant people can be. Witness the "Trefa Banquet" at Hebrew Union College in 1883. I could cite more recent examples, but won't.

              In any case, since OP has indicated that the synagogue social hall has been booked, my recommendation is to go with a cuisine that is vegetarian oriented. I went to a reception where there were a variety of Israeli/Mideast/Northern African foods: hummus, tabouleh, baba ghanoush, falafel with pita and all the accompaniments (don't forget the pickled baby eggplants and turnip/radishes), and muhammara (red pepper spread). Actually, they didn't have the falafel, I just wish they did.
              I'm also partial to Fool Medames, a bean stew from Northern Africa. Israeli couscous can be the base of a number of dishes, although I prefer the smaller sized couscous, particularly whole wheat. I've had wonderful vegetarian tagines redolent with sweet spices.

              1. re: jira

                Thai North also does spectacular veggie food...

            2. re: StriperGuy

              one of my Jewish fellow students at SU said that she attended a bar mitzvah and tried some food which she found absolutely delicious. Turns out they were serving lobster.

          2. Thanks everyone! I do have the synagogue social hall booked, and I have a few caterers who are willing to take the date, and they seem great, but I'm struggling with the fees. Either way, I'm aware of the restrictions on what to have in the synagogue, so we would do bean and cheese burritos and of course no pork or shellfish.

            I will try Thai North to see what they have to say. And paper/recyclables sounds great too!

            1 Reply
            1. re: elyster

              The last party I worked at in a synagogue they had an asian themed table, beef teryiaki, chicken stir fry with noodles, chicken lollipops, a rice dish and they used chinese take out containers as the plates on this table. They also had another buffet table with somewhat a spanish influenced theme. With a jerk beef, rice and fajita type meal.

              They flipped the buffet's into dessert/coffee stations and there was a full open bar all night

            2. Russo's in Watertown makes great food and platters. Lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, smoked salmon, breads and cheeses, desserts and so on. Even nuts and candies. Flowers, plants, herbs it could be made really nice with their help and then hire people to serve.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cherrytomato

                I would check with places like Esperia, Garlic n' Lemons, and Family Restaurant - not kosher but each of them could do great vegetarian and at a much lower cost. I would also check with the kosher chinese and pizza places in Brookline near the Butcherie: they also might be able to meet your needs for kid-friendly kosher food at an affordable price.

              2. don't cave to the pressure to spend your daughters college savings on this event.... many of the upscale events that people are describing on post have clearly never been of modest means.

                My bat mitzvah in a very small town in the midewest, (over 25+years ago now ) when my dad was unemmployed, was kosher, we had the basics tuna fish, egg salad, challah, bagels fruit , etc.. and a simple cake for dessert.... keep it simple, true to your family's interests, and do what you feel you can. Sometimes you can hire "accomodators" for resonable fee to help prep the food, or even borrow a few friends to help you pull it together.

                If the congregation isn't kosher, then don't worry about that so much, but still keep it real, keep it focused about your daughter and what a typical 13 year old girl likes.. It will be more memorable if it is real, and less of a "production". If tex-mex (Anna's) are permitted in the synaogue.... then go that route, chips, salsa, guac.. As long as there is 1 challah and wine.... should be all set.

                I see many bnai mitzvahs in a large congregation here in the area... and sometimes the parties are just so over the top that the intent of the event is overooked

                2 Replies
                  1. re: cheesehead in recovery

                    Thanks, this is good to hear. I know it myself but it's hard to keep it in hand. My own celebration (also many years ago) was at my house, with home cooked food and flowers from a neighbor's garden. Thanks for the reminder, and for all the suggestions, everyone!