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Camb/Som bar for informal birthday meet up?

I've been through the boards and decided the Foundry might be the best spot to invite some (5-10)friends to meet for my birthday. Not a bargoing type (2 kids under 12 here!), and my window is 7-9 pm on a Thursday.
The issue is whether we'll be standing around waiting to even sit at a bar like the Foundry's at that hour on a weekday. If so, other suggestions? Don't want Five Horses because of the tv screens, and don't want anyplace where we have to scream to hear each other (I'm assuming Redbones would deliver that amount of ambient noise). My second choice may be Flatbread, actually (nice beer selection) but don't know a thing about other places like Westside Lounge. Bar at Bergamot only has a handful of seats, so...Any suggestions?

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  1. First of all, it is illegal in MA for those under 21 to sit at a bar, so I think you'll need to re-think your plan. I think you'd be better off finding a restaurant that can handle the crowd at a table. Someplace like Rendezvous might be nice, or maybe Green Street.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kimfair1

      As I read the OP, he/she is unfamiliar with bars because of the kids. I didn't get the impression that they would be coming.

      1. re: LeoLioness

        And that said, there are plenty of bars that I've been to where people bring their kids in. A lot of looking the other way goes on.

        1. re: jgg13

          That may be the case, but if I were a bar owner, I wouldn't be happy having any bar stools taken up by people who couldn't drink anything but soda or water. Yeah, the markup on soda is ridiculous, but you'd make a ton more money on booze. I do agree that 5-10 people are not the optimum number to sit at a bar, since everyone would be in a line, so getting a table would solve that problem, as well as the kid issue (whether or not they come).

    2. I'm not sure if the kids are going with you; if so, then I agree with Kimfair1, but I wouldn't say that either Rendezvous or Green Street is especially kid-friendly. The problem is that kid-friendlier places will probably be bigger/louder/less intimate. For example, I love Russell House in Harvard Sq. and Pazzo in Davis, and would recommend both wholeheartedly for all ages, but they do get noisy if they're busy.

      The other issue is that sitting 5-10 people around a bar is going to be tricky: you need to find a big bar, for starters, and then the odds are that you'll be in one long row. If you're expecting a group that size, I think getting a table is the best way to go regardless, and be aware that if you are seated at a table you'll probably be asked to order some food too. If that's the case, you should think about what you'd want to eat, because that will influence your choice of venue.

      One last thought: I haven't been yet, but it sounds like the set-up in one of the quieter rooms at Park in Harvard Square might work well. I know there's a room that's meant to feel like an old-fashioned club; you could call and see if that room could accommodate a group that size, and if you can reserve that space specifically.

      1. What about Cambridge Common - Great beer selection and decent pub grub.

        1. Trina's Starlite Lounge would be a great choice. Good food (lots of kid-friendly options), great drinks, fun atmosphere. On the small side, but maybe they'll let you reserve a table in the dining room.

          1. It's tough to predict, that being the prime-time dinner hour, but the bar area(s) at the Independent are pretty large and it's not overly loud.

            1. You can reserve for 10 people at Backbar - a really cool space that only accommodates around 50 people or so, has fab bar snacks, and excellent craft cocktails. They are snuggled in an alley in Union Square - called Sanborn Court - and there is a small parking lot adjacent with meters. Call Sam Treadway there (his email is on the website) and he will reserve for you. You can also order a punch bowl with a rum or manhattan or other punch for $10 per head. One of the snacks is spicy caramel popcorn (with or without bacon!!) which is really good!! Backbar is a very chic little boite, the sister bar to journeyman restaurant, and they put a lot of care into everything they do. Music is always really great too - and you can probably request your particular pandora playlist of choice! :)


              3 Replies
                1. re: Small Plates

                  Just wanted to follow up and say thank you for pointing us to backbar, which was the perfect venue. The excellent cheese board and the veggie dips plate worked wonders, but the low lighting and relaxed/relaxing setting were the clincher.

                2. I like small plates idea.The Highland Kitchen bar would probably be too crowded at that time. They do make a great "Mark & Stormy". Actually, the tables are kind of part of the bar area, and it might be easier to have conversation, than to have you all in a line at a bar.

                  1. Atwood's Tavern in Cambridge is usually good for a smallish crowd. Great beer selection and the food is better than Cambridge Common. They often have bands, but bands generally don't start playing until 10PM, which is outside of your window. If you call ahead, they'd probably reserve a table or section for you. (Bonus points: No TVs at all.)

                    1. Foundry is probably do-able at the hour - there is large table in the front you could probably reserve (seats 8, others could stand?)

                      or Saloon, downstairs?

                      i just mentioned it in another post so I feel like I'm shilling for them but Catalyst has a large bar. they may reserve the fireplace for you and certainly one of the tall bar tables.

                      Area 4 next door - great beer selection, nice wines (on eco tap) - has an annex room and fairly roomy bar too. Delicious pizzas, salads and snacks.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: 5thAndNowhere

                        Catalyst is awesome. We did that one night last winter - had a cocktail gathering for about 12 of us - right at the fireplace - we then proceeded to the dining room, but you can eat in the cocktail area. The apps at Catalyst are terrific!

                      2. had the craigie burger on New Year's Day, and I thought that it would be great for kids. Atmosphere is really nice.

                        1. I did something similar recently at PJ Ryan's. Everyone liked the place and the service - good burgers and cozy room