When you want to have a big, fun dinner that involves good food and people saying nice things about you, try one of these spots.
One of the questions we get asked most is: “Where should I have my birthday dinner?” Let us guess—you’re looking for something “fun” and informal, where you can get a table for six to ten people. Believe it or not, such restaurants do exist in New York City.
So whether your idea of fun involves dancing on tables (which we actually can’t help with at present), a relaxed come-and-go-whenever type of gathering, or something in between, we have ideas. You only celebrate getting older once a year. Better make it good.
Let’s Meat is loud, so if towers of beer and unlimited marinated hanger steak turn your birthday dinner into a Major League Eating competition, feel free to cheer each other on. Your group will have 100 minutes to order as much as you want from the $39 classic or $45 deluxe meal set. Invite a bunch of friends to pregame from a beer fountain before heading to Karaoke City around the corner afterwards, where you can keep the party going for $8 a person.
Rolo’s is perfect for a birthday dinner that feels like a scene out of Bushwick fan fiction. You might see a DJ fueling up before a 2am set or a group of artist friends who once did an impromptu cabaret show on the dance floor at Mood Ring. Group-ordering here is more fun than hectic, with a menu that has everything from Szechuan cabbage, grilled branzino, and plates of salami cured in-house. Let your friends order all of the homemade ice creams and sing you “Happy Birthday” at your table. It stays somewhat loud here, so this shouldn’t be too mortifying.
Few restaurants in this city feel as alive as Red Rooster—the atmosphere is incredible. The bar area stays mobbed, the DJ spins funk and soul tunes, and people always appear to be having a blast. Basically, a built-in birthday party is already waiting for you. Make a reservation for the main room or a group dinner downstairs. They’ve even got a 20-piece chicken tower that comes with cornbread and three sides.
At Vatan, you and a group of six to eight can grab a big booth with its own thatched roof and have a fun vegetarian meal with unlimited refills. It’s $34 per person for three vegetarian courses, and after you finish each of the three thalis, a server will ask if you want more of anything before the next course. This is essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet, where you won’t have everyone scooting over every ten minutes to grab more mini samosas, sev puri, and chana masala. There’s also a wishing well, so you can make a birthday wish for a bigger apartment on your way out.
If you need a last minute reservation for a big group, Kyma’s a crowd-pleaser. This seafood-focused Greek restaurant is a lively spot with high ceilings and big white walls, and, when you come here, you can pretend you’re living the kind of life that would allow you to fly everyone into a Mediterranean-themed resort just to celebrate you. Order the seafood tower, a whole fish, and a bunch of dips.
We cant think of any other restaurant experience we’ve had that combines sparklers in eel-toro handrolls, torched white tuna topped with chili garlic crisp, and the level of drunken fun at Sushi On Me. There’s room for up to 8 around the omakase counter with four nightly seatings, each of which last around an hour starting at 5pm. For $89 cash per person you’ll get 15 pieces of nigiri, a couple of appetizers, and unlimited sake. They make it their job to get you tipsy here, so we can only imagine the debauchery they’ll facilitate on a birthday.
Sugar Freak feels like a New Orleans-themed party that’s enough fun to not make your friends hate you when they all have hangovers for three days afterward. Beads hang from the light fixtures, and the big, packed space tends to be full of groups sharing things like crawfish boils and jambalaya. They play loud music and pour strong draft cocktails—like the one that’s just fruit juice and a lot of rum—and there’s plenty of outdoor seating during nice weather.
There are five TGI Fridays locations in Midtown alone, and you may have already ruled them out for your birthday celebration. For a far-superior version of that kind of campy restaurant experience (complete with martinis, mozzarella sticks, big booths, and crayons on the tables), try Bernie’s in Greenpoint. It’s a fun spot for a group, and no one has to take your birthday dinner too seriously—since at least one person’s meal will involve a cheeseburger deluxe and a brownie sundae.
Looking for something rowdy uptown? Corner Social in Harlem pretty much always feels like a party, especially on weekends when they have DJs. (The pub-like space turns into a club, essentially.) The menu here consists of dishes like crab cakes, smothered pork chops, and a pulled pork sandwich you may or may not get on your white shirt.
Al Di La in Park Slope is where you go for a birthday dinner with six-ish people who will, at some point during the meal, take turns saying their favorite things about you. (This practice is called a Fluff Circle, by the way). The comfortable dining room is candlelit, and it’s full of seemingly ancient wooden tables. Fill one of those tables with regional specialties from the northern part of Italy. We’ve never been disappointed with any pasta here, whether it’s the tortelli stuffed with ricotta or the homemade black ink spaghetti with spicy octopus confit.
If we could move into Thai Diner and spend the foreseeable future consuming their creamy khao soi, phat see ew, and fried chicken laab, we would. Unfortunately, that’s not an option at this time. But you should try it for a night, especially when it’s your birthday and your friends are paying for all of your spicy tamarind margaritas.
Rum and backyards make for a good birthday combination. That’s partly why the back patio at Sally Roots is one of our favorite places in Bushwick. It’s loud and always full of people holding colorful rum drinks and eating shareable Caribbean dishes. We especially love the braised oxtails and the intense garlic sauce that comes with the tostones. You’ll need to order seconds of that garlic sauce, mostly so you can pour it on every other dish on the table.
Some people choose birthday spots solely based on atmosphere. But come to this Mexican restaurant in Long Island City for your birthday, and you’ll get all the charming atmosphere, plus mezcal and dishes that will make everyone wonder why they didn’t come here for their own birthday dinners. We suggest building your order around chicken enchiladas in mole sauce, ceviche bathed in lime juice and serrano peppers, and crab tostadas. Casa Enrique is one of our all-time favorite restaurants, and it’s worth a trip from any neighborhood for a birthday dinner.
At Wu’s, you’ll be greeted by tanks filled with giant crabs and waiters carrying steaming bowls of wonton soup from the kitchen. The dining room is full of big, round tables topped with lazy susans, which makes the really good Cantonese food here easy to share. This spot is also BYOB, so feel free to wheel in a cooler of beers or a case of riesling. When you’re done, move on to 169 Bar a few doors down.
The dining room at this Italian-American restaurant in Williamsburg appears to not have been updated since the ’50s (about fifty years after it opened, FYI). So your birthday dinner underneath Bamonte’s big chandeliers will feel kitschy and old school in all the right ways. Expect tuxedo-wearing servers, big plates of ziti, and clams casino. Get a pork chop parmesan, a bunch of family-style pastas, and enough wine bottles to fill everyone’s tiny glasses multiple times.
Between the metal walls, barrel tables, and decorative luggage hanging by the bathrooms, Puerto Viejo looks like a shipping container that crashed on land and started serving really good Dominican food. This spot works especially well for when you and six friends want to get together and drink a little too much at dinner in Prospect Heights. Just make sure that the garlicky mofongo is on your table.
The Tyger is from the people behind Chinese Tuxedo, and like that Chinatown party restaurant, this Asian spot in Soho has big booths filled with groups drinking colorful cocktails in a colorful dining room. Standouts on the menu include Phnom Penh fried chicken with lime and white pepper dipping sauce and a spicy curry loaded with crispy confit duck. Bring a group, sit at a table near the retractable floor-to-ceiling windows that open up to Centre Street, and order as much of the menu as you can.
Most of Fish Cheeks’ Thai dishes are served family-style, and the room always has a good energy (bamboo fish traps repurposed as light fixtures, furniture painted in bright primary colors, and a busy bar during Happy Hour). All of this makes Fish Cheeks in Noho the perfect place to eat with a small group on a Friday night, especially when you’re looking for one of the best coconut crab curries you’ll ever encounter. The curry is the color of a traffic cone or a forest near Woodstock in late October, with a touch of sweetness and a significant amount of spice to balance things out. Make a reservation ahead of time, or be prepared to wait for a couple hours for a table.
You’re with a big group, but everyone seems more interested in “really having a chance to catch up” than listening to music typically played in Ubers while double-fisting tequila sodas. Shuka, a big Israeli spot in Soho, has plenty of room, and it never gets too rowdy. Plus, the menu has (highly shareable) options for everyone. Get some dips and kebabs, and settle in for a group heart-to-heart.
As soon as you walk into Telly’s, you’ll see a bunch of different kinds of fish on ice (like flounder, porgy, and red snapper), and it’s important that one of these fish winds up on your table in its entirety. Order that and some lamb chops and saganaki, and the people at your birthday dinner will congratulate you on your restaurant-choosing skills.
Picking one or two dishes to order at Ayada is nearly impossible. The menu at this Elmhurst Thai spot is massive—with eight whole fried snapper options—and the portions can all be shared by multiple people. In other words, the bigger the birthday group, the better. No matter what you order, like a raw shrimp salad or phenomenal drunken noodles, you’re going to get some of the best Thai food in NYC.
The Upper West Side has places to celebrate a birthday with someone who has multiple mink coats, and it also has places to chest bump after beating 21-year-olds in beer pong. But when you’d rather drink margaritas, eat California-style tacos, and talk at a comfortable volume, head to Playa Betty’s. Pack your table with snacks (like warm chips with queso and the tater tot nachos) to proactively balance out whatever’s happening after dinner.
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong serves excellent Korean BBQ. If you haven’t been, expect waiters roaming through the large space, cooking meat for groups on the grills in front of them, with energy levels that match those of an exceptional half-time show (except its the whole show). Waits can be long, but if you’d rather not deal with that, book a private room upstairs.
Here’s a great way to spend your birthday: Eat the best BBQ in the city. If ridiculously good brisket and beef ribs aren’t enough, then head next door to Brooklyn Crab and play a few rounds of corn hole.
This Spanish restaurant in Inwood serves tapas in a room covered in floral decorations. (It looks like someone put a dining room inside of a bouquet.) After you admire the room, start with the almond and cheese bites, and then move on to the crunchy-on-the-outside, buttery-on-the-inside crab cake sliders. A note: We usually find that tapas works better for smaller groups, so that everyone can have more than a single bite.
You can think of Lil Frankies as the birthday capital of the East Village. It’s always full of groups drinking wine and passing plates of spaghetti limone, roasted eggplant, and margherita pizza. They’ll even let you book a table online for your group of 20. But just know that it’s cash-only.