Steve and recently went to NYC with our whole family of 13 to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday, and we realized what a challenge it is to be able to plan ahead to find places that you can reserve for a big group! So, I thought I would make a few suggestions for people who find themselves in the same bind. Some are very popular and require reservations way ahead of time, while others are lesser known secrets...all are places I consider to be top notch for good food and to offer a table where you can hear yourselves talk.
We joined a group last night for a Shakespeare reading group (!) at Jerusalem Garden on Patton Avenue. Jerusalem Garden has been open as long as I can remember (I arrived in 2000) but is one of those little places that we had forgotten about, as there are constantly NEW places to check out. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious our meal was, how professional and friendly the service was, and how perfectly they are suited for large groups. You can likely get a reservation there without too much notice, and choose from regular table setting or a more middle Eastern seats on the floor with cushions kind of experience.
Recently I was at Rhubarb on Pack Square and had the pleasure of previewing their beautiful private dining room: rustic farm tables, old wooden floors, huge windows for lighting and a kitchen right there in the room. Rhubarb is well known for it's delicious and creative farm to table fare, but I didn't know about their private dining room until last week. I highly recommend their room or reserving a big table for one of their communal Sunday Suppers.
For a casual gathering on a warm night, All Souls Pizza in the River Arts District is a great idea. They have picnic tables and sometimes and outside bar in a field where kids can run around while the parents enjoy their beverages and conversation. You will want to grab a loaf of their Farm and Sparrow bread on the way home (if you're lucky and they have extra).
Speaking of warm evenings, I would really steer a large group to Smoky Park Supper Club. The restaurant and bar are situated right on the French Broad River where you can take over a few picnic tables, order local beer from the servers and get one of the best burgers in town (or a cheese platter and "finer" options). Sometimes there is music in the boat house as well to enjoy. They are situated in the largest shipping container restaurant building in the US!
Others worth taking a look at are Curate (reserve WAY ahead), Gan Shan Station, Isa's Bistro, and Chestnut. For BBQ we would try the ever popular 12 Bones at their new location that JUST opened this week at 5 Foundy.