Book one of these group-friendly tables when you're rolling deep this holiday season.
Fri Dec 2 2011
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl
Jones Wood Foundry
Jones Wood Foundry
The setup: Tall, white candles grace both communal tables at this uptown British gastropub. In the back dining room, a mahogany table with red-velvet-cushioned chairs can accommodate up to ten guests. A big oak table seats 16 to 18 in the sunny conservatory, which is outfitted with two skylights, exposed brick and glass doors providing a view of the garden.
The spread: You can preorder a meal from chef-partner Jason Hicks's regular menu, but true Anglophiles should throw down for the showstopping Christmas Fare feasts, available now through December 23. The standard three-course option includes a shareable main (roasted turkey, beef sirloin or seared salmon) with one of three starters (cream of celery root and roasted chestnut, country pt or smoked salmon) and plum pudding for dessert. A pricier three-course "luxe" menu features oxtail soup, raw oysters and a foie gras terrine for the starters; salmon wrapped in puff pastry, braised beef shin or a whole roasted goose (typically plated in the kitchen) as the centerpiece main course; and mince pies along with plum pudding, sherry trifle, lemon sponge cake or a milk-chocolate pie for dessert.
The nitty-gritty: Parties of six or more should reserve at least 48 hours in advance for the standard ($45 per person) and luxe ($75 per person) Christmas prix fixes or the la carte options. A 50 percent deposit is required upon booking, and tax, tip and beverages are not included. 401 E 76th St between First and York Aves (212-249-2700)
The setup: Nate Smith's new gastropub, which opened in early November, is already a destination. The rollicking spot features a 12-seat old-growth-pine-wood table—the only option for reservations—at the center of the rustic space.
The spread: Smith offers a special "Harvest Table" prix fixe for the communal table. Choose from six large-format entres priced per person: suckling pig ($60), milk-braised or roasted pork ($65), braised or rolled goat ($70), leg of lamb ($75), roast beef rack ($115) and turkey with stuffing ($60) . The hearty feast includes two appetizers (such as chopped liver and onion or a pumpkin, kale and pecorino salad) and two sides (like creamed chard or buttered yams), plus one dessert (including a caramel apple tart and butterscotch pudding).
The nitty-gritty: The restaurant accepts reservations for parties of eight or more only, at 5:30, 8 and 10:30pm each night. To secure a booking, call at least 48 hours in advance (by 5pm on Thursday for weekend reservations) and put down a 40 percent deposit on the meal. 124 Bedford Ave at North 10th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (347-799-2743)
Mable's Smokehouse and Banquet Hall
The setup: This popular Brooklyn 'cue shack is almost completely outfitted with long rough-hewn wood tables and mismatched vintage chairs. Parties seeking more privacy can book two tables seating 20 people on the mezzanine (called "the porch" by restaurant staff). It overlooks the rest of the space from behind a picket fence, so you and your clique can dig into a heap of smoked meat while avoiding the Williamsburg hoi polloi.
The spread: You can preorder smoked meat and all the fixins by the pound, but pit master and owner Jeff Lutonsky recommends ordering la carte at the counter, so you can skip the hassle of divving up a bill for a big group. We're especially fond of the Texas-style brisket (1/4lb for $4) and pork ribs (four or five for $8).
The nitty-gritty: Gratuity is included for large-party preorders, but it is not added to la carte orders at the counter. Groups of ten or more can make reservations, although the restaurant can usually accommodate day-of bookings. 44 Berry St at North 11th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-6655)
The setup: No reservations are available for smaller parties at Seamus Mullen's Spanish hot spot, but groups of 6 to 12 can book one of the large white-oak tables. Two nine-person high-tops and a 10-to-12-person table provide a view of the kitchen and roaring wood-fired grill, while banquettes can be pushed together to seat eight in the hobnobbing front barroom.
The spread: Chef Mullen will build a menu of tapas (jamon Iberico, tortilla espaola), family-style shareable plates (seafood paella, 40-ounce grilled prime rib) and daily specials (whole turbot) according to your party's preferences.
The nitty-gritty: Reserve a spot for 6 to 12 people up to two weeks in advance. The prix-fixe menu costs $50 per person and does not include tax, tip and beverages. 359 Sixth Ave between Washington Pl and W 4th St (646-559-9909)
The setup: Jason Denton may be known for kick-starting the small-plates trend at 'ino and 'inoteca, but large group-friendly portions are the focus of his first Brooklyn outpost—an industrial, bi-level tavern inspired by the cuisines of Italy, France and Spain. Reserve the handmade concrete-topped table, which seats up to 14 on dark lacquered barstools, adjacent to the bar on the second floor.
The spread: Chef Shaunna Sargent offers three options for her large-format program: a whole grilled local fish, a meat and fish combo (such as leg of lamb and porgy) or a whole large animal (like goat or pig). She bolsters the meal with an array of sauces, appetizers (including fried risotto balls, spicy pickles and bruschette) and sides (such as fried potatoes, sauted market greens and carrots with crme frache). Plus, gelato, cookies and chocolate pot de crme are also included. Or you can ditch the prix-fixe dinner and order shareable plates, like spaghetti with brisket-and-pork-belly meatballs for two ($18), off the la carte menu.
The nitty-gritty: Choose from $40-, $50- and $60-per-person tasting menus (tax, tip and beverages are not included). The communal table can be booked up to three months in advance for 6 to 14 people. 138 North 8th St between Bedford Ave and Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-384-1904)
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
The setup: Like the original Il Buco, this bi-level spin-off—an Italian retail shop, wine bar and restaurant hybrid—offers plenty of communal seating. Here it's with a view of a Warren Muller chandelier constructed of lightbulbs, glass dishware and bottles, a bicycle wheel and other found objects. Gather your gang around the 12-to-15-person glass-topped wood table in the rustic main dining room or the light-wood antique table with bench and chair seating for 15 or 16 in the private room upstairs.
The spread: You can create a tailored menu, with the help of the special-events team, from the sustainable bill of fare. Deck out your table with house-cured platters of salumi, apps (such as crispy artichokes with preserved lemon for $12, roasted lamb ribs with romesco sauce for $16) and mains, like Label Rouge whole roasted chicken for two ($38) or Flying Pigs Farm porchetta alla Romana ($28).
The nitty-gritty: There is no minimum party number or advance notice required for booking, but during the holiday season, call as early as possible to secure your table. Groups of 14 or more must choose from prix-fixe options priced per person ($65--$110), and smaller parties can opt for la carte pricing. 53 Great Jones St between Bowery and Lafayette St (212-837-2622)
The John Dory Oyster Bar
The setup: Score the private chef's table at Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield's seafood temple in the Ace Hotel. Your posse can relax on black tufted banquettes at an inset blond-wood table with an exclusive view of the kitchen, away from the bustle of the upstairs dining room.
The spread: The seasonally changing, seven-course set menu includes bar snacks, a sampling of crudo (like branzino with kafir lime and pistachio), salad, soup and signature items, such as the Parker House rolls with char pt, escarole salad with anchovy dressing, and chorizo-stuffed squid with smoked tomato.
The nitty-gritty: The restaurant offers one 7pm seating for 8 to 12 people at the chef's table every night and requires at least four days' notice. The menu costs $95 per person, or $145 per person with wine pairings, and does not include tax or tip. 1196 Broadway at 29th St (212-792-9000)
Red Rooster Harlem
The setup: At Marcus Samuelsson's Southern-influenced spot, you can snag one or both of the eight-person chef's tables, which provide a view of the action in the open kitchen.
The spread: The restaurant doesn't offer special menus for large parties, but the menu is already built for group dining with plenty of shareable plates. Pile your table high with family-style dishes like the crispy fried "yard bird" ($22), dirty rice with shrimp ($13) and the mac-and-greens made with Gouda, cheddar and Comt ($16).
The nitty-gritty: Call at least two weeks in advance to secure a table at this bustling uptown canteen. Pricing is la carte. 310 Malcolm X Blvd (Lenox Ave) between 125th and 126th Sts (212-792-9001)
The setup: Simpson Wong (Caf Asean) dubbed the cuisine at his airy 40-seat eatery "Asian locavore" when it debuted in September, so it's no surprise that the 12-seat communal table is made from a mixture of reclaimed timber—like pine and walnut—gathered from the chef's own apartment apartment. The eco-friendly slab, surrounded by wood-and-metal school chairs, is set in front of the open kitchen, offering a close-up view of the blazing brick oven and wood-fired grill.
The spread: Your crew can pimp out the table with Pan-Asian noodles, sides and large plates, including lobster egg foo yong with leeks and salted duck egg yolk ($24) or a wood-grilled chicken with chrysanthemum greens and jicama ($19.50). But if the members of your party are duck fanatics, the eight-course Duckavore Dinner is the way to go. The family-style supper includes a whole roasted duck wrapped in lotus leaves, and the dark-meat poultry is also featured in buns with Chinese celery and cucumber, crispy larb, Eight Treasure sticky rice, a broth and a roasted-duck-infused ice cream served with star-anise--poached plums.
The nitty-gritty: Call at least 48 hours in advance to book the table for parties of 10 to 12. The Duckavore Dinner costs $60 per person and does not include tax, tip or beverages. 7 Cornelia St between Bleecker and W 4th Sts (212-989-3399)
The setup: Chef-owner Laurence Edelman installed one communal table in the candlelit dining room of his European canteen. The ten-foot-long pine beauty, which seats 14 to 16 people, was handmade in Vermont.
The spread: The timballo scene from Big Night comes to life in the West Village via Edelman's remaking of the famed layered pasta dish. Here the huge dome-shaped creation is crafted with fresh noodles, homemade Flying Pigs Farm pork meatballs and sausage, grass-fed beef, duck confit, tomato and bchamel sauces, and four kinds of cheese (mozzarella, provolone, ricotta, Parm). Sauted veggies (like broccoli rabe or Tuscan kale), salads (such as butter lettuce with golden beets) and a maple-syrup pie round out the gut-busting repast.
The nitty-gritty: Give the restaurant at least two days notice, plus a 10 percent deposit, for the timballo. The meal feeds 8 to 16 people and costs $65 per person. Tax, tip and beverages are not included, but the restaurant offers lower-priced carafes of wine (like barbera for $25) with the meal. 117 Perry St at Greenwich St (212-727-1170)