After more than a year of doing our very best to stay apart, the chance to come together over a shared meal is slowly becoming a reality. That means Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, birthdays, and other celebrations are taking place IRL instead of through Zoom, and over shared plates at restaurants instead of during virtual happy hours.
Of course, we can’t throw giant brunch bashes just yet. Under Massachusetts regulations, restaurants are currently only allowed to seat up to six people at each table; that number will increase to ten on May 29. In Boston, we’ll have to wait a little longer: parties of up to ten will be allowed starting June 19.
But if you’re planning ahead, or if you’re looking for group-friendly restaurant options to host your next celebratory meal, consider these 10 local restaurants. Many have spacious booths, private dining rooms, or patios for larger parties, and a handful offer an enticing kids menu for more family-friendly occasions. As always, be sure to follow each restaurant’s rules when it comes to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Whether you’re getting together for brunch or dinner, this Dorchester hangout is a prime gathering spot for family and friends, with a large outdoor patio and beer garden and a separate “cubby” area that seats up to six people. Come for the cheddar cheese cornbread and the bolognese, stay for the brownie sundae that you’ll definitely need help finishing. (555 Talbot Ave., Boston)
Tim and Nancy Cushman’s restaurant nestled within The Street at Chestnut Hill evokes a sunny getaway to Palm Springs, with an orange and green color scheme and a plant-filled dining room. Groups can settle into one of the cushy booths or at a patio table out front, where you can often spot kids running around the open-air shopping center. A something-for-everyone approach means that the menu offers burgers and sushi rolls, pastas and salads, and a selection of Roman-style pizza from the restaurant’s sister eatery, Mr. Roni Cups. (47 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill)
Both private and semi-private dining spaces are available at this Watertown restaurant, in addition to a spacious outdoor patio that includes a bocce court for some playful post-meal competition. Branch Line’s rotisserie chicken is a fan favorite, and for the kiddos, there’s a “little chicken menu” boasting mac and cheese, a quesadilla, and a sundae. (321 Arsenal St., Watertown)
If it’s Mediterranean food your crew is after, Committee in the Seaport has plenty of space to sprawl out: communal tables, a chef’s table and lounge, a private dining room, and a breezy outdoor patio. The emphasis on shared plates lends itself to group dining as well; try the trio of dips to start, followed by dolmas, a few orders of bao gyro, and one of the grilled platters for the table. (50 Northern Ave., Boston)
Though it opened right before the pandemic began, Cósmica has already solidified itself as a standout Mexican restaurant in Boston, one that offers excellent tacos and a first-rate tequila and mezcal selection. Reservations can be made inside for dinner and brunch, but if you’re just looking to hang out over drinks, we highly recommend vying for a patio spot. The outdoor space is a boon in the South End, and stocked with heaters in case the temperature drops. (40 Berkeley St., Boston)
Straddling the border of Roxbury and the South End, Darryl’s is a stalwart in the neighborhood for Southern comfort food and live jazz. There are few better places in Boston to gather your friends around the table for country fried chicken wings, shrimp and grits, and a cornbread basket (a streamlined kids menu is available, too). Paired with cocktails and music from a local band, a group meetup here makes for a memorable meal out. (604 Columbus Ave., Boston)
When a birthday or graduation dinner calls for celebrations with a view, Joe’s Waterfront should do the trick. The family-friendly restaurant reopened in early April with a brand new patio and a new dining, lounge, and bar area; private dining options are available if you want the inside jokes to stay within your group. The seafood-centric menu features classics like fish and chips and a Maine lobster roll, and a kid’s menu sports crowd-pleasers like grilled cheese and popcorn shrimp. (100 Atlantic Ave., Boston)
Big booths and an expansive patio with scenic views offer plenty of space for family and friends at this East Boston restaurant (there’s another location in Quincy’s Marina Bay). Start with shared plates for the table, like Malaysian-style chicken wings and crispy fried calamari, plus a few entrées that you wouldn’t mind splitting with a friend: swordfish steak, seafood Fra Diavolo, and grilled statler chicken. (6 New St., Boston)
We can’t talk about group dining without mentioning hot pot, and Shabu-Zen is one of Boston’s best. The restaurant, with locations in Allston and Chinatown, specializes in shabu-shabu, offering guests the option to choose which meats will accompany their hot pot medley of broth, vegetables, and a choice of udon, vermicelli, or rice. If you’re dining with a larger party, opt for the jumbo size option. (80 Brighton Ave., Boston; 16 Tyler St., Boston)
If your group bonds over craft beer, Trillium Brewing’s Fort Point location has all the beer, food, and space you’ll need. The restaurant’s large dining room, outdoor patio, and rooftop deck provide guests with multiple seating options (though reservations are only accepted for indoor dining), and a solid selection of shareable plates make for easy ordering. Get the baked brie with onion jam, grilled octopus, and stracciatella toast for the table, which can all be paired with one of Trillium’s excellent brews. (50 Thomson Place, Boston)
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