Eating is just one of those things that is more enjoyable in a group. A table for six can justify more dishes than a table for two; when the person to your right is boring, you can talk to the person on your left; and sometimes, a bigger party means smaller individual bills. Talk about a win!
I say all this while ignoring the challenges placed upon the planner. As the feral reservationist amongst my friends — just ask my roommate, who sees me grab my phone at midnight to book as soon as reservations are released — I am often tasked with finding the perfect venue for Friday night dinner.
I have to balance preferences, price points and dietary restrictions, and by the time I find something that fits our criteria, I am most often left with two reservation options: 4 p.m. or 11 pm. As you can understand, there are many nights when our extravagant dining plans unfortunately lead us right back to Leo’s.
That being said, I have more than a few successful Saturday dinners under my belt. As a self-proclaimed reservation specialist, let this serve as your guide to group dinners. Securing a good reservation in Washington, D.C., is harder than getting into Georgetown — just kidding (or maybe not). I still recite the words of my college counselor every time I open the Resy app: “apply early and cast a wide net.”
If you are searching for a night-of reservation, do not expect an 8 p.m. table at the hottest restaurant in town. You can definitely find something to eat, but you are much better off planning in advance. I don’t mean to say you need to book thirty days ahead (unless you are “reservation anxious” like me).
There are plenty of options a short walk from campus that will surely be able to squeeze you in, but if you really want to experience excellence, I’ve found three delicious restaurants with reasonable reservation protocols that will keep your friends begging for an invite.
Located in Adams Morgan, doi moi serves a fusion of French and Vietnamese food, and its street food-inspired menu, large servings and diverse offerings make it perfect for groups. They serve “Mon Khai Vi,” which translates to “street plates” and are similar to Spanish tapas. Customers can customize the quantity of these dishes and try bites of everything, from flash-fried beef jerky with a honey glaze to crispy brussels sprouts with crushed crispy shallots. While you can select personal entrees, I think you should order everything to share. We decided on vegetarian drunken noodles, sài gòn fried rice and tofu bao buns in a fluffy dough wrapping.
With an expansive menu, generous portions and a fun neighborhood to explore post-dinner, doi moi is an excellent choice for your next night out. Plus, with $8 daiquiris until 8 p.m. every night of the week, there is definitely something for everyone.
I can’t say I’ve been to Spain, but I can say I’ve been to Barcelona (Wine Bar, that is). With 13 locations nationwide, you can be assured of the wine bar’s excellent offerings. The tapas are scrumptious, the wine selection is exciting and with some strategic ordering, you can leave without a mind-warping bill.
The menu boasts an impressive charcuterie and cheese selection, along with salads, large plates and of course, tapas. A few of my favorites include the patatas bravas with garlic aioli, the crispy sunchokes and the broccolini. I love going with a big group and ordering what feels like the entire menu.
The quiet ambience is perfect for intimate conversation, but hip enough to make it feel fun. There are two locations in D.C. — one on 14th Street and another in Cathedral Heights — which means twice the reservation potential.
For my final recommendation, I present ala. Located in Dupont Circle, ala serves Levantine cuisine that celebrates bright colors and bold flavors. The menu is designed to be shared: guests begin with snacks and charcuterie, progress to mezzes (the Mediterranean version of appetizers), then large plates, and finally end on a sweeter note with desserts like halva mousse and sumac ice cream.
It’s perfect for everyone in your friend group: the allergy victim, the vegan and the picky eater. And for such an exciting culinary experience, the prices are reasonable and the portions are generous. On top of all that, ala’s selection of innovative mocktails and cocktails ensures that no one leaves dehydrated.
So, what are you waiting for? Make those reservations, receive endless praise for your choices and thank me later.
Audrey Biles is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. The Hungry Hoya will appear online and in print every three weeks.