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Hawker Fare (photo credit: Aubrie Pick)

 

The Progress (photo credit: Ed Anderson)

5 group dinners that won’t cost you an arm and a leg

The best thing about group dining—aside from getting to share a meal with a large collection of friends and loved ones—is that more people means more food to taste. Of course, you do have to play it a little smart in these situations, or you could still end up breaking the bank. Here are five favorite SF spots for special occasion group dining that won’t force you to drop such serious coin.

Let The Progress chart your course toward gastronomic delight
"Choose your own adventure" is not just the name of the game—it’s actually the name of the family style menu at this much-buzzed-about second act from the State Bird Provisions duo. While scoring a reservation may not be the easiest, stay strong. The family-style, six-dish meal runs a reasonable $65 a head, with diners invited to take the wheel and choose the items in their set. With everything from spiced lamb tartare to razor clams a la plancha to rabbit and pork meatballs, good luck getting everyone to agree on what the roster should include.

You no longer have to head to Oakland to get your Hawker Fare on
The fanfare has not stopped rolling in for the relatively new Mission outpost of this dynamite Oakland original. The place feels like a party—what with its hanging string lights, vivid tropical colors, and casual vibe—as much as the food tastes like one. Items on the sizable and reasonably priced menu are inspired by the bright and spice-driven flavors of traditional Thai cuisine: Think blistered green beans, satay beef short ribs, and khao mun gai (poached chicken with chicken fat rice).

Make sure nothing goes to waste at the whole-animal butchery mecca Trou Normand
This chic, polished FiDi spot from the talented folks behind the always-popular Bar Agricole has garnered a lot of attention for both its butchery and its brandy-focused program. Groups with something to celebrate can easily find room at one of the plush banquettes in the high-ceilinged front bar area, or at a table in the spacious glass-enclosed patio. The cheese and charcuterie game here is on point, and their chef's selection boards can be a great deal for larger parties. Tack on a couple more shareable small plates (ricotta toast with grilled broccoli and pickled ramps; potato and cardoon salad with crispy pigs ears) and a main for the table (sausages with mustard spaetzle or tagliatelle with morels and ramp pesto) and nobody’s leaving hungry. Plus, you don't have to worry about the pressure to drop a big tip at the end of the night—service is included in the price of everything on the menu.

Something offal, something new for supper at Cockscomb
This SOMA spot from big-name-chef Chris Cosentino is a no-brainer if you're rolling with a meat-loving crew with a taste for adventurous dining. On the menu’s “shared suppers” section, the pin bone steak with bone marrow dip, or (for the bolder eaters) the wood oven–roasted pig's head make for great centerpieces to build a group meal around. Items like the oysters and clams, duck fat cauliflower, and asparagus with salmon roe, radish and mint are ideal as supporting characters.

Graze into the wee hours at Nopa
The lively atmosphere and modern grandeur of this SF favorite make it a perfect choice for group festivities—especially if yours is more of a late-night crowd, as they serve until 1 am. None of the items on the seasonal-Cali dinner menu are over $30, and the portions are never shy, which makes this great as shareable grazing fare. Top picks include Little fried fish with green olive aïoli, smoked trout with quinoa and maitake mushrooms, avocado toast, and the country pork chop. Not to mention the cocktails are top-notch and the well-curated wine list is full of gems.

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