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October 12, 2010

Top 10 group dining options

I am thinking of this less as a definitive list than a starting point for what I hope is an ongoing conversation. Post right here anyplace you think others should know about it. The list below badly needs some budget options.   

top 10 Tuesday"Group Dining" is now a Top Level category, and I've assigned all of the Zippy Larson posts to it, so they'll be easy to find. Keep reporting back about your group-dining experiences.

Thanks again to Zippy for telling us about how she does what she does. Like I said when I introduced her, not everything she does for her groups will make sense for you. It's essential to remember that she's running a business. I think her take-away step is insisting that the person who arranges her group's meal is both present and visible when she arrives.

Aldo's Ristorante Italiano -- Private dining options run small, medium, and large. The barrel vaulted wine cellar, shown in the photograph, is a favorite of Cal Ripken. The second story Library and Milanese Room, each hand-worked by chef Aldo Vitale, are for grander entertaining. And it all won't necessarily run as expensive as you think.

The Capital Grille --The downtown steakhouse has a handful of private dining options, and the restaurant will customize menus for dinner-planners. One of Zippy Larson's go-to options, the groups she takes to Capital Grille for lunch get a choice of three entrees. Keeping things simple is never a bad idea.

Dalesio's of Little Italy -- Another restaurant on Zippy's circuit. The groups she brings here dine from a menu she sets in advance. I haven't been here for a while, but they must do something right to keep this tough customer happy. So, if you go, tell them Zippy sent you.

Feast at Four East -- Kind of a cheat, because the inn and its resident restaurant don't precisely overlap. Sandy Lawlor is the chef either way, though, and a succession of lovely parlors and other private rooms make this Mt. Vernon inn a good choice for rehearsal dinners, farewell parties, and other random life events.  

Ikaros -- The last of Zippy's regular destinations to make this (alphabetical) list. Her groups' meals at this Greektown mainstay always begin with a shared selection of appetizers that's placed on the table within seconds of rears hitting the chairs. Smart.

Meli -- I'm thinking of the louche lower-level Minoan room at this Fells Point restaurant. Equipped with a sound system and stage, it should be considered the next time you plan a celebrity roast. 

Pazo -- Such an obvious choice I almost didn't think of it. Dining groups have several options at this Harbor East restaurant, including private rooms (one of which has a single table for twenty) or getting mixed in with hoi polloi. Menu are structured specifically to accommodate group dining.

Tark's Grill -- The first time I came here was soon after it opened. It was to attend a friend's annual company dinner, in one of the Lutherville restaurant's two private dining rooms. I came away very impressed by how personal and attentive the service was, and from what I hear, they've kept it up.

Terisguel's -- Every room at this historic Ellicott City restaurant is part of a story that Fernand and Odette Tersiguel love to tell about their lives in France, but the Wine Room is the one that accommodates the largest groups. 

The Wine Market -- Last time here, I caught a glimpse of the Locust Point restaurant's private wine room, which can hold 30 guests for a stand-up or sit-down affair. "I want that," I thought. This would be a great location for a no-occasion party, just to try out new executive chef Christopher Becker's first official menu.
Posted by Richard Gorelick at 1:01 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Group Dining, Top Ten Tuesdays


Two places come to mind - The Black Olive has a wine cellar that is set-up as a small dining room - not sure if it is still there - it's in the basement. Very cozy.
The second is in Taneytown - Antrim. Michael Gittier and his staff have many repeat corporate/business meetings there. And I have it on good authority that the staff keeps track of individual's likes and dislikes - food and drink - and they make sure the everyone leaves very pleased. And they have no qualms spending thousands for a meeting.

Clearly not all of these were vetted using Zippy's criteria, as I have certainly been served by waitstaff with more than one ring per ear (or on other facial areas) at Pazo, The Wine Market and Meli. Not that I have a problem with that! But I'm wondering which restaurants were picked by her - three are explicitly hers, but are there others?
Oh, and while I disagree with some of Zippy's more idiosyncratic criterion, I wholeheartedly agree that having the person with whom you've arranged the visit present is key.

the other seven I came up with, based on asking around, personal experience.

We went to Tark's Grill about a year ago and it was a treat. We had a delicious dinner and the service was outstanding. We dined with two very picky guests and they came away impressed. Glad to see Tark's here on the list.

Is that the Wine Market in the photo above? Inquiring minds want to know.

Aldo's, buried in its blurb

Aha--thanks, Richard. My eye skipped over that.

I have planned three group dining events at B&O Brasserie this past year - my husband's birthday party, my bachelorette party and our rehearsal dinner. All of them were fabulous events. Jackie, the event manager, was wonderfully attentive, responsive and accomodating. We held the birthday dinner in the restaurant, the bachelorette party in the lounge and the rehearsal dinner in a private room in the hotel. After negotiating with a number of other places for these events and running into poor customer service and ridiculous expectations, B&O will be my go-to event place from now on.

good post

I have had great success giving group dinners at La Tavola in Little Italy. They have a room that seats about 20, and another, larger room - 40? The chef, who is from Venice, is happy to do a custom menu.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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