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Cork, Bar Pilar, or Saint Ex?


silentbob
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I'm not a fan of celebrating my birthday and tend to do it only once every several years. So I'd like to do this right on such rare occasions.

Given my projected party size, which place is easiest to secure on a Saturday night? I'm definitely willing to reserve for an earlier time if necessary but not TOO early (i.e., before 6:00). And if reservations aren't available, which place would require the shortest wait? Am I better off calling/visiting and speaking to one of the managers beforehand?

And of course, are the food and drinks fairly comparable at these three places? My impression was that the reviews here all tend to be pretty good. I've only been to Cork, but that was well over a year ago on a weeknight when the place was slammed with folks.

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I'm not a fan of celebrating my birthday and tend to do it only once every several years. So I'd like to do this right on such rare occasions.

Given my projected party size, which place is easiest to secure on a Saturday night? I'm definitely willing to reserve for an earlier time if necessary but not TOO early (i.e., before 6:00). And if reservations aren't available, which place would require the shortest wait? Am I better off calling/visiting and speaking to one of the managers beforehand?

And of course, are the food and drinks fairly comparable at these three places? My impression was that the reviews here all tend to be pretty good. I've only been to Cork, but that was well over a year ago on a weeknight when the place was slammed with folks.

For the last question, I'd put StEx a notch or two below Cork/Pilar on the food front.

For the primary question, good luck. You're probably going to have to call each of them to see what the options are.

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You're going to have trouble squeezing 10 people around a table at Bar Pilar...I can't really picture how they'd do it.

I have taken a group of about 10-12 people to Cork. There is space in the back near the kitchen where they can do this. Just call and talk to them about reservations. And as mentioned, the food at Cork is a level above that at St. Ex.

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Okay, so my party of 10 to 15 is now at 20ish people.

I went to Cork for a quick bite and drink (food was spectacularly good, especially the branzino and the leeks) but was informed that to reserve the back room or upstairs area for that many people, a contract/deposit/$50 fixed price menu was necessary. Truth be told, I can't blame them for having such requirements given their success and the small space. But I can't impose such a large cost on my friends, no matter how great the food and wine.

So my buddy and I walked around the U Street area, went to a bunch of places, talked to the hostesses/staff -- the two top candidates right now are Policy and Tabaq. Both have large spaces and the folks seemed accommodating to large parties on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, neither place has extensive reviews here (or on any of the other boards). Anyone have further insights on these two places, or other suggestions?

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Okay, so my party of 10 to 15 is now at 20ish people.

I went to Cork for a quick bite and drink (food was spectacularly good, especially the branzino and the leeks) but was informed that to reserve the back room or upstairs area for that many people, a contract/deposit/$50 fixed price menu was necessary. Truth be told, I can't blame them for having such requirements given their success and the small space. But I can't impose such a large cost on my friends, no matter how great the food and wine.

So my buddy and I walked around the U Street area, went to a bunch of places, talked to the hostesses/staff -- the two top candidates right now are Policy and Tabaq. Both have large spaces and the folks seemed accommodating to large parties on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, neither place has extensive reviews here (or on any of the other boards). Anyone have further insights on these two places, or other suggestions?

Didn't really love Tabaq or Policy, in terms of food. Tabaq is definitely very clubby, and I imagine the same is true at Policy. I assume you want to stay around U St., but someone told me that Firefly was pretty easy for his birthday. What about an Ethiopian place for your dinner? That could be fun, and there are decent ones aside from Etete that would probably welcome the business. My Ethiopian cab driver said that for meat dishes he prefers Madjet, and I know there are a lot of fans of Queen Makeda here.
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Didn't really love Tabaq or Policy, in terms of food. Tabaq is definitely very clubby, and I imagine the same is true at Policy. I assume you want to stay around U St., but someone told me that Firefly was pretty easy for his birthday. What about an Ethiopian place for your dinner? That could be fun, and there are decent ones aside from Etete that would probably welcome the business. My Ethiopian cab driver said that for meat dishes he prefers Madjet, and I know there are a lot of fans of Queen Makeda here.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but two things that are rarely important to me -- decor and diversity of alcoholic options -- actually matter this time around. Which rule out the hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian joints, I'm afraid. And at least a few folks on the guest list aren't very food adventurous.

During the past hour I did some additional digging around and it definitely seems like Tabaq may be an underwhelming choice, upper level view notwithstanding. At least Policy's menu seems somewhat intriguing even if the execution is less than stellar.

I'm not necessarily married to the U Street area though. I've heard good things about Science Club for large groups. Outdoors at Poste is a possibility too, though I've been there for many other people's birthdays recently.

Basically, any club/bar-type place that serves decent food would work. A place to eat and hang for a couple of hours, then really start drinking elsewhere. :rolleyes:

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I'm not necessarily married to the U Street area though. I've heard good things about Science Club for large groups. Basically, any club/bar-type place that serves decent food would work. A place to eat and hang for a couple of hours, then really start drinking elsewhere. :rolleyes:
Science Club definitely has the space for that many people, but the food options are a bit limited and the beer choices may be limited too, iirc. I've not been to Urbana, but would they be able to accommodate? Or Bread n' Brew's downstairs? Founding Farmers?
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So my buddy and I walked around the U Street area, went to a bunch of places, talked to the hostesses/staff -- the two top candidates right now are Policy and Tabaq. Both have large spaces and the folks seemed accommodating to large parties on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, neither place has extensive reviews here (or on any of the other boards). Anyone have further insights on these two places, or other suggestions?

Don just wrote something positive about Policy recently. I believe he said it's underrated. I'll go look for the link.

He called it underrated and upgraded it in the dining guide

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I can't believe I'm saying this, but two things that are rarely important to me -- decor and diversity of alcoholic options -- actually matter this time around. Which rule out the hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian joints, I'm afraid. And at least a few folks on the guest list aren't very food adventurous.

During the past hour I did some additional digging around and it definitely seems like Tabaq may be an underwhelming choice, upper level view notwithstanding. At least Policy's menu seems somewhat intriguing even if the execution is less than stellar.

I'm not necessarily married to the U Street area though. I've heard good things about Science Club for large groups. Outdoors at Poste is a possibility too, though I've been there for many other people's birthdays recently.

Basically, any club/bar-type place that serves decent food would work. A place to eat and hang for a couple of hours, then really start drinking elsewhere. :rolleyes:

Have you thought about Axis? They've got good food*, good beer, interesting infused vodkas, and an upstairs area that I'd think would be able to accommodate your party if you made arrangements ahead of time.

*Not on the level of Cork or Bar Pilar, but definitely a cut above standard bar food.

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HI all: I have been to many of these places with large groups and here's my rundown. My friend-group is between 15-20 usual suspects, mid 30s, who all pay separately and order varying levels of food and drink.

Tabaq: I liked the food and we got a big long table in the middle of the upstairs. It had a good vibe and the service was surprisingly good given how much of a pain in the ass I thought my group was being that night.

Science Club: Went for a big group dinner and found it so loud and crowded that I left with my husband and the two of us had a fabulous dinner at Spezie. YUM! I have since been back twice but I digress.

St. Ex: I love the vibe there and the service. THe food didn't blow my hair back but we got this private space that was divided by curtains from the rest of the restaurant and since our group sort of kept growing and contracting, we didn't bother other dinners with our goings on. (I sat on many laps that night but I digress again).

Bar Pilar: We have two or three tables right inside the front door. I don't think it worked. The food was good but small and with so many people I kept feeling like I had to fight for my morsels and the door kept opening which ruined our temperature regulation regularly.

Cork: I can't imagine doing a large group here.

Now that I look back at the original post, I see that my reply is probably well overdue to be of use, but there it is anyway! In one of your posts you noted that the bar was important. Well, I was drunk at all of these dinners...so buyer beware.

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Now that I look back at the original post, I see that my reply is probably well overdue to be of use, but there it is anyway! In one of your posts you noted that the bar was important. Well, I was drunk at all of these dinners...so buyer beware.

Definitely not overdue. Your (and everyone else's) insights were quite useful. My party of 20 is now a party of 25, so based on Don's upgrade of Policy and their very reasonable per person minimum, I ended up booking the upstairs space there. We'll see how it goes.

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