Welcome to Ask Eater, an Eater Portland column where the site’s editor and reporter answer questions from readers and friends. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form with the subject line ‘Ask Eater.’
As I read your wonderful article about places to dine for special occasions, I was hoping I would find a few that have separate spaces for large groups of 40 to 50 guests, both family friendly and over 21. In the year ahead, we have a decade birthday and a local post-wedding reception after a small destination wedding. I’ve searched online through dozens of listings, but it’s hard to know how good the food, beverages, and services really are in these small party venues. Of course the photos all look fit for a queen! And then there are hotels. Why choose a hotel party room when there are so many quaint, cool venues in Portland area? On the other hand, maybe some of those are places I would write off really have an excellent reputation and vibe.
— Nancy Verstegen
First off, Nancy, thanks for the kind words; I love to feed my ego. As opposed to our special occasions guide, I think the real map to review would be our guide to Portland private dining rooms. Of the listings here, I think Bar West, Andina, Ringside, and Kachka are your best bets, depending on your price point. Often, for a party of that size, private events will cost you at least a $1,000 to $2,000 food and beverage minimum; with a party your size, I think you should be able to get there pretty easily.
The Ringside Barrel Room is all-ages and can seat up to 40, with standing room for more than 60; it’s a really lovely space for things like wedding reception dinners or rehearsal dinners — romantic and secluded — and steakhouse food always screams special occasion to me. If you’re looking for a seasoned veteran in the event-hosting game, Andina offers a number of different private dining rooms, and who doesn’t want to celebrate a birthday with anticuchos?
For an event with kids, I think Bar West would be the best bet: The set menu options include a number of kid-friendly items, like snacking boards, roast chicken, pasta, that sort of thing. If the kids on board can get down with Eastern European food — dumplings, anyone? — Kachka’s energy is really fun and playful, and the food would be particularly memorable; the private dining room can seat up to 40, but you could also go for a buyout if the guest list creeps above that.
That is the other option, if you’re really looking for something special: to go for a buyout. Dame, for instance, hosts a number of private events with its chef collective; you could do a buyout of the restaurant and private dining room with chef Luna Contreras, for instance. I know Urdaneta hosts private events and offers buyouts, though I’m not entirely sure what the pricing model looks like. My personal fantasy, in terms of a wedding reception or birthday, would be to take over Han Oak. In my opinion, this is the coolest option for a family-friendly party: You have the courtyard there for toddlers inclined to wander, the food is spectacular, and the team there is really great with kids.
Alternatively, if you are a broke babe like me, I have a suggestion for the 21-plus party that I have been keeping close to the chest. You can reserve the secret garden and back patio at Bar Bar on Mississippi for like, $200 to $300. If you want to host it, their food and drink minimum is about $500 — really not awful, if you’re looking to do something casual. Or, you can choose not to host it! Let those guests of yours throw down a few dollars for some fried pickles; it won’t kill them.