Happy holidays! It’s the season of twinkling lights, warm mugs of hot chocolate, glistening snow (up in Julian, anyway), and… your great-aunt Sheila’s terrible “famous” cranberry sauce. While cheer is in plentiful supply this time of year, so is the stress that comes with it. From gift-giving and planning to in-laws and expenses, orchestrating a holiday dinner with picky eaters and demanding extended family members can be a daunting task.
So why host? Take that turkey smoker out of your Amazon cart. Instead, book a table for 10 (or 20 or 30) at one of these crowd-friendly eateries. Whether you’re seeking an impromptu friendsgiving destination, a spacious spot for your family’s holiday dinner, or a dazzling venue fit for hosting a festive reception, here are the top restaurants in San Diego to accommodate large groups.
For Casual Outings
Reservations recommended, but not required
Overlooking the San Dieguito Lagoon, Viewpoint Brewing offers a laid-back gastropub setting perfect for sizable North County gatherings. Their roomy, dog-friendly patio is a great spot to enjoy a sunset while sipping local craft beers and munching on bar-food favorites like battered fish tacos and smoked gouda mac n’ cheese. Got all the in-laws coming? Book a private event for up to 60 people.
2201 San Dieguito Drive, Suite D, Del Mar
Home to possibly the most expansive outdoor patio space in town, Stone Brewing’s Liberty Station is a haven for large groups and parties in San Diego. While they’re known for their comprehensive draft list (featuring the salt-and-lime Buenaveza and the beloved Delicious IPA), beer isn’t the only thing on the menu at Stone.
Food offerings include fish tacos, burgers, pizzas, and salads—nontraditional holiday eats, sure, but friendly to even the pickiest diners. With amenities like a bocce ball court, an outdoor movie courtyard, koi ponds, and fire pits, the property can accommodate groups ranging from 20 guests to a staggering 1,300 people. Better start sending invites!
2816 Historic Decatur Road, Suite 116, Point Loma
A hub for Sorrento Valley tech workers, Gravity Heights also suits large impromptu gatherings. The centrally located pub offers ample indoor and outdoor seating, locally brewed craft beer, and bites like wild mushroom pizza and falafel burgers. Plenty of fun and games await for groups that reserve the brewery’s private mezzanine, which is equipped with a private bar, an arcade machine, shuffleboard, a convertible pool table, and lounge seating for 18 guests (or 36 sans pool table).
9920 Pacific Heights Boulevard, Sorrento Valley
Navigating large dinners in the bustling Convoy District can be difficult, but Common Theory rises to the occasion. This Kearny Mesa brewhouse offers an Asian twist on bar cuisine with offerings like duck fat fries, sesame fried shishitos, and baked pork belly mac and cheese (plus plenty of local beer taps). A tasteful get-together spot with a parking lot, Common Theory accepts private event reservations for groups of 16 guests or more.
4805 Convoy Street, Clairemont Mesa
Basic Bar & Pizza
A late-night gem in East Village, Basic Bar & Pizza can feed the festive masses with thin-crust pizzas, like the ricotta-topped “4-Maggio” or the bacon-studded mashed potato pie (perfect for Thanksgiving!). The spot’s industrial, no-frills modern atmosphere (reminiscent of Petco Park’s Western Metal Supply Building) is available for private parties of 50 or more people.
410 Tenth Avenue, East Village
For Fine Dining, Private Dining Rooms, and Event Spaces
Nestled at the end of the Shelter Island peninsula, Bali Hai offers bay-front scenery and island vibes perfect for you and your closest 200 friends. If you’re a San Diego local, chances are you have attended a wedding reception or rehearsal dinner here (and had one too many of their famously potent mai tais). The 69-year-old establishment offers a diverse assortment of Hawaiian-inspired event spaces available for reservation, including the South Pacific Room (200 guests) featuring a bamboo dance floor, the Hawaiian Village with an outdoor pavilion and private bar (200 guests), or the more private Tiki Room (28 guests).
2230 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island
For some folks, it’s not a holiday meal without a meat-and-potatoes situation. If you’re one of ’em, consider a reservation at East Village steakhouse Cowboy Star. Order dry-aged ribeye steaks courtesy of the restaurant’s in-house butcher shop, hearty sides like baked potatoes and mac n’ cheese, and French wines off the extensive wine list. The steakhouse offers a cozy private dining room available for groups up to 20 guests or a restaurant buyout for larger groups of 50 to 75, complete with a prix-fixe menu.
640 Tenth Avenue, East Village
Serea nestled on the beach-facing patio of the Hotel del Coronado, offers guests a sea-to-table Mediterranean dining experience courtesy of chef Jojo Ruiz (formerly of Lionfish). Serea’s main dining room and upper terrace cater to groups ranging from 50 to 60 people, so they’re a super pick if you’re tying the knot this holiday season and need a spot for a wedding rehearsal, engagement party, or reception. The hotel also boasts a skating rink, shops, and bars if you want to keep the party going.
1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado
For an East County celebration, Casa Gabriela offers a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine in La Mesa’s flourishing downtown. Dishes like zesty molcajetes, tacos, and enchiladas from chef Gabriela Lopez might just rival your abuela’s cooking. Their roomy patio and tequila garden can be reserved for groups of 25 to 40 guests, or you can opt for a full restaurant buyout for events of up to 250 guests.
8384 La Mesa Boulevard, La Mesa
George’s at the Cove
At George’s at the Cove, a classic San Diego locale overlooking the La Jolla Cove, your family and friends can dig into flavorful seafood entrees (and sip plenty of wine) across the venue’s three levels of ocean-front dining. A popular destination for rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, and other receptions, George’s offers various private and semi-private dining spaces available for accommodating groups up to 197 guests.
1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla
With its panoramic views of the coastal cityscape and its newly renovated Blue Room, Mister A’s is a no-brainer for a fancy holiday gathering. This fine dining destination serves steak and seafood, impressive cocktails, and brunch favorites accompanied by live jazz performances every Saturday. From private dining rooms to special tasting dinners to full venue buyouts, Mister A’s caters some of the most elegant get-togethers the city has to offer.
2550 Fifth Avenue, 12th Floor, Banker’s Hill
Juniper & Ivy
Situated in Little Italy, Juniper & Ivy plates fried pink snapper and prime NY strip made with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant provides a wide variety of stylish reserved spaces, including an outdoor patio for 30 guests, a private dining room for groups up to 35, semi-private dining cubes for parties of up to 50, and an al fresco tented dining space for 60.
2228 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
Located on the picturesque shore of Lake San Marcos, chef Marcello Avitabile’s Amalfi Cucina slings pastas of every shape made fresh daily, a variety of cheese-topped appetizers, and woodfire pizzas to pair with an array of wine options. Groups can either reserve their vast waterfront marina bar and restaurant or opt for their cozy Enoteca wine bar, perched just off the fringe at the San Marcos Executive Golf Course.
1035 La Bonita Drive, San Marcos
This Best Restaurants 2023 winner offers a quaint setting in Normal Heights for your next cheery get-together. The restaurant’s wagyu tartare, mushroom tartlets, and smoked duck gnocchi say special event—while their creative cocktails, most made with absinthe, say party. The Parisian-style eatery offers several private and semi-private dining spaces for reservation, including the main dining room, the outdoor terrace, and a charming secret garden for parties of up to 105 guests.
4677 30th Street, Normal Heights
Little Italy’s Cucina Urbana serves charcuterie, artisanal breads, and more than 200 varieties of Californian and Italian wine. With locations in Banker’s Hill and Del Mar, this sophisticated eatery offers several event spaces for reservation for party sizes ranging from 28 to nearly 150 people.
505 Laurel Street, Banker’s Hill
Okay, so maybe that family camping trip last Christmas wasn’t your best idea ever. Embrace the outdoorsy spirit without any need for bear spray at North County’s Campfire, a Michelin Guide–recommended spot cooking up market fish paired with sweet corn, coffee-rubbed smoked brisket with a coffee rub, and other hearty entrées. Kids will dig their aptly named dessert: “yes, we have s’mores”. This rustic outpost offers a special prix-fixe menu for groups over seven guests and is available for private reservations and buy-outs.
2725 State Street, Carlsbad
Shake & Muddle
Shake up your typical holiday menu with this South County restaurant featuring a rotating monthly menu of international dishes. November’s “Taste of Philippines’ Eats” roundup includes cheeseburger lumpia, pork belly banh mi, and lechon kawali dirty fries. Parties of seven to 19 can make reservations to dine during their standard hours, while parties over 20 can reserve their event spaces Tuesday through Thursday to munch on a prix-fixe menu.
303 H Street, Suite 109, Chula Vista