Group dining requires planning, thought

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Anyone with a large family or network of friends knows there’s an art to dining in large groups. With graduations, Father’s Day and summer birthdays approaching, an outing with a big party may be in your near future.

Large tables can have better dining experiences by following a few rules. The most important may be to know the restaurant. If you’ve never been somewhere, trying it for the first time with nine hungry buddies may not be the best move.

Second, call ahead. Your restaurant of choice may not take reservations, but it can’t hurt to tell them that Grandma would rather be no where else on her 90th birthday with her entire extended family than their business on a Saturday evening. Most wait staffs would appreciate the heads up.

Restaurants of all stripes, from casual to upscale, also offer private dining areas that make it easy for staff to serve groups of 20 and up. Some local favorites that have such spaces are Polish Village in Hamtramck, Bacco Ristorante in Southfield, Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit, Roma Cafe in Eastern Market, the Rattlesnake in Rivertown, Roadside B&G in Bloomfield Hills and Rocky’s of Northville.

In my experience, bigger restaurants that have stood the test of time may be better at accommodating large groups.

Around the holidays, a friend had made a reservation for a dozen of us at Pegasus Taverna in Greektown. Known for traditional Greek dishes, this spacious restaurant has been a keystone business in the area for decades.

When our group assembled in the lobby of the restaurant we realized that — oops — there were actually 15 of us. Would they be able to squeeze a few more in? As we waited hungrily to find out, watching saganaki, lamb, pastitsio and other piping hot specialties pour out of the kitchen, we got the bad news; due to a communication error, the restaurant didn’t have our reservation.

The manager offered us plentiful seating at their sister restaurant across the street, Santorini Estiatorio. A nice gesture, but we were all really hoping to eat at Pegasus. What happened next was a testament to the long-standing’s restaurant experience with troubleshooting difficult situations.

After a short wait, enough time for everyone in our super-sized party to grab a cocktail from the bar, our table for 15 was ready.

The management and staff found a way to seat a group of 15, technically without a reservation, in just minutes. Even better, they had served us drinks, appetizers, entrees and the bill in about an hour. Did I mention that it was New Year’s Eve?

Brown Iron Brewhouse blends beer and yoga

Brown Iron Brewhouse hasn’t been open long, and is already looking to set itself apart from other hip beer bars.

Enter Balance, Brunch and Brew, a 9 a.m. yoga class on Brown Iron’s patio. Taught by Kristy Paul of Bliss Yoga in Shelby Township, the class is suitable for all levels and is followed by a light brunch with beer. The next Balance, Brunch and Brew is Saturday. Tickets are $35 and pre-registration is required.

The Washington Township spot was recently named the best beer bar in Michigan by readers of The list names 51 bars — one for each state plus Washington, D.C. — that have the best beer selection, atmosphere, staff and events.

Brown Iron, which opened last year, has 70 beers on tap and is modeled after a German beer hall. Visit for info.

(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens