Top 10 group dining options

Baltimore Sun reporter

From the Dining@Large blog:

I am thinking of this less as a definitive list than a starting point for what I hope is an ongoing conversation. The list below badly needs some budget options.

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.

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