July 24, 2009

Summer Friday: Birthday Dinner Debacles

Every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day I'm going to be featuring "guest bloggers" as a part of my "Summer Fridays" series. This week's post comes from Jacob, who recently celebrated his birthday. He shares with us the do's and don'ts of choosing a birthday party location and why it can be such a hassle.

Last month I was invited to a birthday dinner at an extravagant 5-star NYC restaurant. My initial reaction to the evite was that having a posh dinner could be fun. But the more I thought about it, the more it actually began to stress me out! There goes my food budget for this month; I haven’t seen him in months but I feel obligated to go; the hand-picked guest list of 500 random acquaintances makes me feel really special; he just wants a free fancy meal; I’m going to have to buy a new shirt; please God, let there be something on my Google calendar that I can use as an excuse to say no!

So in planning my own birthday dinner I considered my reaction to this recent invitation. Hoping not to lose friends over my birthday dinner, I began thinking about the recipe for a fun and stress-free NYC birthday night out. Some things I took into account…

1. Price – At a birthday dinner, the check is inevitably split evenly among all the guests. So your dear friend with the unpaid internship who ordered salad and water ends up uncomfortably footing as much of the bill as your hot-shot lawyer friend who had steak and cocktails all night. With this in mind, I chose a place where most entrees are similarly priced and even the most expensive thing on the menu isn’t going to break anyone’s bank.

2. Location – I’m not ashamed to admit that I live in an outer borough (gasp!) of New York City. Even though my friends probably would travel to my Brooklyn neighborhood, I realized that the dinner would be just as nice and much more convenient for my guests if held in a more central location to where my friends live and work. Especially considering that my birthday fell on a weeknight, I didn’t want any of my guests schlepping to Williamsburg.

3. Fun factor
Birthdays are a time for celebration so I prefer a rowdy place with potent drinks. A word of advice: Make sure the venue can accommodate your entire party without having to wait too long. Outdoor seating is also a nice touch in the summer months. And most importantly, don’t forget to choose a place with drink specials. Call me a lush, but I say the more freely the spirits are flowing the more your friends will let loose and have fun. Furthermore, the cheaper the spirits the higher the spirits! Nobody’s going to turn down a $3 margarita or a $2 draft, so plan ahead. On a side note, it’s also important to let your guests know who else is coming and whether it’s OK to bring friends. For example, if your mom and great aunt are going to be there, give your pals a heads-up so they know to leave the porno cards and gag gifts at home.

In the end, I chose a local burrito joint called Blockheads in midtown west Manhattan. The seating for this restaurant is entirely outside in a small park, they have $3 frozen margaritas in every flavor imaginable, delicious and cheap burritos, unlimited chips and salsa, and the place is extremely popular and always packed with a fun crowd.

I think that in considering these few things ahead of time, my friends were able to focus all of their attention on ME. And isn’t that what a birthday dinner should be all about anyway?

I couldn't agree more, Jacob. If you'd like to write about something just email me and you might be the next Summer Friday blogger!