The dreaded birthday dinner: it happens constantly, especially in cities like New York where people don't entertain at home. Here is the usual scenario: You are are pretty good friends with the birthday boy/girl, and you get invited to their Friday or Saturday night birthday dinner...along with 25 of their other good friends. Since it's a party night, people are really ready to tie one on so the cocktail ordering begins. Then someone takes it upon himself to order appetizers for the table. More cocktails. You order a sensible entree but the guy who ordered all the appetizers also ends up ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. More cocktails. And why not top it off with a few desserts to share and another round of drinks before everyone hits the bars. And we all know what happens whether you are the guy who ordered the apps and the filet mignon or you are the girl who ordered the side salad---the check gets split evenly. What's a broke bitch to do!?
If it's your birthday...
- Be considerate of your friends' varying income levels and pick a reasonably priced place. I go to nymag.com to search their restaurant listings for two $ signs. This way it is neither a street cart nor Per Se. My favorite place in NYC for group dinners is Pepe Giallo. Great food, great price (they also can do a prix fixe), and no cocktails, only vino.
- Choose a spot that has a fixed price dinner menu so there are no surprises and the only variable is booze.
- Go to a place where everyone gets their own ticket like Hill Country. I have personally had my b-day dinners at the two aforementioned places, so I can vouch for them both (and how much everyone appreciated getting their own check).
- Invite only your inner circle (i.e. less than 10 people) to dinner. Then meet up with everyone else at the bar afterward.
- Think about doing a dinner during the week or better yet, brunch. It keeps it a little less boozy and everyone will remember their conversations the next day.
- Don't freak out if a friend is in a pinch and declines the invitation. Make plans to grab food or a drink in the next week or so to do a mini celebration. We have all coughed up that $150 for a birthday dinner we truly couldn't afford, and it feels just awful.
If you are a guest...
- If it is one of your bestie's birthdays, you have to go so just put on a smile and cough it up. Just remember that you will get your time in the sun when it's your birthday.
- If you are invited by someone you aren't super close with, don't feel bad about declining. You just have other plans and will meet up with them après for drinks.
- I've pulled this one before - Scheme with a fellow broke friend to show up an hour late (must be after the group has ordered), and ask the waiter for a separate check. Make sure you tell the host you will be late so you don't look totally rude.
- Bring cash! The people paying with credit cards always seem to get screwed.
- F*ck it! Order dirty martinis and lobster tails since the bill will be split anyway. You'll come out ahead, full, and wasted. Suckers!!