This may be obvious to most people, but it wasn’t to me: Restaurants don’t really want your group of 20 on a Saturday night without a pre fixe menu or per-person minimum. This is understandable—you don’t want to overwhelm the staff, and you don’t want the kitchen to run out of ingredients—but I thought I could turn up a venue in Los Angeles that would nevertheless be eager to accommodate our sizable group in honor of my husband’s birthday.
We found $35-per-person minimums, with pre-set menus, wherever we looked. We weren’t hosting the dinner (that is to say, we were gathering the group, but not picking up the tab), and we hate to impose on our friends’ wallets. Some drink, some don’t drink, some just nibble a nosh, others are hungry for a full dinner, some have cash to spare, others are between jobs — why should everyone pay the same? Causing stress and resentment among friends isn’t hospitable. I searched and searched but by Friday before the party, I was still without a confirmed location and I was starting to sweat it, mini-panicked that I was losing my detail-minded-group-leader-knows-the-hell-out-of-Los-Angeles-venues touch.
And then I stumbled upon the perfect place! All of this is to say, if you’re encountering a similar problem, I have a great solution for you: Yxta Cocina Mexiana in downtown Los Angeles.
Yxta was happy to accommodate us in a comfortable L-shaped set of two tables, with the only restriction being that I worked with the staff ahead of time to pick five popular dishes (one chicken, one meat, one fish, one shrimp, and one vegetarian) that would become our party’s own smaller menu, in order not to overwhelm the kitchen. This was plenty of selection, and my vegetarian enchiladas were quite tasty — as were the bowls of copious, fresh, salty tortilla chips and guacamole that got us started.
Dessert, flan or capirotada (Mexican bread pudding) was yummy, and the portions were huge. Perfect for a birthday candle, and then to pass around the table and share. (I’m not even typically a fan of flan, but this was more custard-y and less gelatinous.)
We started the evening with a sort of makeshift cocktail hour, with our group gathering and chatting around the bar as people arrived. Nobody made us feel rushed. And then at the end of the night, we were the last ones in the restaurant still gabbing around 11:30, while staff tidied the space and got ready to lock up. They left us alone, and were generous with their patience and kindness (though of course I felt bad we were imposing, and eventually hustled our group out the door).
I should also note that decor was notably cool and chic, with exposed brick walls and beams, and design-y chandeliers and art throughout for an upscale, downtown feel. Although the neighborhood is not pristine, parking couldn’t be easier (or more plentiful) in the adjacent lot. No fuss, no mess.
In short, if you’re looking for a place to take a large group to celebrate a birthday dinner in Los Angeles, take it from me: Yxta’s a winning option.