Birthdays are different for everyone. Some people will micromanage every detail of an entire weekend, and others will crawl into a dark basement and play Enya on loop until the day is over. No matter how or with whom you choose to celebrate another lap around the sun, you have to eat at some point. Here’s where.
Mamnoon has really good Middle Eastern food, and we know you forget about it sometimes. Then you catch yourself, nostalgia kicks in, and for a second you’re sad. But unlike those acid-wash skinny jeans you wore in 2008, Mamnoon isn’t going anywhere, and making a reservation is easy. So cling to it all you want, especially for your birthday. It’s sleek, upscale, and the mezze plates are perfect for sharing with a large group of people who will never let you forget you wore acid-wash skinny jeans in 2008.
If you’re with a small group that enjoys things like alcohol slushies, dumplings, and fun, New Luck Toy is a good place to keep in mind. It’s a great bar with Chinese food like spare ribs and honey walnut prawns, frozen cocktails, and music played at the perfect volume for birthdays. But it also has skee-ball and a private karaoke room that looks like an enchanted forest.
Shaker + Spear has great seafood, decor, and quite possibly the nicest staff ever. Call ahead and reserve the large round table for eight, and order some snacks like parmesan truffle fries, prawns with old bay butter, and bruleed mac and cheese. And if you’d rather have a nice piece of fish, you can do that here, too. When you’re done, keep the party going with cocktails at Pennyroyal next door, or at Some Random Bar two blocks down. Or both, because it’s your birthday.
But then again, maybe your friends owe you for that one time you picked them up from the side of the road in North Bend at 3am, which means they should be buying you the best sushi in the city to commemorate your birth. Sushi Kashiba is where they can do that. The hand rolls and sashimi small plates are equally as impressive as the nigiri, and there are a few different omakase options, all of which do very good things for your fresh fish street cred (and your appreciation for various fattinesses of tuna). And if you’ve always wanted to try uni but didn’t know where to start, this is the place.
Bizzarro Italian Cafe is part circus horror movie set, part checkerboard-tablecloth Italian spot. We were skeptical of the fact that there are more chandeliers than a Home Depot showroom, and that the menu has an entree called, “choose your own chicken adventure.” But the weird carnival props hanging from the ceiling paired with really solid housemade pastas just work. Bizzarro is perfect for weeknight birthday dinners with a big group of friends who won’t mind the bicycle dangling above them or the creepy radio static that plays in the bathroom.
The only way to do Joule correctly is to order a ton of dishes to split every which way. So it’s the perfect place to celebrate your birthday with your entire social circle. Reservations are pretty easy to secure, the Victorian wallpaper-covered space has that ideal amount of noise from other groups to make your own seem more exciting, and there’s a great firepit patio if it’s nice out. All of the Korean plates, from the spicy rice cakes to the braised octopus with bacon are excellent. Just make sure you also order a kalbi short rib steak all to yourself.
Chuck’s Hop Shop is the ultimate come-and-go birthday headquarters disguised as a cross between a 7-11 and your friend’s makeshift garage lounge. Hit up the daily-rotating food truck outside, or grab a sack of kettle chips, some gummy worms, and a pint of Full Tilt ice cream. Check out the taps of great beers, local and otherwise, or choose a six-pack (or three) from the Mount Vesuvius of refrigerator cases on the back wall. The staff will pop the bottlecaps for you to drink inside - so all you have to worry about on your birthday is the slipping sands of time.
You could have a terrific dinner around a big table at Staple & Fancy if you order small plates, eat pasta, drink wine, and call lit a night. Or, you could spend $60 a person for the tasting menu. It’s a great way to do something celebratory without going totally overboard, that way nobody has to resent the guest of honor for tricking everyone into spending the majority of their rent on a few bites of food. The space looks like a classy brick shipping warehouse, so whether you decide to dress up or wear jeans, you won’t feel out of place.
If you’re planning a summer birthday, you probably have rooftop tacos and margaritas on the brain. Mezcaleria Oaxaca is the taqueria that just read your mind. With carne asada, rosé sangria on tap, and a great view of the Cap Hill sunset, we could weep. But we won’t, because nothing ruins a birthday like the guy who’s crying into the guacamole.
Pizza has been a sacred birthday meal since the dawn of Chuck E. Cheese. Serious Pie is where to go to experience the same joy, but with ambience and food fit for grown adults. You can reserve the semi-private “kitchen table” for up to 22 people, and when it comes time to order, skip the starters. Just split one of each pizza on the menu, but you might want to keep the fennel sausage/bell pepper/provolone pie to yourself.
When you don’t want to spend your birthday at the club, Tamarind Tree is a calm alternative. This ID spot is perfect for a low-key group dinner, and the Vietnamese menu goes way beyond pho and bun cha bowls. During the gray months that make you sad for no reason, grab a table next to the indoor fire pit. The moment the sun comes out, eat on the patio next to the waterfall. Oh, and the seven courses of beef for two? That’s your birthday order.
Entering Brouwer’s is like stepping into Medieval Times, but the bar is way better and you don’t have to eat a half-chicken with your hands, watch a jousting tournament, or spend even one minute in New Jersey. It feels like a tavern, with stone walls and hanging lamps, and there’s never a wait, nobody cares how loud you’re shouting across the table, the scotch selection is great, and mostly every menu item involves their fries in some shape or form (even the meat and cheese board). Stay until last call, or pay the check early and keep on drinking at The Barrel Thief down the block.