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It’s a special occasion, so it’s gotta be delicious; you’ve got a gaggle of friends in tow so it can’t be too pricey; it’s once a year, so it’s gotta be memorable. Where do you go?
I’m all about the share plates when it comes to dining out with a group: there’s something so festive (or at least gluttonous) about a tabletop covered in options. And when those options include Albacore tuna tartare with jimica and oxtail fideo pasta? All the better. (Plus, who needs birthday cake when you’ve got mezcal margaritas?) Also, let’s be honest: you’re definitely getting your picture taken at some point tonight (where birthday girls go, Instagram follows) and the casual-cool modern-beach-hut interiors here are ready and waiting to provide a portrait-worthy backdrop. —Stacey McLachlan, executive editor
Sure, the room is a tad small (we prefer “intimate”) but let’s be honest here: you’re not going too far into double digits for a b-day dinner. Either you’re jamming out with the fam or you’re getting a few select friends together before the larger party where all the hangers-on meet you somewhere. Right? Thought so. With that in mind, Nicli takes reservations, a must-have for any birthday go-to. Oh, and it also serves pizza (arguably the best in town at that). Even your picky ass uncle and aunt from New West like pizza. And yeah, they can make any pie gluten free for your cousin Heather. The Gastown location is in an ideal spot—pretty easy to get to from transit and close enough to a cavalcade of bars and the like to keep the party going.—Nathan Caddell, associate editor
Birthdays are all about embarrassing the person celebrating their day of birth, right? I mean, there’s a reason we all get a kick out of seeing Red Robin employees coercing unsuspecting patrons into standing on their dining chairs in front of a full restaurant, where they’re serenaded with a chant of “Happy, happy birthday!” before being delivered a complimentary ice-cream sundae. (Do they still do that? Please tell me they still do that.) As long as the birthday girl/boy/person isn’t a total introvert, it’s kind of, sort of super hilarious. Which is what makes Raisu so great.
Tucked inconspicuously above a grocery store on West 4th, this bumpin’ izakaya has all the makings of an A+ b-day spot: good food (order the jumbo ebi mayo and thank me later); good drinks (the house Moscow Mule uses slushy lime and homemade ginger ale!); and a buzzin’ atmosphere complemented by suspiciously peppy servers who aren’t afraid to put on a show—complete with novelty glasses and noisemakers—when it comes to breaking out the cake you’ve (hopefully) purchased for your birthday pal. Bonus: there’s no cake-cutting fee and they accommodate large groups and reservations. Arigatou gozaimasu!—Lucy Lau, style editor
I recently held a surprise birthday party at Dinesty for a good friend of mine. The key to the surprise? It was six weeks after her actual birthday. And she basically handled the reservation for us. I’m a super friend. (I DID bring a cake, and there were presents, and in my defence her birthday is the day after Christmas. Christmas babies are used to it.)
The dumpling house hits the birthday high notes for all kinds of reasons. First, to our surprise, the reservation meant we were set up in a semi-private room at the back of the restaurant, glassed in with wine bottles as our screen to the masses just a few steps away. Second: dumplings + round table + lazy Susan = large-group happiness. My biggest stress at birthday dinners are long tables where you essentially chat with the three people around you, and then you wake up the next morning thinking OH CRAP I BARELY TALKED TO THAT PERSON AND I’M A TERRIBLE FRIEND. (Just me?) This one sets you up Knights of the Round Table style, and no one gets robbed of their time with the birthday girl, or the most excellent chocolate and red bean paste dumplings in the city. They won’t sing you happy birthday (the cake I brought was just handed to our table at the end of the meal, still in the box), but they will keep said box in the fridge for you, so you win some. Really, win win win—it’s birthday dumplings.—Anicka Quin, editorial director