Friday, February 3, 2012

Come GrubWithUs!

sitting at the Chef's table

I have a new site I just have to recommend to people who love to go out to eat.'s slogan is "Never eat alone." The idea being, set up a family style dinner with multiple dishes at a restaurant and anyone who is interested can sign up to go.

My friend, Rodney, was the first to find the site and ask if I had seen it. I looked it up and was immediately intrigued because it reminded me of two things married together - Meetup and Epicureans. I started emailing the company to ask questions because they hadn't yet started in Sacramento, only in some other cities nationwide.

Epicureans is a group where mult-course, family style dinners are organized with a restaurant and people pay a set fee. Often it would be 10 or so dishes for about $25. is a site where you can find groups that are tailored to your interests - from soccer to vegetarians, chihuahua lovers to wiccan. It's a great way to meet new people who share your interest. I've made many new friends through Meetup and many people use it to make new friends when they move to a new city.

I used to be an Organizer of a dining Meetup group for three years and it caused a lot of frustrations. People would flake on reservations and I got stuck with the bill on a couple of occassions because people didn't pay their fair share or they just didn't show up. When we State workers got furloughed, I stopped doing the group. I just didn't have the extra play money as well as the Organizer frustrations.

Along comes Grubwithus and it takes the beauty of both Meetup and Epicureans and blends them together. That's why it caught my interest. With Grubwithus you can organize a dinner event and let them take all the headache away.

How it works is that you can Create a Meal by selecting a price range, how many people you want to limit it at, and city or area. If you want, you can be specific and say you want it to be a Vegetarian or Thai meal. You then pay and an important key is - the sooner you sign up and pay for a Meal, the cheaper your price! The price goes up by a $1 for each additional person. You pay for your meal, tax, and tip, so that it is all prepaid. You don't need to pay for anything the night of the Meal unless you order extras - drinks, etc.

Grubwithus then gets to work and starts making calls and finds a restaurant to host the event. They arrange the menu with the restaurant and set up all the details. Now you just show up, eat, enjoy, make new friends, and leave. All nice and neat and no worries for the organizer about flakers and people's payments.

I just had to test Grubwithus out and see how they would do. Three weeks ago I set up a dinner for last night, said I wanted it in the $20 range for up to 12 people, and in downtown Sacramento. I wanted to see what restaurant they would find and so I left it totally up to Grubwithus to figure out.

Since I organized the event, my cost was $22. Each person after that had to pay a dollar increase so that the last person who joined us actually paid $30.

About a week after I set it up, the mystery restaurant and menu was revealed - The Porch! We were so thrilled. Here was a new restaurant that we had all wanted to try and now we were going to get to try eight dishes for our $25-ish price.

Our menu as shown on the site was:

fried green tomatoes
Fried Green Tomatoes
Mixed Greens, Roasted Red Pepper vinaigrette, pecans, apple wood bacon, and Goat Cheese.

Herb Fries
Fresh cut fries cooked with rosemary, sage, garlic & onions. Served with house made ketchup. & Sonoma dry jack cheese.
Skillet Cornbread
Apple wood smoked bacon, Green tomato jam, and jalapeno honey butter.


Pan fried with a cornmeal crust, cajun crawfish cream sauce, Hoppin' John sauteed brussels sprouts & bacon.
Short Rib Hash
Peppers & onions, sautéed greens, sweet potato mash, over easy fried egg.


Skillet Mac & Cheese

Roasted Peanut Slaw


Banana Bread Pudding
With Orange zest ice cream.

Needless to say, we were excited when we showed up last night. Even better, they put us at the Chef's Table in back!

Sure enough, our first course came out - two plates of each of the three appetizers.

I originally intended to use this opportunity to review The Porch as well, but we got so caught up in eating and enjoying ourselves that I didn't pay enough attention to dish details to properly do so. I will say I loved the fries and I'm not a fan of cornbread but the condiments were nice. Never have understood fried green tomatoes, but they were nice.

Our entrees were where we got a little disappointed because instead of the Short Rib Hash we had heard excellent things about, we got stuffed pork chops instead. The Porch explained that their menu varies depending on availability and so that day they didn't have the hash. Although we all understood, we felt that a menu posted to Grubwithus should be adhered to and not altered. People have paid expecting what they see on the quoted menu and to have a surprise change like that was not a happy occurrence for us. Both entrees, by the way, were good. The Mac & Cheese was delicious with bacon in it and nice and cheesy.

The same thing happened with dessert. Instead of the Banana Bread Pudding, we got an upside-down spice cake with the ice cream. This was definitely a downer, especially because I found the spice cake to be dry. Thank goodness it came with the ice cream.

stuffed pork chop
At the end of our meal we were presented with individual checks for our drink purchases. So ended our meal. Despite the two dish changes, we were all happy with how the evening turned out. We all got enough to eat (although I would have liked a little more generous portions since we were all sharing family style). I look forward to returning to The Porch for a proper review in the future - and getting some of that Short Rib Hash.

One of the attendees last night happened to be connected to one of the major restaurant groups in Sacramento. Earlier in the day I had lunch with another restaurant owner. Both of them were very interested in the possibilities with Grubwithus from the restaurant's perspective and were already thinking how they could best utilize the site from their end.

I should also mention some of the other things I noticed about the site.

First, you can be very specific about your restaurant selection. If you want a specific restaurant, put it in the request and hopefully Grubwithus will be able to work it out for you. That's what I've done for my next Meal I've planned.

herb fries
Also, you can use it to sponsor a dinner. For example, you are a salesperson who wants to host a pitch dinner. You can have Grubwithus set it all up for you, make it closed invitations that you control, and pay for everyone yourself.

Overall, we were very pleased with the Grubwithus selection and arrangements and I already have another event planned. It's a tricky one, so I'm again testing them to see if they can pull it off. I hope to report back to you in about a month that they did.

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