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September 9, 2016 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Help me come up with creative catering ideas for my upcoming wedding!

It's a backyard wedding with roughly 40 guests in the Los Angeles area, in early spring.

The original plan was to get a nearby ramen place that we both really like. Their menu and Yelp listing say that they cater, and I think there's even a sign in the restaurant that says something like "ask us about catering!" But when I called to talk to the manager about catering our event, she sounded pessimistic about it. I decided not to push it because I don't want to work with a vendor who can't do what we want. So now we are going back to the drawing board on food, and we need to cast a wide net in case we meet with similar hesitance.

We'd prefer food that reflects Southern California's cuisine and mix of cultures, or if we have to expand from there, food that reflects *our* mix of cultures. (I'm Cajun/southern, he's African-American and Chinese-American and hails from the Pacific Northwest.)

We don't want generic wedding catering or cliche cheap-and-cheerful options like red-sauce Italian or barbecue.

We are potentially into the idea of a food truck, but the In-N-Out truck doesn't do fries, and there's another wedding in our social circle a few weeks before ours that has already booked the Kogi truck. Tacos aren't off the table, but we would want either the best damn tacos in Los Angeles or something a little upscale.

We are open to either restaurants or catering companies -- or even private chefs that can do big parties at a reasonable cost -- and are looking to spend $20-30/person on food costs but have some wiggle room (especially for delivery, rentals, service or other non-food items).
posted by Sara C. to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh gosh. We did California Chicken Cafe at our fancy shmancy outdoor wedding venue for about $12/pp (we also got some Costco hummus) and got rave reviews. Vegan options available!
posted by samthemander at 11:58 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is upscale southern food in vogue in Southern California like it is in Portland? I'd suggest contacting your local upscale southern restaurant.

Also, catering for these places might mean small-scale, like a small business meeting. You might ask folks about catering a party, rather than a wedding, so you don't scare off folks who might picture a huge event.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:47 AM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, also: a good way to find caterers is to look at the local tourism bureau website, and follow the links for meeting planners.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:49 AM on September 10, 2016

Look at other types of ethnic food. We did Pakistani food for ours--it was very good, very professional, and extremely cheap--around $9/person. Seriously. We had a great local Middle Eastern place lined up previously but they kept being extremely late for meetings and we figured it wasn't worth the risk.
posted by Slinga at 5:51 AM on September 10, 2016

When we were going to DIY our food, we found a local Chinese restaurant that would do roasted suckling pigs (the kind with crispy skin) and roasted duck. Paired with steamed baos, yum. Appetizers were fancy dim sum.
posted by inevitability at 7:33 AM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

At our rehearsal barbecue, which might be a good model for the size and feel of your reception, we got falafel, etc. from two local restaurants, plus barbecue ribs and chicken by a local pitmaster couple. The local barbecue + local ethnic cuisine angle was a great success, giving people of several religious dietary preferences and levels of vegetarianism options they loved, and also not overwhelming any one of the vendors. If you don't know any pitmasters, you might call a local barbecue group or pitmasters' association. Similarly, our actual reception was catered but featured tapas and Greek cuisine, plus blackberry roast duck, so everyone had meat or nonmeat options. People raved about the food. Congratulations, by the way!
posted by limeonaire at 7:59 AM on September 10, 2016

Might be too far at the 'cheap and cheerful' end of the spectrum, but: maybe mobile wood-fired pizza? (Standard disclaimer: I have no idea if that place is any good, have no affiliation, etc. they were just the first result Google spat out.)
posted by usonian at 9:08 AM on September 10, 2016

Paella? We have a guy in our area (north of SF) who brings a huge paella pan and will put whatever combination of seafood, chicken, rabbit, etc. in it. Guests were interested in the whole process and it became sort of a gathering spot before the event.
posted by Gusaroo at 9:18 AM on September 10, 2016

I went to an Oakland wedding that had wonderful food from the Cameroonian restaurant a few blocks away, served buffet style. The guests were delighted (most of them had never had it before) and the bride told me that it was affordable. I'm not sure if you can find Cameroonian food where you are, but what about Ethiopian food? It scales up to large groups well, and is easy to make vegan-friendly.
A slightly-fancy Mexican restaurant might also be a good bet. This sweet, informal wedding is about the size of yours. It was catered by a local Mexican restaurant, and I think it looks charming.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:24 AM on September 10, 2016

Definitely looking for cuisines or foods that actually exist in/are local to SoCal if at all possible. For example it's possible to get Indian food in Los Angeles, but it's not very authentic or good or really a hallmark of L.A. culture in any way. It's the same bland chicken tikka masala you'd get in Minnesota or Alabama. Meanwhile, we have probably the best Thai food in the US.

Same for something like paella, unless someone has a specific recommendation for an actual person I can reach out to who would cater that for a wedding in Los Angeles. I don't have the first idea how to find a paella caterer.
posted by Sara C. at 5:03 PM on September 10, 2016

Papa Cristo's, the 1940s-era, family-owned Greek market and restaurant in West Adams catered our wedding with a buffet-style selection of vegetarian and meat dishes, and we were very happy with the food, ordering process and price.
posted by Scram at 8:49 PM on September 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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