The cafe where my writing group always meets recently closed, so we need a new venue. We're looking for a place that could easily accomodate a group of about 10-15 people, that doesn't require your whole party to be there to seat you, and where a meal could be purchased for less than $15. Bonus points if they serve alcohol and/or good coffee. Any ideas? Alternately, how does one go about finding a good restaurant? What resources could I use? My group has met at places recommended by CitySearch and NewYorkMetro.com with mixed results (one place was pricier than advertized, one place was much smaller, etc).

Ask Gothamist has always loved Kate’s Joint on Avenue B and has eaten there happily for many years. It is a.) cheap b.) tasty and c.) the folks who work there have always been pleasant and accomodating. We order the Unturkey Club Sandwich 90% of the time we go because we love it. It’s fairly spacious and they will usually seat you even if everyone isn’t there yet. It’s very down-to-earth, and they serve both alcohol and coffee. The whole menu is vegetarian and all items can be vegan - a bonus if your group is full of vegetarians or the lactose intolerant, not so good if there are some die-hard meat-eaters in the bunch. And we must admit it can be a bit of a hike for those coming from way uptown or the west side of the city. Another possibility might be Space Untitled on Greene Street in SoHo. They’re a cafe, and if memory serves, they have the usual assortment of coffee, juices, sandwiches, and so on. We know that a knitting group meets there regularly and they take up quite a bit of space and time with no complaints from the staff.

If neither of those places sound like they will fit the bill, we love reading about food and restaurants on the Chowhound message boards. We’re sure the many wise and experienced Chowhouds can steer you to a good place.