People socializing at a dinner party decorated with a long table covered in candles, enjoying conver...

Nylon Nights

Go To A Semi-Public Dinner Party, Walk Away With A New Friend (Or A New Boo)

The half-invite, half-ticketed function is on the rise.

by Tim Latterner

A nightlife writer, a tech founder, a painter, and a tailor all walk into an apartment. It’s not the start of a bad joke — it’s the latest trend emerging in nightlife.

For one night, a slightly larger-than-average Upper East Side apartment has taken on the feel of a buzzy restaurant opening in that everyone is dressed for the occasion. But unlike a new hot spot, the hosts have curated the guest list of about 15: half with people who bought tickets, and half with interesting and entertaining ringers they know will get along well with the group — and ensure a fun, lively conversation. (I’m the plus-one of an old friend who was invited.) Over salad, a telecommunications engineer from Dublin and I talked about what Christmas is like there. When the conversation ran its course, the host chimed in and asked me how my new apartment was coming together because another attendee was an antiques dealer who was starting her own interior-design firm. By the end of the night, I’d exchanged Instagram handles or phone numbers with more than half the group.

Lucky Dinner Club
Jessica DiMento
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Semi-public dinner parties like the one I attended are all the rage right now — just look at some of your friend’s Instagram bios, and one is bound to have an extra @ with a catchy name leading to an account for their own series. The conceit, generally, is to bring a cool, smallish crowd together — one that’s looking for a chiller alternative to the club — but the resulting connections can manifest in more ways than one. “It’s people looking to make friends and maybe someone to crush on,” Lucky Dinner Club founder Gabrielle Macafee tells NYLON. “There’s always a comfortable, house-party element, which is conducive to romantic connections. To put it simply: You might get lucky.”

But as much as these parties are about who comes through, they’re also influenced by the backgrounds and tastes of their hosts. At Murray Street Dinner Club, for example, co-founder Daniel Ma has made curries, tacos, and larger cuts of meat he’s learned to cook from the various places around the world he’s lived. Macafee, meanwhile, likes a theme: One party was based on Madonna’s “Vogue” performance at the 1990 MTV Awards, for which she asked guests to adhere to an 18th-century French dress code. For another evening based on The Rose of Heliogabalus, a painting by Lawrence Alma Tadema, she threw thousands of rose petals over her apartment.

Murray Street Dinner Club

The inverse effect of a tight guest list is scarcity — tickets go much faster than any table on Resy, so you’ll want to keep up on Instagram and each series’ respective websites. (Though Ma says the larger, 30-seat dinners he throws are gratifying because he gets to connect friends of friends, who sometimes end up hanging out without him.) But there is one workaround: Host your own. “One advantage that I’ve always loved is that people come to this and then they start inviting me to theirs,” Ma says. “It becomes an ecosystem.” And, as Macafee says, you might leave with a new relationship, “creative, romantic, platonic, or otherwise.”