I know what you’re thinking. New Yorkers don’t cook so why would they host dinner parties? After all, they store sweaters in their oven, don’t they? Well, some fictional New Yorkers (referring to Carrie Bradshaw) and probably a few real ones use their ovens for storage. But in all honesty, NYC residents do host dinner parties, especially during colder months and on holidays.
The truth is, New Yorkers don’t dine out every night of the week. They grocery shop, cook, and even invite friends over to partake in the festivities. That said, there are some challenges to organizing and holding a soiree – especially one that involves food – in a tiny apartment. But it should come as no surprise that most New Yorkers are up to that task because they manage to live well in small spaces. Hosting a dinner party in a New York apartment is entirely doable and can even be enjoyable if you follow these tips.
1. Start planning early.
Organize well ahead of your date. Planning several weeks before the party will leave you enough time to prepare your menu and get to the other items on this list. Don’t think you can pull off a dinner party in a small space without a hitch if you’ve never tackled it before. Do you have enough space for a sit-down dinner? Unless your guest list is limited, probably not. In which case, opt for a buffet and guests will serve themselves and stand or sit and eat from their laps. Trays are a great option here too. How many people you invite and how and where they’ll eat will dictate the dishes you serve.
2. Keep food and drink simple.
Going with bite-size foods can often be enough for a dinner party menu, and you’ll thank yourself later if you’re short on space. Finger foods like pigs in a blanket, mini quiches, and dumplings are always a hit. Be sure to have a meat option, fish option, and at least one that’s vegetarian. You could also start off your food fest with a crudité platter, nuts, and a cheese plate – all excellent choices for a casual dinner. Then serve a one-pot meal of something delicious, perhaps a pasta dish or jambalaya.
For drinks, wine and beer are the easiest, but if you have your heart set on cocktails, choose one signature libation and make a pitcher or two ahead of the party.
3. Set the scene.
When it comes to small-space dining, ambiance is everything! Don’t skip the music, and be sure to have fresh flowers or greenery in your living room and bathroom. Even a single bud vase will do. Candles (tea lights and votives work well, but avoid anything too fragrant so the aroma doesn’t fight with the food), pretty napkins, dinnerware, and flatware are the bare minimum. Use magazines like Martha Stewart Living and Real Simple, as well as Pinterest for decorating ideas. They provide endless inspiration for dinner parties.
4. Use the space wisely.
Use every square inch of your living space, and you’ll find that you have room to spare. To create floor or mingling space, consider moving larger objects like a dining table or low coffee table, which can double as a surface for food and drink. Place chairs in every area you can, encouraging guests to use the space. Don't have enough seating? Rent chairs for your dinner party.
Tell guests that it's fine to sit in your bedroom if the living room is at capacity. Place some bowls of nuts or snacks as well as napkins and candles in the bedroom and people will meander to that room. Of course, everyone will be drawn to the kitchen. No matter how tiny, kitchens remain the heart of any home.
5. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
Think outside the box! You will need to stir up some creativity to host a party in a small apartment. If your tiny apartment refrigerator is packed to the gills, load a cooler with ice and store beer, wine, and soft drinks in there. Keep the cooler just outside your front door. Hallways make fantastic staging areas for apartment parties, provided your neighbors are okay with you utilizing that space for a few hours. Replenish as beverages run low in your fridge.
6. Invest in a portable coat rack.
Another way to keep unnecessary clutter at bay is to hang outerwear on a coat rack and keep it in your hall. Stock it with hangers and your guests will hang their coats before entering your apartment. Your building may have one you can borrow; otherwise, order a small one on Amazon. They break down easily and fit neatly into a little, narrow box that can be stored in a closet, under a bed, or behind a sofa.
7. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
If you’re throwing your very first dinner party, don’t try and tackle too much. Follow my tips above, and you’ll be entertaining like a pro. If you’re an overachiever and you find yourself in the weeds, however, ask for help. Most often, friends are happy to pitch in and come early to set up or decorate. They can pour drinks, butler trays of hors-d’oeuvres, and even make a last-minute run to the market or liquor store. And there's one more…
8. Have fun!
Of course, don’t stress. Even if every last detail isn’t exactly perfect, probably no one will know but you. Kick back with a cocktail and enjoy the party!