Introducing "Ask The Foodinista," in which you pepper our wily food contributor Lauren Sloss with questions regarding all things San Francisco food, and she answers them (without a hint of snark...okay, maybe a little good-natured snark). Got a question? Hit us up on Twitter or write us at [email protected].

Dear Foodinista,

Help! My birthday is this weekend (the big 3-0!), and I haven't planned anything for it. I'd like to find a spot for a group of around 20 friends where we can eat good food, drink, and not have to worry about reservations (too late for that...). Where should we go?

Poor Planner

Dear Poor Planner,

No reservation? Maybe you should just binge watch Friday Night Lights with a bottle of bourbon and a box of cereal. I kid, I kid — not all is lost! The key here is picking a place that you can 1. arrive early 2. stake out space 3. hang out until you've birthday partied yourself out. Namely: Beer gardens and similar spots with ample outdoor space and open seating. You will have a much better chance of this if you are willing to show up during off hours (mid-afternoon) or better yet, in the morning. And there's nothing wrong with acting like you're 20 and indulging in some good old fashioned day drinking. My suggestions:

photo credit: Premshree Pillai

Snag some real estate at Zeitgeist early in the day. Killer bloodies, pitchers of beer, margaritas, sunshine, and probable joint passing — what more could you want? You mentioned wanting good food, and while Zeitgeist isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, their burgers and sausages will taste excellent after some drinks.

photo credit: Scott Beale

Looking for something a little shinier than the smoke-filled aura of Zeitgeist? Southern Pacific Brewing isn't a bad option. Their beer is great, the beer flight one of the more reasonably priced in town, and there's a solid amount of outdoor seating. The food is very hit or miss, but sticking with small shareable plates like the truffle fries or roasted brussels sprouts is usually a safe bet.

This could be you! photo credit: slettvet

Wait, you say you don't like the Mission? Show up in the magic hours between brunch and happy hour at The Tipsy Pig on Chestnut and snag tables on their charming outdoor patio. The cocktails are solid, the burger is great, and if pastels and popped collars are your jam, you are definitely in luck.

photo credit: throgers

Or there's always Biergarten in Hayes Valley, if you can count on your posse to show up when the doors open up at 3 p.m. Secure a spot in line and feast on brats, beers, and do your best to avoid Das Boot (or don't).

Willing to get out of the city? Bar Bocce in Sausalito, The Dock at Linden Street and Brotzeit Lokal in Oakland, and Moxy Beer Garden in Berkeley are all great options.

Of course, a park party is a no-brainer option, and there's no shortage of spots to stock up on good food and booze near Dolores, Alamo Square, Golden Gate, and beyond. Want a full on list to those? That, Poor Planner, deserves a whole other post. And if burritos and beer in a park doesn't sound like an appropriate birthday celebration, then I have some choice words.

The Foodinista