The Great Caterer Search

After nailing down a venue, the next big thing Mike and I wanted to cross off our to-do list was choosing a caterer.  While many of the other venues we were looking at were an all-inclusive food-included package, Galapagos offers pretty much everything except the food.  And so, the great search began.

We didn’t really know where to start, how much money we should budget for it, or even what kind of food we wanted, other than hoping for a sit-down dinner with plenty of vegetarian options and something that would leave people saying, “Wow, that was delicious.”  For a 100-guest party, we arbitrary said we’d spend $5000 on catering.  (But as the search continued, we realized $5000 was ridiculously low.  We’ve upped our food budget to somewhere around [gulp] $10,000-$15,000.)

Robert at Galapagos gave us a few NYC caterers that he preferred, based on their pricing, food, and the friendliness of the waitstaff, so we started first by contacting them.  (FYI: Robert said that the friendliness of the staff is probably the most important factor to consider.  He said most of the food your going to find is going to be along the same lines, but if you have a waitstaff that’s upbeat and happy to serve you, that can make all the difference.)  One of the caterers he mentioned, Blue Smoke, a BBQ restaurant in Manhattan, seemed to be both in our price range and tasty-sounding, so we emailed them first.  However, we got no response — not even an automated response or anything.  Undaunted, we continued on, and through random Googling and Citysearching, we happened upon a few other caterers, including Naturally Delicious and Dish.

Naturally Delicious gets a big thumbs-down from us.  Although they were good about contacting me back after I sent them an email, they pretty much scoffed at me on the phone when I told them our budget.  Granted, this is when we were still low-balling it beyond belief, but rather than simply tell me they wouldn’t be able to work within our budget, they sent me a laughable proposal of a glorified cocktail hour with only seven items and an anemic station of vegetables.  The price?  $15,000!  Plus, they charge a $2-per-person cake-cutting fee.  I immediately emailed Naturally Delicious back and said thanks for your time, but no thanks.

Dish Food & Events, on the other hand, seems promising.  A newer catering company (they got their start in 2007), their prices seem much more reasonable — for $15,000, Dish would be able to give us a kick-ass buffet-style dinner, with cocktail hour — plus, they don’t charge a cake-cutting fee nor would they charge us for the first 10 or so vendor meals.  They are really personable on the phone — Mike has spoken directly with the head chef, Ryan Corvaia, who seems very willing to work with us to make sure we get the most we can for our money.  (Unlike Naturally Delicious, who seemed to merely be throwing us a bone with their lackluster “glorified” cocktail hour menu.)  Dish has worked with Galapagos in the past, which we take as a good sign, and Ryan seems to be concerned with making sure we take advantage of the space itself as far as the food is concerned; he said the space lends itself well to a buffet-style dinner.  Although this isn’t what we were considering, it would be cheaper!  So we’ll see.

Cobblestone Catering is another company that is in the running.  I found out about them at Urban Wed, and had been emailing Meghan, the representative they had at the event, back and forth for awhile following it.  For $14,000, we’d be able to have a 6-item cocktail hour followed by a three-course meal with a choice of two entrees.  Not bad!  Plus, I was able to try the food at Urban Wed, and it was pretty darn good.  It was also nice to have met the person I was going back and forth with — Meghan was very willing to mix-and-match menu ideas for me, and sent me a few different proposals along the way.  Good customer service.

Seasons was another caterer suggested to us by Robert at Galapagos, and although we had written them off initially because we thought their prices were too high, once we realized our price was too low, it turned out that Seasons was actually quite affordable: for $110-125 per person, we’d get a sit-down dinner — but the big plus here is that this price includes everything, from food to rentals to fees for staff.  This was something that threw us off at first with the other caterers, because although they’d quote us a price like $60 per head, this wouldn’t include something like rental fees for dishes (throw in an extra $20 there) or staff ($35 per waiter/chef) or travel fees ($100, from one Brooklyn neighborhood to another).  It gets overwhelming after awhile, believe me.

We’re waiting to hear back from a few more places with some more proposals, but we’re hoping to pick a place soon.  We feel like this is the last not-so-fun piece of the puzzle we need to work out before we can start focusing on the more creative things.  Like invitations.  Or outfits.  Or … anything else that isn’t selecting a caterer. 😉


About Ally

What started as a joke at a White Castle and a prank on a friend, ended with a box of cupcakes with an engagement ring in it. This is the story of our not-so-traditional wedding.
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