Foodie philanthropist Sean Palani talks about his social club, the Atlanta Guy’s Dinner Group, and why you’ll want to show up with your boys.
By Annie Paschal
Laughter fills the air and enticing entrées are sprawled across the table. This is a typical Monday night for Sean Palani, founder of the Atlanta Guy’s Dinner Group. After the restaurateur moved to Atlanta in 2011 to open the Inman Park Barcelona Wine Bar and the city’s three bartaco locations, he began exploring the local culinary scene with his buddies. The popular outings turned into the Atlanta Guy’s Dinner Group, which hosts monthly get-togethers that invite men to dine at restaurants like Gypsy Kitchen and Crispina while supporting local charities such as the Midtown Assistance Center and BeLoved Atlanta.
What is the Atlanta Guy’s Dinner Group experience like? What can a newcomer expect?
You can expect to be surrounded by a group of wonderful guys, all of whom have hearts as big as their appetites. We have men from all walks of life—lawyers, carpenters, nonprofit business owners and more. We arrive, socialize, make introductions and then eat. Before we pick up our forks, I like to make a toast to thank the guys for their generous efforts, as well as officially welcome any new members to the table. We order and eat communal-style, which is my favorite way to eat. It is usually sheer gluttony! It’s not uncommon to see the guys waving their napkins in surrender.
How do you select the charity the group will support?
We like to select charities that are local and help those in our city. We are very partial to organizations that support children, women, families, and the displaced. The guys bring donations (food, clothing, checks, etc.) with them to the dinner and I give them to the recipient the next day, unless a representative from the charity we are supporting is at the dinner (I always invite them as my guest). We also make online donations.
Is there an experience with the group that is a sentimental favorite?
My wonderful friend, Michelle Hodgson, founder of the nonprofit Children Helping Children, connected us with a young man who was organizing a food and shoe drive for the less fortunate. He came to the dinner group and shared the struggles his mother faced as a single parent. He felt compelled to give back because of the generosity he and his mother received when they were in need. I think we all had lumps in our throats. He is going to do great things.
How do you spread the word about the group and how can people find out how to join?
I tell and invite everyone and I have the guys do the same. I had cards made and I hand them to everyone. Standing in line behind me at the grocery store? You’re getting a card! We also have a Facebook page and people can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who helps you be your “Best Self?”
First and foremost, my family. My wife, Dina, and boys, Keoki and Frankie, are my everything. Also, Glen Jackson, my wife’s boss at Jackson Spalding. It’s the way he carries himself, treats and respects his employees, and his generosity to numerous causes in our city. The guys in the group push me, as well. They are amazing men who take the time out of their busy schedules to come join me on a monthly basis to eat and give back. These guys are the epitome of what I hope my boys will grow up to be.
To find out more about the Atlanta Guy’s Dinner Group, visit Facebook.com/FeedUsAndWeWillCome