Everybody wants to eat at the best restaurants. That also means everybody fights for the same tables at the same restaurants at the same precious 7:30 time slot. But just because you didn’t wake up at 6am exactly five weeks ago to play the restaurant table sweepstakes doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck. Whether you want a great solo meal or you have a last-minute date and Sugarfish isn’t going to cut it, this guide has your solution. Here are 11 excellent restaurants with bar seating that doesn’t require a reservation.
It’s only Wednesday and you’ve already eaten seven salads this week. Good for you - now go eat as much meat as possible in one sitting. This restaurant on Fairfax has the most meat-heavy menu in town, with a smoked turkey leg that’s even more impressive than the one you get at Disneyland. Animal doesn’t pull the kind of crowds it did when it first opened, but it’s still one of the most exciting and consistently excellent dinners you can get in LA. The small space fills up in a hurry most nights - except for the first come, first serve bar in the back.
You have a better chance at scoring tickets to Suri Cruise’s luxury yurt at Coachella than a table at Majordomo. So just do what we do and walk into the bar. You’ll still need to get to this modern Korean restaurant early (5pm might be too late), but you will be seated at the bar at some point. Plus, you can just walk across the courtyard and grab a drink at Apotheke while you wait for that boneless short rib to come into your life.
If a Jones martini hasn’t saved your life at least once after a long week, you probably haven’t tried one yet. The casual Italian spot on Santa Monica Blvd. in Weho is one of our favorite places to unwind with strong drinks, chopped salads, and really good spaghetti. That said, it does get crowded most nights, so unless you’re cool with eating in the adjoining “cafe” space, parking it at the bar is the best option for a last-minute meal here.
The second restaurant from the people behind Bestia was destined to be popular whether it was good or not. Update: It’s very good. The upscale Mediterranean spot in the Arts District has tremendous food across-the-board (that lamb neck shawarma deserves its own awards show) and a space that looks like someone put a self-sufficient oxygen garden inside a warehouse. But if you’re getting impatient waiting for a table to open up online, walk in and head to the bar instead.
Sitting at the bar at Osteria Mozza rewards you with a few things: relatively immediate seating, the full menu of incredible Italian food, and the off-chance of getting a front row seat to watch Nancy Silverton in her preferred habitat of pulling mozzarella cheese for the masses. Order the ricotta and egg raviolo that’s covered in a brown butter sauce and anything from the mozzarella bar.
Since 2008, Gjelina has been the unofficial beacon of eating out on the Westside. A decade later, it’s still a very good restaurant and a tough table to snag in the area, so here’s the hack - the entire front bar area is on a first come, first serve basis. And as long as you get there before 6:30pm, you’ll probably get a seat to eat some of the best vegetables, pizzas, and pastas in the city. If you do have to wait, you can play a few rounds of one of the most terrifying sports in the world - people-watching on Abbot Kinney.
Being the middle child in a restaurant group that also includes Animal and Jon & Vinny’s isn’t easy. But unlike its more famous siblings, this seafood-heavy restaurant in Beverly Grove is a true neighborhood hangout. It’s loud, cramped, and there are a bunch pictures of fishermen on the wall. This isn’t a big place, so when tables are hard to come by, there are seven wooden seats at the bar for the taking.
It takes one look inside Felix’s glassed-in, climate-controlled pasta-making room to realize this Abbot Kinney Italian restaurant is serious about pasta. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who have caught on and tables here are booked out months in advance. If you can’t wait that long to eat cacio e pepe, just stroll in early to the bar area, play the hover game for a little bit, and snag some seats when they become available.
Ma’am Sir opened recently, but it’s already full pretty much every night of the week. And for good reason - this modern Filipino restaurant in Silver Lake has fantastic food (the longganisa sandwich is a must) and a bright space that feels like you’re at a beach bar in Tulum in a way that’s not at all annoying.
No matter what time of day you come to this upscale French restaurant on La Brea, you’re going to have to deal with crowds. But if you come at night without a reservation, there’s a tiny area in the back that’s first come, first serve where you never have to wait too long. And if you do have to wait a little, at least there’s a gigantic wine list to keep your mind company.
It’s been a few years since Cassia opened in Santa Monica, but this upscale Southeast-Asian restaurant is still one of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood. With a large, industrial space that looks like it was borrowed from downtown LA, this place is filled with every date night and dinner-with-parents happening in Santa Monica whenever it’s open. So on those nights when you just want some kaya toast and spicy wontons, and not a grudge-match with the maitre d, the walk-in bar is where you should plan to go.