At some restaurants, the bar is where you linger until your table is ready or where you wait awkwardly for your chronically-late friend to arrive. But at these restaurants, the bar is where you should have your entire meal. Whether you’re dining solo, coming in for a last minute date, or simply didn’t want to wait two weeks for a dinner reservation, dining at the bar is one of life’s greatest hacks. Here are 15 LA restaurants where eating at the bar isn’t just a good idea, it’s the best way to experience the place.
Cento is a lunchtime-only pasta place hidden inside of a Downtown wine bar. It’s not the easiest place to track down (it’s only open Wednesday through Saturday, 11am-3pm), but if you’re able to find enough time on your lunch hour, it’s worth the trek down to the Historic Core to eat some beet spaghetti. The space itself is just one big wrap-around bar with a guy cooking pasta centerstage. All of the noodle things here are incredible, but don’t skip the bread and burrata.
Even though it’s in a stripmall in Hollywood, Petit Trois is the closest thing LA has to a Parisian cafe. Petit Trois’s cramped and chaotic space is essentially just a bar and some stools, and though it gets crowded almost every day, it doesn’t matter because the French bistro food is fantastic. The omelette is perfectly-cooked every single time and their Big Mec burger is one of the best in town - even if you have to take a nap after eating it.
Ronan is technically a neighborhood pizzeria. So you could order-in a pizza without leaving your couch, but you should really come in with a date and eat a pork chop at the bar as well. It’s first come, first served and you won’t be trapped in a booth with someone you aren’t sure you even like yet. Obviously, the pizza should be a priority (the Michelangelo is a favorite), but don’t ignore the rest of the menu. They have an excellent steak tartare and a pesto burrata that will change the way you look at the world.
This Sherman Oaks spot successfully combines two of god’s greatest gifts (wine and sushi) all in a laid-back space that makes you want to hang out all night. Our recommendation is to do the full omakase (which is a fair $80 considering how much sushi you get) and work with the sommelier to pair different wines with your meal. They’ll happily let you taste as many wines as you’d like before finding the one you want.
Tar & Roses has been one of the Westside’s most popular restaurants since 2011, and that isn’t changing any time soon. The food is fantastic and crowd-pleasing (the oxtail dumplings are something every LA resident needs to eat at least once) and the downtown Santa Monica location is the right kind of party almost every day of the week. Nowhere is that party stronger than at the bar, where you get to sit at exceedingly comfortable red stools and watch all the magic go down in the kitchen.
Sitting at the bar at Otono isn’t just a good option if the dining room is full, it’s the best way to experience this modern Spanish restaurant in Highland Park. Here is where you can talk to the bartenders, easily access the excellent cocktails (the whiskey-based rioja sour is a must), and casually snack on tapas all night. Concentrate on the jamon croquetas, the anchovy butter, and any dish that involves their perfectly-cooked shrimp.
Bar Calo is a Mexican bar/restaurant in Echo Park where you can sense how cool it is before you even walk through the doors. There are people’s arms hanging out of the windows holding tequila Old Fashioneds and groups of friends standing around the parking lot smoking cigarettes in ripped jeans like it’s 1988. A night here feels like some fantastical version of LA that includes very good bar food (get the Oaxacan chicken) and excellent cocktails across the board.
Though this meat-worshipping restaurant on Fairfax doesn’t pull the crowds that it did when it first opened, it’s still difficult to land a table here - and sometimes you don’t feel like waiting all week to eat sirloin carpaccio and a boner burger. Good news - you’ll probably be seated at the bar in the back right away. It’s the exact same experience as the dining room, except the wine will come a lot faster and the person sitting next you will be far more inclined to ask you about your order.
Marvin is a French bistro in Beverly Grove where you’ll probably end up hanging out all night. This is the kind of place you go to on a midweek date and then come back two days later with your best friend to drink too much wine and talk sh*t about your week. The crowd is laid-back and treats the space like it’s their living room, and the waitstaff talks to you like you’re already their friend. It can definitely get a little pricey here, so we recommend coming with the intention of snacking aggressively instead of going all-in on a big three-course meal. Just make sure you’re snacking on the jamon tomate toast.
Opening a restaurant in LA is one thing. But maintaining that caliber of quality several years down the line is a whole different thing. Connie & Ted’s in West Hollywood isn’t only just as good as it was when it first opened - it’s better. The New England-style seafood restaurant has fantastic food (the clam chowder sampler is our favorite trio not named Destiny’s Child), a massive space, and giant bar that’s packed from Happy Hour on every night.
No matter where you sit at this Japanese Izakaya in Echo Park you’ll have a very good meal. But if you sit at the tiny bar in the back, you’ll have an excellent meal. That’s not because the food is any better than it is in the dining room, but because of the people standing behind the bar. If there’s a sake they think you should try, they’ll just pour it. If there’s an interesting ingredient in the octopus you just ordered, they’re going to tell you about the chef’s recent trip to Japan that inspired it. The bar is intimate, and it’s the only way we like to do this place.
If you only use Esters as a place to grab a quick glass of wine before heading to dinner at Cassia next door, you’re doing it all wrong. While the wine is certainly the main event here, their food is also very good and worthy of a full meal. If you’re with a group, pull a power move and order the plank (all the charcuterie meat and cheese on the menu), but if you’re by yourself, their grilled cheese is one of our favorites in town.
Felix has been open for a while now, but this pasta spot in Venice is still one of the hardest tables to get in town. So if you don’t feel like waiting a month to eat orecchiette, just do what we do and walk-in to the bar. You’ll have to play the hover game for a little bit, but a few seats always become available. And yes, it’s the exact same menu that you’ll find in the main dining room.