LAGuide

Where To Have A Fun Birthday Dinner Without Spending Hundreds Of Dollars

Because your friends love you, but not enough to blow their monthly car payment on your big night.
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Birthdays are a special occasion—at least for the person celebrating one. For everyone else, a birthday dinner means splitting the check nine different ways and dropping $200 because Zoe decided to order the most expensive thing on the menu. But there is a way to avoid money drama on your big day (other than not inviting Zoe). Just go to one of the places on this guide. They’re all fun spots where you can drink, be loud, eat something delicious, and leave the table without spending more than $50 per person.

THE SPOTS

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Pizza

Arts District

$$$$Perfect For:Outdoor/Patio SituationBig GroupsBirthdaysCasual Weeknight DinnerCatching Up With MatesDancing
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More than just an open-air Arts District spot with a subtle party atmosphere, De La Nonna is also pretty affordable. The best deal at this counter-service spot is the $75 “Nonna Pack'' special that runs Tuesday through Thursday—it comes with two 12-inch pizzas, a caesar salad, and a bottle of wine. One order of this deal could easily satisfy a four-person birthday crew, and no one will be stuck paying a huge tab. Without the special, De La Nonna’s thick, rectangular pies are about $20 each. They’re a good size for up to two people, and come loaded with fresh-from-the-farmers-market pizza toppings like roasted fennel and fresh pesto. After dinner, head straight to dancefloor at The Let’s Go (a 1970s-themed bar right next door) where you can dance to a DJ set under spinning disco balls.

Full-on BYOB restaurants are hard to find in LA, let alone in Santa Monica. So part of the allure at Cha Cha Chicken is that you can bring your birthday bottle or a six-pack of beers to your dinner here. This beachy shack serves Caribbean dishes with a Latin twist, like ropa vieja, coconut fried chicken, and jerk salmon taco. It’s counter-service, so everyone can place separate orders, while you kick back on their tropical patio with no stress about splitting a pricey bill.

It always feels like someone’s birthday at Lasita. The colorful Filipino spot in Chinatown's Far East Plaza is chronically packed with big tables of friends drinking funky orange wine together. The menu focuses primarily on brined meat (like the pork belly lechon), but the star of the show is without question the rotisserie chicken inasal. It’s stuffed with lemongrass and garlic, giving it sweet and citrusy notes, with a slight acidic bite at the end. If you’re having a birthday dinner with 8-10 people, do the "Pamilya Style" Set Menu. For $45 per person, you get table snacks, veggie sides, a whole chicken inasal, a pork belly lechon platter, pancit, chicken fat rice, ice cream, and tons of different sides for dipping.

This counter-service pastrami spot in West Adams has a huge patio where you can gather all your friends around a spread of thick pastrami sandwiches, deeply smoked brisket, and sides of matzo ball soup. But Johnny’s does more than just showcase affordable deli classics. There’s a bar next door (which is run by the same people) where you can order a few drinks, listen to old-school R&B, and party till midnight.

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

The open-air dining space at Pine & Crane DTLA is pleasant enough for a birthday bash or rehearsal dinner, but communal tables and a mini-mart near the entrance keep it from feeling stuffy. A restaurant this charming could skate by with overcooked dumplings and bland beef noodle soup, but Pine & Crane's Taiwanese street food is consistently wonderful. From fried daikon rice cakes to pan fried pork buns, no dish on the menu here costs more than $15—plus almost everything is made to share. 

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Ammatoli in Long Beach has a lot of things going for it—the airy dining room, a solid wine list, a pleasant sidewalk patio, and tons of fantastic Levantine food. Their dinner menu is full of Lebanese mezzes, kebabs, and family-style entrees that work wonderfully for sharing. And while you can certainly spend some money here, most plates on the menu are less than $30. If you're planning on coming with a group of 4 or 5, get the $98 Family Mashawi Feast—it comes with six juicy kebabs, grilled veggies, vermicelli rice, and your choice of two sides (think spicy hummus and mutabbal).

A birthday dinner involving red leather booths and Kardashian sightings would generally cost you half a month's rent. But not at Casa Vega. This 60-year-old Mexican spot in Sherman Oaks is one of those magical LA places where A-list celebrities and regular locals co-mingle without much fanfare. The walk-in-only dining room is loud, the margaritas are particularly strong, and the lobster quesadilla is a gooey, savory masterpiece.

Pizza and dessert have long been the two favorite choices for birthday parties. And this Echo Park spot executes both of them at an extremely high level in a warm, old-school space where you can hang out for hours. At Quarter Sheets, your birthday crew will enjoy the blissful simplicity of pan-style pizza in its peak form, spongy princess cake, and an oldies playlist full of hits from the ‘60s. The best part is, no one in your group needs to pay more than around $25 to do it.

If you took a natural wine shop, a retro vinyl store, and a pizza parlor, threw them all in a blender, and dropped it off in Topanga Canyon, you’d get Endless Color. The space looks like Burning Man meets Pee-wee's Playhouse: you’ll spy wiggly light fixtures, blob-shaped tables, and giant disco balls hanging above the cactus-lined patio. It’s casual enough to drop by after a day at the beach, but still cool enough to host your low-key birthday dinner. A huge chunk of the menu is dedicated to Neapolitan pies with puffy, charred, and blistered crusts. But they also serve a pretty good cheeseburger, chicken tenders, and a bunch of natural wine.

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If you put off planning your birthday party until the night before, and now you need a place that'll fit eight people and a dog, head to Mohawk Bend. Not only does this Echo Park bar have one of the best local beer selections in LA, there’s also a long row of high-tops that are ideal for an impromptu pizza party. One thing to note: the menu is vegan-by-default unless you specifically request real meat and cheese on your pizza or burger. So regardless of your guests' dietary preferences or hot takes on meatless chicken, there's something for everyone here.

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