The Infatuation is built on the idea of “Perfect For” categories, catering to your specific restaurant needs and situations. Date night? Group dinner with friends? Your college roommate from Hartford is finally coming to LA and they told you in advance they already hate it here? We can handle it.
But sometimes, there are situations that just don’t fit into a concise, predetermined category. And there is one such genre of restaurant we keep hearing over and over again - at parties, baby naming ceremonies, or cardio barre classes we’ve actually never attended. It’s what we’ve come to call the “Super Cute Reasonably Priced Restaurant To Catch Up With A Few Friends” (SCRPRTCUWFF). In general, SCRPRTCUWFFs are:
Somewhat quiet. But not boring. Relatively small. With plates mostly under $20.
Now go ahead and plan that Wednesday catch-up meal.
With its vaulted ceilings, mismatched chairs, and old framed photos hanging on the walls, Wood Spoon looks a lot like that Parisian flat we fantasize about while stuck in traffic on the 405. The menu, made up of traditional Brazilian entrees like seafood stew in a coconut sauce and our favorite chicken pot pie in the entire world, feels like true home cooking. At some point during the meal, you’ll probably forget you’re even at a restaurant.
Mazal has quickly become one of our favorite casual dinner spots on the Eastside. This vegetarian Israeli restaurant has an alleyway patio adorned with string lights, awnings, and patterned concrete walls. There’s even an old, tattered basketball hoop hanging in the back - it’s decorative only, you will not be asked to lace up. But Mazal has more to offer than just a quirky space. We love their smoky babaganoush and flaky bourekas, which come filled with potato, feta, or pesto/olive mix. Everything is sharable and under $20, meaning even with a few glasses of wine, you probably won’t be stress-checking your bank account after dinner.
Mantee is one of our favorite Armenian restaurants in Los Angeles. The spot on Ventura has a lush, quiet patio that feels like you’re eating dinner in a backyard in the suburbs, and the food is excellent across the board. As its name suggests, mantee is the specialty here, and while the sumac and yogurt-covered dumpling dish is very good, don’t even think about leaving until you’ve tried both the citrusy dolma and sizzling hot feta topped with tomatoes and just the right amount of jalapeños.
LASA, the Filipino spot in Chinatown, has pivoted to a new rotisserie and wine concept called Lasita. The place is still in the Far East Plaza, but the interior has been redone with bright, peach-colored walls and cozy wooden booths perfect for drinking natural wine and reminiscing with friends about how 11pm on a Saturday was once considered early. The streamlined menu focuses primarily on brined meat like pork belly lechon, but the star of the show is without question the inasal. The rotisserie chicken dish is stuffed with lemongrass and garlic, giving it sweet and citrusy notes, with a slight acidic bite at the end. Be sure to save room for the banana confit, jackfruit, and brown sugar whip-filled turon cream pie at the end - it’s one of our favorite desserts in town.
Located in an El Segundo strip mall, Jame Enoteca is a tiny Italian restaurant with some of our favorite pasta on the Westside. And by tiny, we mean there are about 10 tables in the whole place, and if it wasn’t for the sign out front, you might mistake it for a Souplantation. But that’s also kind of why we love it. The waitstaff will talk to you like you’re their neighbors, there’s a kale salad that’s so good it’ll change your mind about kale salad, and almost all the pastas fall under $20.
Suggesting a catch-up meal at The Original Farmers Market at The Grove might induce some serious side-eye from your friends. Here’s how to do it right - go before 11am for breakfast when the market is just waking up and the throngs of tourists haven’t left their Santa Monica hotels yet. While there are several good breakfast options here, Michelina Artisan Boulanger stands out. This French bakery/counter is located in the heart of the market, but when you're here it still feels like you’re hanging out at a quiet sidewalk cafe. Order anything that catches your eye from the baked good case (the perfectly moist chocolate almond croissant is a favorite), a few tartines, and the silky Parisienne omelette.
You finally have an opportunity to get all your college friends together, but one of them is in the middle of her residency and goes to bed at 9pm, and another just really needs 10 hours of sleep before her 5:45am workout class. Lodge Bread is the ideal place for an early group dinner. This Culver City spot started out as a bakery, but is now an all-day spot with simple, great food where a lot of locals have low-key meals. Order pizzas to share, and get the cinnamon roll that’s about the size of the pillow you’ll be lying on shortly thereafter.
Wife & The Somm is a fantastic wine bar and restaurant in Glassell Park, and the kind of place you’ll meet friends at on a Wednesday, and come back on Thursday by yourself simply because you like it so much. The indoor/outdoor space is divided up into several sections (there’s a front courtyard, leafy back patio, and a main bar area), but each space leads seamlessly into the other, making the whole place feel like a backyard neighborhood hangout instead of a formal restaurant. When you get hungry, be sure to order some crispy Brussels sprouts, charcuterie, and spicy tuna tartare with an actual kick.
Mizlala is a casual Mediterranean restaurant a few blocks down from The Galleria in Sherman Oaks and a great spot to grab some food before seeing a movie with friends. With colorful tile and shelves of knick-knacks running along the wall, the space is cute without being obnoxious, and though it can get crowded during peak hours, the atmosphere is always laid-back. Get the artichoke hummus, eggplant moussaka, and at least two orders of the Moroccan chicken.
Located in a converted bungalow in Virgil Village, this neighborhood wine bar has everything you like about your apartment (huge windows, cozy atmosphere) and none of the things you don’t (poor wifi connection, unwashed dishes in the sink, nosy neighbors who feel way too comfortable knocking on your door). In addition to tables on their wraparound patio, their outdoor courtyard is one of our favorites on the Eastside - think big, comfy couches, lanterns overhead, and an evening light that’s always conducive to group photos.
This Peruvian restaurant on Figueroa has only been open since 2018, and yet, it feels like it’s been part of the neighborhood for decades. The space is cozy and casual, and there’s even a relaxing water feature in the back. Rosty’s menu is filled with dishes like sweet and zesty pollo a la brasa and lomo saltado with sirloin beef strips, sauteed vegetables, and fries. The dish that always ends up on our table here, though, is la copa nostra. This massive glass goblet of mixed ceviche is perfect for sharing with several friends.
There are a lot of super cute restaurants in Venice. But most of them are packed with tourists and people who will happily wait two hours for their food. Chez Tex is one of the few where you can actually go to talk to your friends, eat great food, and not have to deal with any angel investors hovering over your table. The menu is full of smaller plates that taste great while you drink wine, the servers will probably learn your name, and that beach-house feel will make you want to become a regular.
Tsubaki is an izakaya in Echo Park serving plates that generally cost around $8 to $12, and range from kanpachi sashimi to chilled soba to Wagyu beef. And everything is excellent. The whole place is extremely laid-back, and the people working here will make sure your cup of sake is never empty.
Steps from the Third Street Promenade, Interstellar is one of our favorite spots for a catch-up lunch in Santa Monica. The small cafe nails tons of different dishes from tons of different cuisines - like bulgogi burgers, katsu curry, pasta, chilaquiles, breakfast burritos, club sandwiches, and more. We’ve never tried anything here that we wouldn’t fully endorse, and that’s good news for your one friend who hasn’t changed their palette since sophomore year in high school.
Spoke Bicycle is part cafe, part bicycle repair shop, and the most Eastside place that’s ever existed. This is the kind of all-day spot where it’s completely acceptable to sit around with your friends all afternoon discussing the outline for your fracking documentary, eating a fantastic veggie burger, and drinking lots of wine and beer. Afterwards, you can even rent a bike and head down the bike path - in the event that your movie outline needs further brainstorming.
Montana Ave. is one of LA’s most charming streets, but it’s also one of the strangest: gourmet fro-yo, locals getting hammered in corporate bars, and by our count, at least 14 different Chico’s stores. But then there’s Art’s Table, one of the few things around here that feels real. The atmosphere is extremely welcoming and the wide-ranging menu (you’ll find everything from guacamole toast to curry bwols) is solid. Get a table on the sidewalk.
Tucked away behind Melrose Place, Croft Alley is an escape from all the would-be bloggers that lurk on that street, posing with their “But First, Coffee” cups. This tiny cafe is a prime lunchtime catch-up spot, especially if you can snag a table on the extremely attractive enclosed courtyard. Get a kale salad, and then balance it out with a cauliflower grilled cheese.