LAGuide

Where To Have A Cute, Leisurely Dinner That Isn't Too Expensive

Our favorite spots for a nice meal that'll be more memorable than the bill. Here's where to have dinner and a drink for around $50 per person in LA.
Where To Have A Cute, Leisurely Dinner That Isn't Too Expensive image

Whether you’re picking a restaurant for a date, a solo night out, or catching up with a few friends, there’s a good chance the check will make your weekly grocery receipt look like a bargain. But nice, sit-down meals don't always have to mean wincing internally when the bill comes. That's why we made this guide. It highlights great spots where you can expect to have a full meal, including a drink, for around $50 per person. These are some super cute and reasonably-priced restaurants in LA. 

THE SPOTS

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$$$$Perfect For:First/Early in the Game DatesLiterally EveryoneOutdoor/Patio SituationWalk-Ins
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For a budget-friendly plate of pasta in a bright room with a solid R&B playlist, head to Sunday Gravy in Inglewood. The heaping plates coming out of the kitchen here are exactly the kind of stuff you'd want for dinner on a lazy Sunday: spaghetti and meatballs, a chicken parm sandwich, and other masterful red sauce classics. Everything is big enough to share and few dishes cost more than $20, including weekend-only specials like white lasagna with creamy spinach and mushrooms.


photo credit: Jakob Layman

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El Cochinito in a Silver Lake strip mall is a family-run Cuban institution that's been around since 1988, and the bright dining space looks like it just opened last year. The white-tiled walls are covered in vintage concert flyers and photos of Cuba from the '80s, plus the room glows pink thanks to a neon sign hanging in the back. The menu is full of classic Cuban dishes that cost around $15 or less. Their pollo empanizado—a deep-fried chicken dish served with maduros—is a standout, and there’s an award-winning Cubano here that you shouldn’t hesitate to try if it’s your first time.

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 a six-pack (or a whole handle of tequila) to sip after soaking up some rays down by the ocean. This beachy shack serves Caribbean dishes with a Latin twist, like ropa vieja, coconut fried chicken, and jerk salmon taco in a tropical setting that's especially great for big group dinners. You can also keep it in mind for early-in-the-game dates or lunches near the Promenade that won't make you cringe when the bill arrives.


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 group of four, and no one will have to overthink their order. 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.


photo credit: Jakob Layman

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Mazal has quickly become one of our favorite casual dinner spots on the Eastside. This vegetarian Israeli restaurant has an alleyway patio decorated with string lights, awnings, and patterned concrete walls. There’s even an old, tattered basketball hoop hanging in the back—which is, unfortunately, decorative only. But Mazal has more to offer than just a fun space. We love their smoky babaganoush and flaky bourekas, which come filled with potato, feta, or a pesto and 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.


This colorful Filipino spot in Chinatown's Far East Plaza is perfect for drinking natural wine and updating some friends on your latest plan to hack an AI influencer. The menu focuses primarily on brined meat like pork belly lechon, but the star of the show is without question the inasal. This juicy rotisserie chicken is stuffed with lemongrass and garlic, giving it sweet and citrusy notes, with a slight acidic bite at the end. For group dinners (especially if it's going to be 8-10 people), our move is to do the "Pamilya Style" Set Menu. For $40 per person, you get table snacks, veggie sides, a whole chicken inasal and pork lechon, pancit, chicken fat rice, ice cream, and tons of different sides for dipping.


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 a lifelong friend, there’s a great kale salad, and all of the pastas hover around $20.


This Torrance spot (with other locations in El Segundo, DTLA, and Gardena) specializes in crispy, tender tonkatsu. Kagura’s deep-fried cutlets are great by themselves, but they also come as part of a dinner set with rice, miso soup, and pickled veggies. Whether you go with a more traditional filet katsu gozen or a cheese-stuffed mille feuille variation, you won’t spend more than $25 on a full meal here. Sit up front near the sake bar if you want dinner to feel a bit rowdy or grab a booth table in the back for a quiet, semi-private experience.


Wife & The Somm, a fantastic wine bar and restaurant in Glassell Park, is the kind of place you’ll meet friends on a Wednesday, and return for a solo meal on Thursday simply because you like it so much. Dinner here feels more like hanging out at a garden party than eating at a formal restaurant. The charming dining area is divided up into three sections (a front courtyard, main bar area, and a leafy back patio), and each one leads seamlessly into the other. When you get hungry, order some crispy brussels sprouts, charcuterie, and spicy tuna tartare with an actual kick.


The chile en nogada at this Mexican restaurant in Bell deserves its own cheerleading squad. But that’s only part of the allure at this longtime neighborhood staple. The massive room is wrapped in bright orange paint, families push together tables for big group dinners, and a live band performs on weekends. Beyond the stuffed peppers, La Casita Mexicana serves some excellent mole-covered flautas, smothered enchiladas, and juicy cochinita pibil that’s worth driving out of your way for. You can easily have dinner for around $30 per head, with portions big enough to guarantee leftovers for lunch the next day.


If you're trying to save a little money but don’t want to settle for fast food, head to Joy on York's brick-walled dining room. The counter-service spot in Highland Park serves Taiwanese street food that you can snack on or combine to create a full meal. Pull up a stool near their big street-facing windows and munch on things like sesame scallion bread, dan dan noodles, shrimp wontons, and mapo tofu. Or go with the $15 “Joy Combo” which comes with your choice of any cold appetizer, cup of soup, shaken iced tea, and a scallion bread sandwich.

Set back from the beach in a spacious Hermosa Beach shopping center, Barsha is the kind of unpretentious, under-the-radar restaurant that South Bay residents probably don’t want anyone outside of their zip code to know about. But sorry to them, it’s too charming (and reasonably priced) not to share: The food at this breezy, indoor-outdoor spot leans North African, with a good mix of small plates like falafel sliders and roasted cauliflower alongside larger, shareable entrees like juicy lamb meatballs or a rich seafood stew, which are all under $30. And since the owners also run a wine shop nearby, you’ll find a fantastically priced list that offers various-sized pours to suit however many people you’re drinking with.

photo credit: Wonho Frank Lee

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight Dinner

Daichan is a strip mall spot on Ventura in Studio City that specializes in Japanese comfort food. There’s spicy curry udon, Japanese-style fried chicken, cold soba, and gigantic tempura rice bowls–all for under $15. The main draw at this family-run cafe, though, is the “original poki bowl.” Decades before chopped raw fish in plastic bowls became part of the LA food pyramid, Daichan was cranking out giant portions of fresh fish on top of rice and lettuce. The cozy, art-filled dining room is one of the most popular lunch spots in the neighborhood, but at dinnertime, things calm down as tables unwind with bottles of beers and sake.

Driving down San Vicente near the Beverly Center can be a stressful experience involving last-minute lane changes and very confusing street signs. But if you manage to find this cozy, old-school Spanish spot sandwiched between a credit union and a sushi restaurant, prepare for a lovely time warp. La Paella serves one of the largest tapas menus we’ve come across that includes favorites like a silky tortilla española and callos a la madrileña, a rich garbanzo bean and tripe stew that warms you up for a pour of vino tinto. You can split an order of paella, plus get some wine and a tapa or two, and be out of the door for roughly $50 each.

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