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 Westchester is finally coming to LA and she told you in advance she already hates it here? We can handle it.
But sometimes, there are situations that just don't fit into a concise, pre-determined 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. (Drink as much Chardonnay as you want, though.)
Now go ahead and plan that Wednesday night dinner.
Tsubaki is a new Izakaya spot in Echo Park, and while the small-plate style of Japanese eating has a reputation for being on the expensive side, this bright little spot keeps things extremely affordable. Plates run generally around $8 - $12, and range from trout ceviche to curry soba to chicken meatballs. And everything is excellent. The atmosphere at Tsubaki is also fun and laid back, and the waitstaff has zero issue getting you very drunk on sake.
From the wood panelled everything to the tiny little lights hanging from the ceiling, Kismet is definitely cute. It’s also one of the most-hyped spots in town right now, which isn’t exactly SCRPRTCUWFF material. But Kismet isn’t too painfully cool - the space is pretty quiet, the waitstaff are super friendly, and almost everything on the Middle Eastern-inspired menu is under $20. Share some plates, grab a few photos for your next week of Instagram, and try a wine you’ve never heard of.
An authentic-feeling French bistro isn’t really what you’d expect to find on the outskirts of Brentwood. But then you meet Belle Vie, a restaurant full of wicker bistro chairs, big red booths, and French people, and you realize the people of Brentwood have been keeping this secret to themselves. The menu is ideal for sharing and the beef burgundy tacos are a must-order as you engage in some (mostly) light flirting with your new Parisian boyfriend/waiter.
The massive Buenos Aires streetscapes plastered over Barcito’s walls aren't exactly a master class in subtlety, but there’s something charming about this downtown Argentinian spot. Maybe it’s because its Staples Center-adjacent neighborhood is otherwise littered with meaningless corporate bars or because we can't stop thinking about their octopus and egg dish, but Barcito is where we want to be on laid-back Wednesday nights with friends.
Your best friend Amy just texted you she's breaking up with her boyfriend and blames her dog and needs comfort quickly. Head to Cafe Birdie, the Highland Park spot with excellent comfort food (order all the pork cheek ragu Amy can handle) and an interior that reads like a French country home you rented for a weekend while you're going through a quarter life crisis (aka Amy). Also, the cocktail situation is tremendous.
La Carmencita feels like it came out of nowhere on Highland Ave. in Hollywood, but this corner taqueria is bright, colorful, and exactly where you want to be for an affordable dinner with friends. This is a Baja-style cantina, so expect a lot of fresh fish in a lot of different ways. There’s the tropical ceviche served in a coconut, marlin tacos, and the cheese-doused shrimp cazuela that’s actually the best thing there.
There isn’t a whole lot of cuteness in Culver City. This is a part of town with a restaurant called Destroyer, and another one called The Cannibal. But we would argue strongly for the cuteness of Loqui, which might have concrete floors, but also has chilis hanging from the walls. Order a couple of tacos at the counter, have beers on the back patio while you wait, and get out for $15 a head.
Montana Ave. is one of LA’s most charming streets, but it’s also one of the strangest: gourmet froyo, cougars 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 place has a minimalist look, but the vibe is still extremely welcoming and the food is solid and accessible. Score a table on the sidewalk for the ideal gossip session.
Bowery Bungalow is easily one of the most underrated restaurants on the Eastside. The renovated craftsman bungalow right off of Sunset Junction has more charm than it knows what to do with, and a Mediterranean/North African menu that happens to be excellent. And who doesn’t need a giant plate of hummus to binge on while unraveling about that relationship they torpedoed? Also, that back patio is prime.
The first thing you’ll notice walking into Escuela are all the little wooden shoes hanging from the ceiling. It’s admittedly concerning. But then you sit down, pop open those bottles of red wine you brought (it’s a true BYOB spot), order some tacos, and suddenly realize you love it here. The space isn’t large, but has a great low-key energy to it, and on a weekday you won't need a reservation.
Freddy Smalls might be the most ideal meetup spot in the whole city. Located in an area of West LA not really close to anything except the 405, Freddy Smalls is where you go when you live in Santa Monica and your friend lives in Weho and neither of you wants to commit to driving all the way to each other. Is the food going to blow you away? No. But you'll definitely find something you like and its interior is nice and casual. Also, the cocktails are excellent and that’s actually what you both are here for.
Oh my god, stop. It’s so cute here. Wait, is that an actual tuffet? Like one that you can buy? It is. Located in the back of an antique furniture store on La Brea, Cafe Midi is a tiny little French spot and everything your ladies who lunch power date dreams are made of. The food here isn’t life-changing, but it’s authentic, and the menu is massive - meaning whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find. NOW GO GET THAT TUFFET, GIRL.
Badmaash gets several things right: a fun, modern space, a laid-back atmosphere, and an Indian-fusion menu that has no business being as good as it is. Despite being a fairly small place, you’re always able to snag a table pretty quickly, leaving you and the girls that much more time to figure out what you're going to do with that cute boy on Tinder who keeps messaging you back. Get the Tikka Poutine or don’t even bother coming.
We were a little tough on Market Provisions’ food when they first opened (ok, we were really tough), but the fact remains this Beverly Blvd. spot works perfectly for what it is - a casual, neighborhood haunt with good prices, an adorable interior, and a front patio created solely for you and tonights Pinot Grigio-sponsored gab fest.
Didn’t know you and the crew were in the mood for Burmese tonight? Well, you are. This bright cafe in a Silverlake strip mall has a great energy and is the second location of an SGV staple. So what does Burmese food even entail? Think big flavors, plenty of curry, and a dish called Ohnoh noodles we could eat every day. Bonus: the place is a certified Pinterest fever dream - you're definitely stealing a few ideas for that one wall you don't quite know what to do with at home.
A wine bar? With Thai food? It's not exactly the cookies and milk of restaurant combinations, but somehow Same Same has made it work perfectly. Located directly next to Daw-Yee Myanmar, Same Same actually used to be a full-fledged Thai restaurant, but recently morphed into a wine bar and simply kept the Thai food. The atmosphere is fun, but relaxed - the ideal setting for talking about your new boyfriend, who's actually not your boyfriend, but just the guy you mouth-breathe at in the elevator every day.
You can’t throw a gourmet cupcake on W. 3rd St. without hitting a cute sidewalk cafe, but for our money, Doughboys is at the top of the bunch. The tiny spot has a calm atmosphere, affordable prices, and plenty of tables to find some peace and quiet and to over-analyze the deterioration of your boyfriends listening skills. Just make sure you don’t leave without a red velvet cupcake in hand. No throwing.
This city is full of pretentious wine bars you don’t need to be wasting your time at, but Bar Covell is not one of them. Located in Los Feliz, Bar Covell has a strong list of both red and whites, and everyone there is happy to help if you have no idea what you’re doing (hint: you don’t). Other perk? It's not filled with dreadful first dates. The energy is good, the prices are fair, and you just ate an entire block of cheese while listening to Cassie talk about how she's sexting with a DJ.
This tiny little tapas place in Santa Monica sometimes gets passed over, but when it comes to finding a spot to have a four-hour venting session on a Tuesday, few places beat Manchego. The place itself has the cute factor on lockdown, and its tapas menu is easily shareable. Because that’s the point of tapas. It’s also really delicious.
Tucked away behind Melrose Place, Croft Alley offers an escape from all the would-be bloggers that inhabit 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 (this is West Hollywood after all), and then balance it out with a cauliflower grilled cheese.
Salt Air is one of the cutest restaurants on Abbot Kinney, with a bright and beachy space that never tips over into nautical kitsch. Most importantly, it’s one of the few restaurants on this over-hyped street that you can walk into on a weeknight and not have to wait an eternity. The move here is to go heavy on the shareable appetizers (but get an order of pea toast for yourself), and then go straight to the monkey bread for dessert.
If we had to dream up a SCRPRTCUWFF, it would probably come in the form of Pizzicotto. This Brentwood mainstay has a handwritten menu, wine bottles lined up all over the place, and old-school simple Italian food. It’s the perfect place to order a couple of pizzas and debrief on the latest dating mess Sophie has gotten herself into.