The Best LA Restaurants For A Birthday Dinner
photo credit: Dylan James Ho
In theory, birthdays should be fun and easy. You’ve done the hard work of staying sane and likable for another trip around the sun, and in turn, your friends and family are supposed to treat you like the angel that you are. So why does finagling your birthday dinner always end up feeling stressful? We're here to help.
These are places with enough space to accommodate a group, enough ambiance to feel like a party, and enough drinks to make you forget about the inexorable march of time. So rifle through your closet, grab your crown, and pat yourself on the back for being a formidable event planner—here is our updated guide to the best birthday dinners in Los Angeles.
Winter birthdays in LA are tricky. The weather is still decent, but you’re not going to convince many people to hang out on a rooftop and dance all night. Our advice: lean into the coziness of the season and go to Dunsmoor. This fancy, Southern-ish spot in Glassell Park has a roaring firepit (that they cook food on, in fact), plus long wooden tables that feel like you’re eating at a king’s banquet. Get the seared baby albacore, sour milk cornbread, and any giant piece of meat that catches your eye. And then, head to the semi-secret wine bar in the back for a nightcap.
West Hollywood has no shortage of sceney, over-the-top spots where you can show up in a daring outfit and feel like the birthday celebrity that you are. The top place to do just that right now is Đi Đi. The clubby Vietnamese spot on La Cienega is a leaf-covered cathedral for people who want to listen to Drake, drink coconut-washed rum, and take smoldering selfies. The most surprising aspect, however, is that the food is quite decent. We suggest the shrimp toast on milk bread, the sticky fish sauce chicken wings, and the shrimp-packed spring rolls.
Despite being located in a new apartment complex in Virgil Village, Budonoki feels like it’s been around for years. And that’s a compliment. The casual izakaya is dimly lit with exposed piping and has a sort of sticky grunginess that suits a semi-riotous birthday dinner. You’ll eat tons of delicious, shareable plates like jidori chicken oyster skewers and bowls of wagyu yakisoba. Old-school Missy and Ja Rule blast over the speakers. Someone will absolutely do a sake bomb. And by that, we mean you. It is your birthday.
The only way a birthday—or any kind of night—at Level 8 works is if you go in embracing the absurdity of it all. This nightlife megaplex inside the Moxy Downtown hotel includes multiple restaurant concepts, an outdoor pool deck, and a bar that doubles as a carousel. It’s Vegas-level silliness, but if that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed. As far as an itinerary, we recommend a table at Qué Bárbaro—a solid South American steakhouse with big, shareable plates—for dinner, then a stop at Mr. Wanderlust for well-made cocktails, burlesque dancers, and a man crooning on a spinning piano. Godspeed.
“Just meet at this wine bar” is usually a recipe for a birthday that ends at 8:45pm. Not at Stir Crazy, a casual spot on Melrose that feels more like a green room after-party at The Largo than a place to sip natural wine. People are on their feet, servers mingle with tables, and everybody’s eating delicious food. The menu skews snacky, with stuff like marinated tomatoes, serrano ham, and a particularly sexy plate of anchovies. So instead of planning a sit-down birthday dinner experience, plan on taking over a few tables, letting the wine flow, and stumbling out several hours later.
A birthday house party would be lovely this year. The only problem is you aren’t a crypto king and don’t own one of those. Lingua Franca in Frogtown is the next best option. The American bistro opened in the spring of 2023 but already feels like it’s been around for decades. Its tiny A-frame building sits right on the LA River and is perpetually crowded. Friends sit out front by the bike bath and drink beer during Happy Hour, while larger parties fill up the back patio with bottles of orange wine, bowls of risotto, and a truly great burger.
You’ve done the group dinner at a fancy restaurant thing. You’ve done the bar gathering. Now what? The Baked Potato, that’s what. This legendary jazz club in Studio City is one of the strangest and most objectively delightful places to throw a birthday party in LA. On any given night, the grungy, one-room bar on Cahuenga is packed with tatted octogenarians, burly musicians, and someone’s nephew getting his mind blown by the power of improvisation. As the name suggests, the menu is composed almost entirely of baked potatoes. There are 24 total varieties, and you should definitely order one—even if it’s just to take a picture of how big it is. Be sure to grab tickets well in advance.
There’s nothing wrong with planning an “activity birthday," as long as it includes the promise of good pizza afterward. That’s why the combination of a coastal hike and Endless Color is foolproof. The casual pizzeria/wine bar/record store in Topanga Canyon feels worlds away from the stuffy dining rooms lining PCH. Look forward to blistered Neapolitan pies, natural wine, and a front patio adorned with disco balls. Roll in without a reservation and hang out as the sun sets (even if you’re a little sweaty).
After several years of subdued birthdays, you’re in the mood to go big at a place like Loreto. This upscale Mexican seafood restaurant in Frogtown is a production in every sense. You'll sit in a massive warehouse-y space, drink boozy cocktails, and order large-format platters that will feed every person who shows up to your party. Our favorite dish is the whole fish of the day, which comes with a spread of rice, beans, escabeche, three salsas, blue corn tortillas, and tiny quesadillas that, if you ask nicely, will be refilled by your server.
Backyard barbecues always make for a great birthday. But considering last year you nearly set the house on fire, you might as well let Le Great Outdoor take the reins this time. A meal at this outdoor restaurant in a foliage-covered Santa Monica parking lot feels like an impromptu block party. Everybody hangs out on picnic tables, drinking chilled wine from Argentina, and eating platters of meat, seafood, and vegetables that just came off the grill.
Old Hollywood has gotten a bit of a glow-up these days, with recent renovations of places like La Dolce Vita and The Georgian. If you’re in the mood for a grungier Hollywood birthday though, a night at Dan Tana’s remains the undefeated plan. This Italian spot in Weho is small, cramped, and chaotic. You’ll sip martinis, eat giant plates of chicken parm, and take shots with the host for reasons you won't remember.
Farmhouse Kitchen is a colorful, kitschy Thai restaurant in West Adams with neon pink lighting, a giant back patio, shareable entrees, and cocktails that are served in foot-high plastic crowns. In other words, if you like your birthdays to be a bit over-the-top, take care of that reservation now. The yellow curry, Thai-style fried chicken, and the panang neua, a giant short rib shank slathered in panang curry, are all excellent.
We get it. Birthdays at breweries are played out. A person can only take so many rounds of cornhole and hazy IPA flights before blocking all emails with the subject line “Hoppy Birthday.” But then there’s Homage Brewing, an objectively cool place to hang out whether you drink beer or not. The Chinatown brewery does, in fact, have good beer, but they also offer natural wine, and if you get hungry, a food menu with scallop crudo with salsa macha and masa-battered chicken wings. Then, around 9pm, Homage turns into a sweaty dance party that goes deep into the night.
From the moment you pull up to Mun and hear Usher blasting from the speakers, it’ll be clear that this KBBQ spot delivers more than just nice cuts of meat. The room feels as much like a nightclub as it does a restaurant: there are flashy black marble tables outfitted with grills, and the drinks—like Japanese whisky, cognac, and lychee martinis—flow freely. The energy at Mun is perfect for when you want a premium barbecue experience without sacrificing a good old-fashioned party atmosphere. Balance high-end meats (the $200 variety combo includes flat-iron steak, honeycomb-cut pork belly, pork jowl, and short ribs) with fun a la carte items for the table.
Trying to appease all your friends’ tastes is a nightmare no one deserves, particularly on your birthday. That’s why we recommend going to Quarter Sheets. This Echo Park pizza shop only really does two things—pan-style pizza and dessert—and if that’s an issue with anyone in your friend group, it might be time to make some cuts. The dining room is charming and retro, a perfect mash-up between a funky wine bar (there’s a rotating list of four to five wines) and a '90s-era pizza joint where you might’ve…also had a birthday party. The pizza and dessert specials rotate weekly, but whether it’s gooey, crunchy pepperoni pie or decadent princess cake, everyone’s going to walk out happy.
This idyllic Baldwin Hills restaurant has a patio next to an herb garden, comfort food like shrimp and grits and pecan pie, plus bottomless mimosas on weekends. Oh, and there’s also homemade cornbread topped with whipped honey butter, a warm, decadent dish that’s definitely way better than the $25 Target gift card your aunt sent you.
We’ve been fans of this Filipino spot since it was a BYOB pop-up in 2017 called Lasa. While the interior, the management, and the menu have all changed over the years, many of the same bright and spicy flavors (the electric orange salsita is a non-negotiable order) and friendly faces are still there in its current iteration to welcome you for a fun, family-style meal. For birthday dinners—especially if it's going to be 8-10 people—our move is to do the "Pamilya Style" Set Menu for the group. You'll 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.