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 goddess that you are. So why does planning your birthday dinner always end up being so stressful? You don’t know where to go, your friends are incapable of committing to anything more than two days in advance, and you inevitably wind up completely exhausted.
While we can’t sort out your entire life (or your friends’ lives, for that matter), we can at least provide some options for your celebratory dinner. These are places with enough space to accommodate a group, enough ambiance to feel like a party, and enough drinks to make your forget about the inexorable march of time. It sounds like a simple formula, but trust us, it’s one that’s not always easy to crack. So rifle through your closet, grab your b-day crown, and pat yourself on the back for being great - here is our newly updated guide to the best birthday dinners in Los Angeles.
You’re getting dressed up for your birthday this week and no one’s telling you otherwise. Make the most of your night and head to Gigi’s. The French bistro in Hollywood is a tough reservation, but if you manage to snag a table, you’ll be rewarded with a night of fantastic wine, snacks like steak tartare and oysters, and some of the best people-watching in town. Sure, the table of CAA agents next to you will be talking about how to get ayahuasca to Tulum next week, but after 12 months of laying face down on your sofa every night, that’s the exact kind of entertainment you’re in the market for.
Between the spinning salads, meat and potato martinis, and decor that looks straight out of a deleted scene from Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (we’re thinking around when Durmstrang and Beauxbatons are being introduced), Lawry’s The Prime Rib is your one-stop-shop for feeling like royalty on your big day. They’ve reopened for both indoor and outdoor dining (reservations are highly required), with a portion of their parking lot now transformed into a fenced-in, string-lit patio called The Silver Cart Terrace. There, you’ll find glorious carts of prime rib, bread pudding, mashed potatoes, and creamed vegetables that come right to your table - because a dinner at Lawry’s is a show from start to finish, and one you always want a ticket to.
It’s only natural to want to feel like a celebrity on your birthday, and at Cha Cha Cha, you will. The Mexican rooftop restaurant in the Arts District has a massive patio with lush vegetation and panoramic views of Downtown. It kind of feels like a garden party for the rich and famous, but a cool one that Lena Waithe might show up at. The tuna tostada and steak pa’taquear are both standouts, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything on the menu that won’t appease the varying tastes of your friend group.
If you spent a pandemic birthday wiping away tears while playing games on Zoom (and eating takeout in your bed), chances are you’re ready for a bash that properly celebrates your special day. Head to Hamburger Mary’s. The classic West Hollywood drag bar has pivoted in a big way, taking over an entire adjacent parking lot with astroturf, tables, and yes, plenty of drag queens. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday with nightly bingo (except on Friday and Saturdays), plus their famous drag queen brunch on the weekends. There are two separate brunch seatings (11am and 1pm), and reservations are a must.
If you’re one of those people who likes to have a birthday party, but hates planning one, just tell everybody to show up at Santa Monica Brew Works. The craft brewery in Santa Monica is the only one of its kind in the neighborhood, and it’s a good one too. They’ve recently reopened their massive outdoor space complete with picnic tables, string lights, and tons of space for your friends to trickle in and out when they want. They’re only operating Thursday through Sunday right now, but keep an eye on their Instagram for their most updated hours, food truck schedules, and can releases.
You already know you’re doing a beach birthday this year, the tricky thing is finding a place to hang out afterwards. Go to Golden Bull. This long-standing Santa Monica chophouse is just a quick walk under the tunnel from Will Rogers and has a massive new patio in their side parking lot. It does get pretty crowded on the weekends, so a reservation wouldn’t be the worst idea, but that said, if you show up before 4pm in flip flops and a swimsuit, you’ll still probably find a table. Get the burger and several rounds of martinis.
At this point, you’re done pretending your friends have figured out how to show up to a planned dinner on time, so you’re doing Thanks Pizza instead. This excellent, order-at-the-counter pizza shop is located on the rooftop above California Marketplace in Ktown and is a great place to hang out and not worry about who shows up when. Everybody can order their pizzas individually when they feel like it (the tangy mascarpone is a must) and there’s a ton of general seating in the outdoor food court, so you aren’t tied down to a specific table. There’s no alcohol, but it’s only a few blocks up from Ddong Ggo’s rowdy patio, if you’re looking to keep the party going.
Who says it only has to be a birthday dinner? Make a day of it and head up to Saddle Peak Lodge in the Santa Monica Mountains. The truly ancient spot (it used to be an old Pony Express outpost) feels like you left Southern California and stepped into a billionaire’s hunting lodge in Montana. As far as the food goes, concentrate on the meats, and in particular, the hard-to-find kind like elk tenderloin, emu, and the sweet and smoky braised bison short rib. Get there before 7pm for their nightly Happy Hour featuring $6 beer, $8 wine, and $10 martinis.
In an ideal world, you’d be spending your birthday on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world - we live in the one where your friends can’t even get their sh*t together for an Airbnb in Laguna. Save your passport for another day, and head to Dama. With its massive patio and open-air dining room, you’ll feel like you’re vacationing in the Caribbean (even though you’re in the middle of the Fashion District), and its highly shareable menu (never skip the whipped bean dip) and very strong cocktails make it the ideal spot for a big group birthday. Oh, and always leave room for the banana soft serve - with a candle on top, of course.
Rosaliné feels like it should be the place to go when you want to see a Kardashian - it’s on Melrose, its sign is neon, and it’s full of beautiful people wearing flowy things. Except Rosaliné also happens to have excellent Peruvian food. And while it’s not going to be a real-life E! News segment, eating here still feels like an event - especially if you get a table in the greenhouse-ish back room. Bring a lot of people so you can try every ceviche and paella on the menu.
Located on the southern edge of Koreatown, Guelaguetza is a legendary Oaxacan restaurant and one of the biggest parties in the neighborhood. Everything on the menu is phenomenal - from the giant plates of meat to the excellent tlayudas - but it’s not an official celebration without getting their signature moles (just go big and order them all on the Festival De Moles platter). With a massive space including a new parking lot patio and more than 150 different kinds of tequila and mezcal, it’s almost like Guelaguetza was designed to be a foolproof birthday spot.
If you’re looking for all of the charm and hospitality of a birthday dinner in the South, but don’t particularly feel like leaving the Pacific Time Zone, head to Alta Adams. Their versions of Southern classics are simple, yet great - specifically the black-eyed pea fritters and the shrimp and grits - and the staff is very friendly and attentive. So book a table on one of the best backyard patios in LA and make sure to some of their signature cocktails. They’re that perfect mix of sweet and refreshing, not to mention strong enough to make you forget about that white hair you found this morning.
If you’ve missed Casita’s warm, neighborhood atmosphere and strong margaritas as much as we have, the historic Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake is back open with not one, but three new outdoor patios. All the tables are meticulously spaced out, there are string lights hanging everywhere, and tons of umbrellas for shade. In other words, the ideal atmosphere for one too many birthday margaritas with your friends. Make a reservation here.
This is the gold standard of Korean BBQ in LA. While Parks BBQ might not have the party-like atmosphere of other nearby spots, and you’re definitely going to spend some money here, the quality of meat simply cannot be topped. Make sure to concentrate on the combo platters (listed as P1-P3), so you’ll get a meaty parade of all the bulgogi, short rib, ribeye, and banchan your heart could possibly desire. They’re also currently open for patio dining, with an outdoor tent complete with gleaming, silver grills. Call (213) 380-1717 to make a reservation.
Open since 1963, La Cabaña is a Westside institution serving tableside guacamole and pitchers of margaritas on their back patio. The menu is filled with good dishes, but their culinary masterpiece is the “El Verde Burrito” - it’s filled with a coop’s-worth of chicken, beans, lettuce, avocado, and tomato, all topped with salsa verde and cheese and is a must-order that can easily feed two people. La Cabana is open daily from 11am-11pm, reservations for big groups are encouraged.
It’s your former East Coast friend’s first birthday in LA, and she’s been missing NYC. The best plan of action? Buy her a big ol’ bag of bagels, jump on the Metro, and head to Majordomo. From the people behind all things Momofuku, Majordomo is massive, and the best dishes made to be shared. Focus on the sausage-stuffed peppers, bing (Chinese flatbread), and, since you’re celebrating, the giant plate of bone-in short ribs (just make sure to place your order for that one at least 24 hours in advance).
One could argue that this entirely outdoor Mexican BBQ restaurant in Frogtown was created solely with birthday dinners in mind. Long communal tables, a family-style shared menu, and excellent cocktails guarantee that no matter what sized group you roll in with, you’re in for a good time. Plus, the fact that it’s all outdoors also guarantees that you won’t be stuck in some sweaty booth of death all night. Order everything that comes with housemade tortillas.
This chaotic Italian spot is one of the loudest and most popular restaurants on the Westside. The cocktails are good - there’s one that looks like an Italian flag icee - and there’s always a rowdy crowd of people eating one of their baseball-sized arancini. Even your pickiest b-day guests (who you forgive because they actually showed up) will be happy with the menu, and you’ll be happy because there’s now a big outdoor side patio affording you even more room for spread out and get a little buzzed.
El Compadre, another classic spot right in Hollywood with a second location in Echo Park, is where you go for massive enchilada platters and margaritas that arrive at the table literally on fire. The expanded back patio is still somewhat limited on seats, and given that it’s walk-ins only right now, definitely plan to wait a bit on the weekends. That said, you can always order a few round of flaming margaritas while you wait for your name to be called.