Here at The Infatuation we take our “Perfect Fors” pretty seriously. A good restaurant could be perfect for a first date, but an all-out disaster when it comes to a big group birthday. It’s about knowing where to go for the specific occasion.
But what about all the times when there isn’t necessarily an occasion? You know the night. It’s 7:30pm, you’re still in your work clothes, and you completely forgot you said you’d grab a bite to eat with your friend. It’s the casual midweek dinner.
Rarely talked about, and yet it’s every damn meal of the week: all you want is a place that’s easy to get into, won’t empty your wallet, and will get you home watching Netflix by 10pm. Oh, and with good food too. It’s a harder combination to nail than you think, but we’ve rounded up a collection of LA’s best spots for it and organized the options by neighborhood. Your last-minute Wednesday night dinner will never be mediocre again.
Pasta Sisters Culver City
Our only real issue with the original Pasta Sisters in Pico-Arlington was the lack of wine. And the possibility that we’d have to eat our bolognese in the car because there were no available seats. But Pasta Sisters’ new location in Culver City solves both these problems. It’s enormous, with two patios, and they serve beer and wine. Otherwise the set-up is pretty much the same - mix and match your noodles and pasta, eat too much focaccia while you wait, and get a slice of ricotta pie you don’t have room for before you go home.
On a Tuesday night when you get out of work at 9pm, the best dinner decision is the one that involves not making a decision at all. If you live anywhere near Mar Vista, Little Fatty is the place you’ll end up at after you drive home on autopilot. Walk in, order a badly-needed cocktail, and get the Taiwanese Sunday Gravy - a sort-of Italian, sort-of Chinese pasta dish that’s the best thing here.
If there’s a time when it’s relatively safe to venture to the Third Street Promenade, it would be a weeknight. The tourists have retreated to their hotels or The Lobster, the traffic has finally calmed down, and no one is getting particularly wild at the English pub on Santa Monica Blvd. This is when you should be eating at Tumbi. The modern Indian food is both reasonably priced and delicious, and comes out fast enough that you might actually be able to achieve eight hours of sleep tonight.
You’re craving tacos, but it’s Thursday and you live on the Westside, so going to your favorite Eastside taco spot is a fate worse than death. But it’s fine because you have Loqui in Culver City. Loqui is very low-key (see what we did there?) - you order at the counter and there aren’t a lot of seats - but they also have beer and some of the best flour tortillas in existence, so the whole place is a net win.
Local Kitchen + Wine Bar
There are neighborhood spots you go to because the food is acceptable and you can wear pajamas, and then there are neighborhood spots you go to because the food is actually good. Such is the case with Local Kitchen + Wine Bar in the Ocean Park area of Santa Monica. You’ll be able to get a reservation the night of or walk right in, but there are also plenty of people around. The food is simple and easy to share, although you might want to keep the thin and crispy pizzas to yourself.
Maple Block Meat Co.
Located on a strip of Sepulveda in Culver City best known for carpet cleaning outlets, Maple Block is the cool and affordable BBQ spot your week could always use more of. The brisket is tremendous, but it’s everything else on the menu that keeps us coming back: the pimento sandwich, the mac and cheese, and whatever dessert they easily convince us to order. We want it all.
Milo & Olive
If Plan Check has the first date game on lock, Milo and Olive has the second. This Santa Monica pizza joint is excellent and casual and the right kind of sloppy for a second date. Because if they still can’t eat a slice of pizza in front of you, just leave now. Especially Milo and Olive’s pizza, which is some of the best on the Westside. Just don’t forget to order those garlic knots.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Messob Ethiopian Restaurant
The only way Messob could make you feel more at home is if they took over your apartment and made dinner for you there. This family-run Ethiopian spot is a relaxed place for a casual meal with the friends you’ve turned into your LA family. And if you order the Super Messob Exclusive, you’ll get a giant combo platter that will make dinner feel like a potluck. Except with way better food than you or your friends would ever make.
DeSano Pizza Bakery
This particular corner of East Hollywood has a lot in the way of casual options, but we find it hard to go past DeSano. The space is huge, the Neapolitan pizzas are some of the best in town, there’s plenty of wine, and there are lots of Italians screaming at soccer on the TVs. If you’re keeping things casual, might as well drink one too many glasses of Chianti and learn some Italian swear words.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
EMC Seafood And Raw Bar
Koreatown is an easy move for a group dinner involving barbecue, but sometimes sitting around a giant smoking table of meat is going to involve a little too much smoke and meat for your Tuesday night. EMC, on the other hand, is pretty ideal no matter what kind of mood you’re in. The modern space on the ground floor of a Ktown mall is always a good time, and while it’s seafood-heavy, there’s plenty of other stuff to eat on the accessible and affordable menu. Also, they serve dollar oysters every day from 4 to 7pm.
Kochi is in the heart of La Cienega’s restaurant row, but unlike its sceney, overpriced neighbors, you don’t need to have a fake IMDB page to get a table here. In fact, you probably only need about 10 spare minutes to wait for a table and you’ll be sitting in front of the best bowl of udon outside of Little Tokyo. The place is small but lively, with a great neighborhood atmosphere. The bowls are huge and all fall within the $15 range. Get the Uni Cream Udon.
One of you wants to go on a date, while the other just needs delivery pizza. Split the difference, pick up a bottle of wine, and head to Pace Joint. The pizza (and pasta and salads) are better than the ones you would have ordered in, the place is BYOB, and the secret patio out back makes it feel like you actually planned ahead. And because the place looks like a delivery-only spot up-front, you shouldn’t have much trouble walking right in.
The Original Hoy-Ka Hollywood
While you could make the case for just about any Thai Town joint for a casual midweek dinner outing, our choice is always Hoy-Ka. You can’t go wrong with any of the traditional Thai staples, but if you’re in the mood to try somethign new, get their fish curry - it’s excellent.
There are very few things Stout doesn’t get right. This casual burger bar in Hollywood (with a few other locations around town) has a reasonably-priced menu with consistently delicious burgers and a concise beer list that’s just as good. You can always find a table and the atmosphere is low-key and relaxed - an astounding feat considering you’re eating dinner on Cahuenga.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Jones Hollywood is one of LA’s great restaurants because of the simple fact that they do casual better than anybody else. Jones is easy to get into, affordable, and full of attractive people who are actually tolerable. We love the pizza, the skillet-served spaghetti, and the apple pie that’s among the best desserts in LA.
If you live on the Eastside and your old coworker who’s been Facebooking you to catch up lives on the Westside, Salt’s Cure is the ideal middle ground. The menu is reliably great - get the pork chop - and unlike weekends when a heavy crowd descends for brunch, weeknights here are pretty relaxed.
This Melrose spot has been a neighborhood staple since it opened thanks to its excellent drinks and English pub food that’s way better than it needs to be. If you want to catch up with your college roommate over some IPAs, but know you’ll get hungry at some point, come here.
Maybe the person who normally makes you chicken soup lives on the other side of the country, or maybe you just really needed a reuben tonight. Maybe you’re just a wallpaper enthusiast. Freedman’s is a good choice in all of these scenarios. It’s a Silver Lake spot filled with comfort food, cocktails, and yes, wallpaper. You can order toast topped with caviar and an insane amount of butter and feel pretty great about making that your dinner tonight.
You may or may not already be in your pajamas at 7pm, but you’re not going to admit that when you get a text from your sister about the dinner you had said you’d have with her tonight. Keep things comfortable and go get dumplings at the very casual Joy. You might have to wait in line for a little bit, but your food should come out pretty quickly, and once you start eating the chiayi chicken you’ll no longer be missing your pajama plans for the night.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
There comes a point in most weeks when you want comfort food and you want your friends to be eating it with you. Fat Dragon is our go-to neighborhood Chinese spot on the Eastside, serving extremely solid classics that always taste really fresh. Delivery is never a bad choice, but dining-in at their Sunset Blvd. strip mall location is easy and affordable.
It’s Tuesday, and you’ve got a date. You want it to be nice, but also not that big of a deal. This Sunset Junction spot (in an actual bungalow house) perfectly rides that line between casual/cool and sexy/I really like you. The North African-inspired menu is also well-priced and excellent.
If only all neighborhood pizza joints were as good as Cosa Buona. This new Silver Lake restaurant from the people behind Alimento has all the classics (mozzarella sticks, meatballs, margherita pizzas), and doesn’t really mess with them, except that the quality is way higher than the place your parents used to take you for dinner when you got good grades. If you want one of the booths, you’ll need to make a reservation, but bar seats are relatively easy to come by for a weeknight dinner.
Not all casual weeknight dinners need to involve sweatpants and bowls of soup. When you want a place for excellent wine and great food, but no fuss, Oriel is an ideal option. This laid-back wine bar and French bistro in Chinatown has a nice side patio where you can sit and have a charcuterie board or an excellent steak - before you order an extra bottle of beaujolais and turn your casual Wednesday night into something a little less casual.
If you turn down queso on a Thursday, you are not to be trusted. If you need it, you go to Bar Ama. The downtown spot is the ideal place to roll in with some friends for a last-minute dinner and have a fantastic, affordable Tex-Mex feast. It can get crowded, so a reservation might be a good idea, but even if you walk in, you won’t wait long at this casual downtown spot.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Just because a place is a destination restaurant, doesn’t mean it’s some fancy once-a-year spot. Coni’Seafood is located off the 105 Freeway in Inglewood and is the low-key Mexican seafood joint your Wednesday needs. The interior is fine, but you want a spot on their massive back patio. Get the marlin tacos and as much of the house habanero salsa as you can handle.