LA

The Casual Weeknight Dinner Guide

PHOTO: Jakob Layman

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.

All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. The Casual Weeknight Dinner Guide is presented by the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. Click here to learn more about the benefits you get from paying with a Premier Rewards Gold Card while dining out.

westside

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Little Fatty

Mar Vista
3809 Grand View Boulevard
7.3
MAP

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Tumbi Indian

Santa Monica
115 Santa Monica Blvd
8.2
MAP

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Loqui

Culver City
8850 Washington Blvd.
8.1
MAP

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.

Photo: Holly Liss

Local Kitchen + Wine Bar

Santa Monica
1736 Ocean Park Boulevard
7.6
MAP

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.

Photo: Local Kitchen + Wine Bar / Facebook

The Tripel

Playa Del Rey
333 Culver Blvd
8.3
MAP

If there’s anything you’d rather eat on a Wednesday than sweet potato tots and one of the best burgers in town, then we’ll leave you to your cabbage soup. Because there’s nowhere we’d rather be on Wednesday right than The Tripel. This Playa Del Rey spot is the neighborhood hangout everyone else in the city is jealous of.

8.4
MAP

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 And Olive

Santa Monica
2723 Wilshire Blvd.
8.3
MAP

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.

central la

8.1
MAP

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.

Baroo

East Hollywood
5706 Santa Monica Blvd
8.8
MAP

Ideally, you’d take up meditation to deal with the fact that your boss makes you print and read aloud every email he receives. But you start thinking about ripping up those printouts and throwing them in his face after three minutes of mantras, so that isn’t a realistic plan. Instead, have a solo dinner at Baroo, which pretty much counts as meditation. It’s always very quiet in this tiny Hollywood spot, and the interesting, mostly good-for-you bowls full of fermented things are excellent.

DeSano Pizza Bakery

East Hollywood
4959 Santa Monica Blvd
7.9
MAP

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: Philip Guerette

EMC Seafood And Raw Bar

Koreatown
3500 W 6th St Ste 101
7.9
MAP

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

Beverly Hills / West Hollywood
408 N La Cienega Blvd
7.7
MAP

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Pace Joint

West Hollywood
7860 Sunset Blvd.

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.

La Carmencita

Hollywood
1156 N. Highland Ave.
7.8
MAP

Hollywood isn’t exactly the neighborhood for casual dinners, but La Carmencita is the exception to that rule. When you have a bunch of friends with you and no one is willing to make a decision, take the reins and direct the team to La Carmencita. Baja-style Mexican seafood is a lot more fun than the mediocre sushi place you always end up at, especially when you get one of the cheese-covered shrimp cazuelas for yourself. Sharing is overrated.

8.1
MAP

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.

Stout

Hollywood
1544 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
7.5
MAP

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.

Jones Hollywood

West Hollywood
7205 Santa Monica Blvd.
8.4
MAP

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.

Salt's Cure

Hollywood
1155 Highland Ave.
7.9
MAP

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.

8.0
MAP

Time and time again, Plan Check proves itself as one of LA’s best casual restaurants. With locations all over the city, the trendy-but-not-too-trendy spot has a strong beer list, good food, and the kind of low-key feel that generally works for everything. If you’re hunting for a great first date spot on a Tuesday night, your search ends here.

Village Idiot

Fairfax
7383 Melrose Ave.
7.9
MAP

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.

7.8
MAP

Not every casual sushi night has to end in the word Sugarfish. Murakami on Melrose has good regular sushi, but you really come here for one thing: the sushi bowls. The modern space is easy and efficient, ensuring you leave with plenty of time to get home and watch that boring documentary you’ve been looking forward to all week.

eastside

La Morra is a pizza oven in a trailer that shows up at Hayden in Culver City most Tuesdays and Tabula Rasa in East Hollywood most Thursdays. They make five or so different types of pie every night, and all of them are fantastic. It’s perfect for a night pretending you have an excellent wine collection and a wood-fired pizza oven in your backyard.

Rinjani

Glendale
107 E Broadway

Rinjani is a newer option in Glendale, and one absolutely worth checking in on. They serve pretty classic versions of Indonesian staples, like nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), satays, and a fantastic beef rendang.

Freedman’s

Silver Lake
2619 Sunset Blvd
8.4
MAP

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.

Joy

Highland Park
5100 York Blvd

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.

Blossom

Silver Lake
4019 W Sunset Blvd
7.4
MAP

You bailed on dinner with your friends tonight because mostly, you just need some quiet. Blossom in Silver Lake is a great place to go when you want to be alone, but you also don’t have anything to eat in your apartment. Head downstairs to their basement dining room to eat your rare steak pho in beautiful silence.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Mh Zh

Silver Lake
3536 W Sunset Blvd
9.2
MAP

Ignore the occasionally long wait time and not-totally-set-in-stone hours of operation. Mh Zh is one of the best casual midweek dinner spots in the whole city. The place is essentially a sidewalk cafe along Sunset, and by our estimations, the entire menu can be ordered for about $90. You should consider doing so, because the Israeli/Mediterranean food here is phenomenal, and life’s too short not to become excruciatingly full on something called lamb ragoooo. They don’t take reservations, but if there’s a wait, put your name in and go grab a drink at Cliff’s Edge next door.

Fat Dragon

Silver Lake
3500 W Sunset Blvd
8.0
MAP

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.

8.2
MAP

Daw Yee isn’t just a great casual midweek dinner spot. It’s also a great weekend spot, start of the week spot, and end of the week spot. If it was socially acceptable we’d eat here every night. The Burmese food is fantastic, and if you’ve never tried it before, this is the perfect place to start. Important to note: they don’t serve alcohol.

Photo: Jakob Layman

Bowery Bungalow

Silver Lake
4156 Santa Monica Blvd.
7.6
MAP

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.

Cosa Buona

Echo Park
2100 W Sunset Blvd
8.3
MAP

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.

Photo: Jakob Layman

DOWNTOWN LA

Oriel

Chinatown
1135 North Alameda Street
7.9
MAP

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.

Barcito

Downtown LA
403 W 12th St
7.2
MAP

Maybe everyone you know is about to go on trips and you used up all your vacation days going to your cousin’s wedding in Florida. Barcito’s aggressive Buenos Aires theme will make you forget that you’re stuck in LA for the foreseeable future. The food is occasionally hit or miss, but if you get the pulpo and churros, you’ll leave happy. The vibe is laid-back, something we’re very appreciative of when we’re downtown.

Bar Ama

Downtown LA
118 W. 4th St.
8.1
MAP

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: Jakob Layman
8.5
MAP

B.S. Taqueria is the older brother to Broken Spanish, and it’s also the bright, casual taco joint we’d be happy to eat at weekly. The cocktails are excellent, the tacos are worth every bit of hype, and those churros are the best we’ve ever had.

SOUTH BAY

Coni'seafood

Inglewood
3544 W Imperial Hwy
8.5
MAP

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.

Abigaile

Hermosa Beach
1301 Manhattan Ave.
8.0
MAP

If you’re in the South Bay looking for a casual dinner with friends where you won’t be forced into buying rounds of Fireball on a Monday night, Abigaile is your spot. The Hermosa Beach microbrewery/nightclub can get a bit rowdy upstairs on the weekends, but midweek there’s not a better place to drink good beer, eat delicious comfort food, and make plans to come back on the weekend.

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