As much as you love seeing all your friends together in one place, you definitely don’t love planning a big group meal. Don’t feel bad - your friends dread the whole thing, too. Between picky eaters, cramped booths, and the one person who always divides the check down to the exact penny, sit-down group meals are tedious and usually never worth the hassle. And that’s why you need to pick a place where people can come and go as they please.
The “open house” group meal - where people can arrive, order food, and leave whenever they want - isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that’s hard to pull off in LA. You need a place that’s big enough for all your friends, but where sitting together and ordering everything at once isn’t a requirement. Here’s a list that will help.
photo credit: Philip Guerette
DeSano Pizza Bakery
You may have been here before to catch the Champions League Final, but DeSano isn’t just a place to watch soccer - they serve some very good Neapolitan pizza as well. Located in East Hollywood, this order-at-the-counter spot is essentially just a big warehouse filled with a bunch of pizza ovens and long tables, but that’s an ideal set-up when you aren’t trying to glue everybody in their seats for two hours. The Bianca and sausage, pepperoni, and garlic-topped DeSano are our favorites of the pizzas. Beer and wine only.
Perhaps not everyone in your group wants to eat exotic sausages in a giant room with a DJ, but once they realize that they can order individually at the front counter, they’ll make it work. Wurstküche has spots in Venice and the Arts District, and both locations are ideal for when you’ve invited a lot of people who are all going to show up at different times. As far as the menu goes, not every sausage is filled with rattlesnake and rabbit (though that’s the best one), so even your less-adventurous friends can find a chicken sausage or something. Just make sure you get multiple orders of the Belgian fries for the table.
Triple Beam Pizza
Triple Beam is our favorite pizza in Los Angeles, and its order-at-the-counter setup is perfect when you don’t want to deal with getting a large group reservation somewhere. Everybody picks their pizzas up front, then heads to the fantastic back patio to drink wine and revel in the fact that they won’t have to split a check later tonight. Their menu changes seasonally, but the asparagus pizza is on the menu when you’re there, get it.
Verdugo Bar is an excellent beer garden in Glassell Park where all your friends can sit outside on long tables, drink craft beer, and order individually from one of several food trucks parked outside. The truck lineup rotates frequently, but they always have a solid variety, so even your pickiest friend won’t have much to complain about.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Spoke Bicycle Cafe
Spoke is a bicycle repair shop/all-day hangout right on the LA River that somehow also feels like a summer camp. At night it’s usually pretty empty, which means you can text half your contact list and still feel like you have the place to yourself. Everybody orders individually from the counter inside, and unlike summer camp, this Frogtown spot has food you’ll actually want to eat (try the veggie burger). There’s also a solid craft beer list and plenty of wine.
The beer at this Downtown brewery is fine, but you and your friends are here because the space is massive, there’s an entire row of Skee-Ball machines in the back, and if you get hungry, they have a solid selection of chicken sandwiches, burgers, and the always important loaded tots. If you’re rolling deep this weekend and looking for a no-strings-attached day-party spot, A.D. Brewing is the answer to your problems.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Red Lion Tavern
The classic German beer garden in Silver Lake is where you go when you and your friends want to chug giant steins of beer, eat sausage platters, and sit out on the gloriously kitschy back patio that kind of feels like the Germany section at Epcot. While this place is great for parties that’ll swell in size as the night goes on, it’s important to note that come Friday and Saturday nights, it also becomes a mob scene… so plan accordingly.
photo credit: Wonho Frank Lee
Block Party is a massive spot in Highland Park that’s a perfect place to burn through an entire Sunday afternoon without even realizing it. From the outside, it seems fairly small, but the party starts on the back patio, where there are long communal tables and a cruise ship-sized shuffleboard court for showdowns with people you don’t really like (but still invited to come anyway). They also have an excellent craft beer list, boozy slushies, and when people get hungry, you can order-in any outside food you want. Tip: Order Triple Beam Pizza.
If you think you’re in the wrong place, that means you’ve arrived at Eatalian Cafe. Located in a giant warehouse in Gardena, Eatalian Cafe is not a cafe - it’s an Italian food emporium that feels like a laid-back version of Eataly. There’s a long wrap-around pizza counter with a kitchen, espresso bar, gelato stand, and bakery. It’s overwhelming, so here’s your game plan: Start with one of their pizzas (the prosciutto-topped Mimmo is our favorite), end with a cup of gelato, and take a box of pastries for the drive home.
The Ballast Point Tasting Room in Long Beach isn’t so much a tasting room as it is a gigantic, two-story shrine to day drinking - that also happens to have the best views in town. On weekends this place becomes a bro-pocalypse, but luckily it’s so big, you can always find a table for you and your friends to post up and talk about that guy in a Quiksilver hat shouting about his threesome in Brazil. When it comes to the food, stick to the burgers and fish tacos.
Located in a converted bungalow in Virgil Village, Melody is a natural wine bar and one of the most underrated places to drink on the Eastside. The interior is good-sized, with a bunch of tables and a big bar area, but when you know the group is over six people, definitely head to the side patio. Out there, you can take over the large communal table, drink unfiltered gamay all night, and not worry about how late your ex-roommate is going to be. If you get hungry, there are nightly pop-up dinners with everything from homemade pasta to roasted chicken.
Golden Road Brewing
Sure, Golden Road is basically the beer equivalent of Kohl’s these days, but their massive brewery space in Atwater Village is still a great place to set up shop for the afternoon and let your friends come when they can. The sprawling space has an indoor pub area, a private event space in the back, and a large front patio that’s both child- and dog-friendly. As far as food goes, there’s a solid enough menu with everything from burgers to salads to carnitas poutine, as well as plenty of vegetarian options for your annoying friends.
On weekends, this outdoor tasting room in Malibu is a borderline mess, but one way to bypass the hordes of screaming girls wearing the exact same sundress is to email Rosenthal in advance and make a group reservation. That way you can spend your night worrying about how many wine flights is too many wine flights, instead of that drunk person who thought stilettos and grass was a good idea. There are food trucks on the weekends and you can order in any outside food you want.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
Everson Royce Bar
If you haven’t heard of this Arts District bar/restaurant by now, we’re worried about you, because that rock you’re living under must be really big. But in case you are that person, all you need to know is that ERB was basically created for casual big group meals. The inside bar area is definitely more for date night, so instead, take your group to the back patio, one of our favorite outdoor restaurant spaces in the city. The menu is small, but filled with fantastic bar food that includes pork belly steamed buns, perfectly baked biscuits, and our #1 burger in LA.
The Slice & Pint in El Segundo is a great place for a casual pizza night. It’s run by El Segundo Brewing Company, and draws heavy crowds for the excellent craft beer selection - brewed just up the block at their brewery headquarters - and plenty of pizzas, salads, and appetizers. The order-at-the-counter operation isn’t gigantic, but the communal tables are, and they’ll come in handy when your friends all have kids and therefore could show up at any point (or not at all). Slices are always available, but if you’re committing to a whole pie, our favorites are the Belle Isle (roasted garlic, arugula, and mushrooms) or the Benny (meatballs and pickled peppers).