You don’t need us to tell you that a lot of Hollywood is awful. Lost tourists looking for Don Rickles’ star on the Walk of Fame, co-working spaces full of people who do things that are objectively not jobs, and the PTSD-inducing location of the worst audition of your life are the key highlights. Surprisingly though, having dinner in Hollywood is decidedly not awful - as long as you avoid any of the establishments in or near Hollywood & Highland. With everything from exceptional Thai food to some of the very best bowls of pasta you could possibly eat, these are our favorite places for dinner in the area, whether it’s an after-work bite, or a pre-theater meal.
Asking us to pick just one this high-achieving family of three restaurants on the corner of Highland and Melrose is like asking us to play f*ck, marry, kill with the various famous actors whose first names are Chris. We’d eat the goat cheese, leek, and bacon pizza at Pizzeria Mozza every week, we regularly come up with imaginary special occasions to justify spending too much money on pasta at Osteria Mozza, and our favorite weekend activity is pretending we’re at a medieval meat feast at Chi Spacca. Collectively, these are the best restaurants in Hollywood. And obviously the answer to all three is Chris Pratt.
There’s something to be said for doing the classics perfectly, and that’s exactly what Petit Trois is doing with French food. At this tiny, counter-seating only spot, you’ll find steak tartare, croque monsieur, and the greatest damn omelette you’ll ever put in your mouth. And then there’s the Big Mec - the burger that will haunt you forever after you’ve eaten it once. Get here for a date night that feels like you could be in Paris, even if you’re rubbing elbows with someone who is not your date.
When your great-uncle is in town, staying at the Roosevelt because he heard “that’s where the young people are,” and is insisting on taking you somewhere “special” for dinner, Gwen should be your choice. You can do dinner here a couple of different ways (there are three-course and five-course options), but if Great Uncle Ronald is feeling especially generous, go for the ten-course extravaganza. A solo dinner at the bar here is a surprisingly nice option too - as long as you are ok with eating like a broke college student for the rest of the month.
All you really need to do to find good Thai food in Hollywood is close your eyes and point. But Hoy-Ka has that rare combination of great food and a fun space that suits any casual Hollywood dinner situation. The place has a lively, tavern-like feel, but it’s not so rowdy that you’d feel uncomfortable taking a first date or even your parents there. Its Sunset location is walking distance to Palladium, and if you don’t get the Sneaky Pork (named for how sneaky fantastic it is), don’t even bother going.
The Sunset and Vine complex is not where you’d expect to find a sleek seafood restaurant, but The Hungry Cat has brought ocean vibes to the least-beachy part of Los Angeles. It’s the kind of place to drop in on a weeknight, eat as many oysters as you can, and maybe chase them with a cobb salad because you could maybe use something green-ish (emphasis on the -ish).
La Carmencita is full of seafood and local actors who realized too late that moving to Hollywood to become famous didn’t mean they actually had to live in Hollywood. Even though they might be plotting their exit for as soon as they get out of their lease, in the meantime they have this Baja-style Mexican spot - it’s one of the better neighborhood hangouts around. The guacamole is great and the raw dishes are solid, but any meal here needs to involve multiple orders of shrimp cazuela, the cheese-covered shrimp dish that is the kind of thing we regularly think about when we shouldn’t be.
Osteria La Buca does not feel like it should be in Hollywood. This brick-walled, high-ceilinged Italian joint on Melrose seems like it belongs in Silver Lake or whichever neighborhood in Brooklyn is the cool one now. But pasta-lovers of Hollywood should thank the carb gods for this place, because it’s the casual weeknight spot the area needed. Getting a table here is way easier than it should be, especially considering that their bucatini carbonara is one of the top five pasta dishes in all of LA.
Farida is one of the newer spots on this list, but this modern Middle-Eastern place right at Sunset and Vine has solid food and is both efficient and in walking distance of probably whatever you’re doing after dinner. It’s also surprisingly large, making it ideal for those nights when dinner with two friends from college somehow became an unofficial class reunion. The spicy lamb is a must.
You’re in Hollywood and it’s time for dinner, but the thought of having to make an actual decision is sending you into a spiral. Just point your car towards Salt’s Cure. It works for everything from a low-key date to dinner with your fifth cousin twice removed who’s in town for a day and insisted on staying in Hollywood. They’re also open all day, so it’s a great option if it’s 4pm and you want an early dinner (or need a very late lunch).
Hollywood, among many things, is central. The likelihood of meeting a friend here when neither of you wants to drive across town on a Wednesday night is extremely high. In these instances, keep Los Balcones in your back pocket. The highly-underrated Peruvian spot on Vine gets a bit lost in the shuffle, but the colorful space is laid-back and fun. As you might expect, it’s all about the ceviche here, and one or two or three pisco sours during their 4 - 7pm daily happy hour never hurt anybody.
Kali is a restaurant you might assume is way too fancy for what you need, but in reality is probably the perfect middle ground. The modern space along Melrose definitely has the whole minimalist/art-is-no-art design thing going on, but once you sit down and realize everyone’s in jeans burrata salad, it all becomes far more approachable. The food is basically all things you like, done slightly differently (black barley “risotto,” charred avocado) and the cocktails are delicious as well. Kali is that place you go to when you need a nice dinner spot, but aren’t in the market to break the bank or put on a suit jacket.
If you’re looking for fancy Japanese/sushi in Hollywood (that doesn’t rhyme with Fatsuya), your move is Umeda. The new spot on Melrose was recently opened by a former Nobu chef and is just flat-out impressive. The space feels like you’re eating in a feng shui-ed wine cellar, complete with a river flowing underneath the entrance and an exposed-beam ceiling you’ll probably stare at for an hour. The menu is full of dishes made famous by Nobu, but you’ll want to focus on the daily specials instead. This will not be a cheap dinner, but it definitely will be worth it.
Located at the bottom of the Viacom building on Sunset, Paley is, unsurprisingly, an industry clusterf*ck once the hordes have been released from their desk chains. The food is fine, but you aren’t here for the food. You’re here because the guy you want to give you a job suggested it and if this $42 filet mignon is going to do the trick, you’re all for it.
Whether you’re an actor or a friend of an actor who makes you come see their improv shows, you’re going to end up at Birds at some point. Located in Franklin Village, Birds is basically next door to UCB and the unofficial pregame for people who can’t see Harold Nights sober. And the chicken-oriented menu (get it?) is actually way better than you would think. This place is fun, rowdy, and most importantly for everyone on this block, affordable.
For as seemingly run-of-mill as this place appears to be (burgers and beer, rinse and repeat), Stout is one of the most consistent meals in Hollywood. The menu is simple, but the burgers range from the mozzarella and prosciutto-topped Goombah to the Bollywood, a chutney-covered veggie burger that is fantastic. They have an excellent craft beer list and a patio along Cahuenga, and it’s open every single night till 4am.
Mama Shelter is a boutique hotel in Hollywood, and while the entire operation has a lot going for it, we’d be lying if we said their rooftop restaurant/patio/booze riot wasn’t the real reason to come here. On the weekends, it’s an all-out mob scene, but snag a reservation and you’ll be fine. On the weekdays, however, things are far more laid-back and taking advantage of the best rooftop patio in Hollywood is shockingly easy. The menu is large and full of things everybody in your group will eat, and the movie-themed cocktails are great.