12 Great LA Restaurants Where Sitting At The Bar Is The Move

Because the bar crowd is always a little more interesting.
12 Great LA Restaurants Where Sitting At The Bar Is The Move image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

At some restaurants, the bar is where you linger until your table is ready or where you wait awkwardly for your chronically late friend to arrive. But at these restaurants, the bar is where you should have your entire meal. Whether you’re dining solo, coming in for a last-minute date, or simply didn’t want to wait two weeks for a dinner reservation, eating at the bar is one of life’s greatest hacks. Here are the best places in LA to do it. 


photo credit: Jessie Clapp



Cypress Park

$$$$Perfect For:Drinks & A Light BiteDrinking Good WineEating At The Bar
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To take nothing away from Barra Santos’ excellent sidewalk scene (which mostly consists of couples giggling into wine glasses as they wait for tables), inside at the bar is where you want to be. It’s where the full immersive effect of this small Portuguese spot happens: You’ll snack on crispy cod fritters and thick tuna crudo as bartenders pour free little sherry tasters with disclaimers like, “you’re probably going to get really into sherry after trying this.” Given that Barra Santos doesn’t accept reservations, a certain amount of patience and spontaneity is required here. And no, we aren’t just talking about your rapidly changing opinions on sherry. 

There’s not a boring seat at Budonoki—a testament to the infectious energy that fills this Village izakaya nightly. But if you can’t score a table, head to the walk-in-only bar where you’ll be at the center of the action. On either side of you will be friends taking down plates of Thai-style sour sausage or DIY spicy tuna handrolls. Bartenders pour shochu cocktails served in adorable little penguin mugs. Somebody will probably do a sake bomb. We particularly love the jidori chicken oyster skewers with spicy galangal sauce and yakisoba noodles topped with wagyu, but if there’s a menu section to skip, it’s the pressed sushi that tends to fall apart quickly. And that’s fine, because you need to save room for the koji pineapple soft serve anyway.

photo credit: Jakob Layman



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This Middle Eastern spot from the Bavel team is one of the most popular restaurants in the city, and scoring a reservation requires a combination of skill, luck, and on weekends, a random act of God. If you’re OK eating a bit later though, walking in after 10pm and heading right to the bar is a good bet in our books. Not only is the pink and gold wrap-around bar genuinely beautiful, but the bartenders are attentive and the crowd is far less tourist-heavy than the main dining room. Be sure to get the hummus ful, lobster skewer, and the daily soft serve for dessert. 

There are plenty of tables for groups inside this casual Santa Monica izakaya, but the bar seats are where you'll get the full Shirube experience. That includes a courtside view of the small but mighty kitchen, equipped with a charcoal grill and a spinning slushie machine full of frozen yuzu mojitos. Chefs here mean business: they swiftly flip gorgeous wagyu steaks over hot coals, slice yellowtail with razor-sharp knives, and adorn tiny egg custards with jewels of roe. Be sure to get the chewy mentaiko udon, crispy corn ribs, and mackerel sashimi that’s blowtorched right in front of you.

Jones Hollywood has been around for over two decades, but can still be a somewhat difficult table to snag—particularly on the weekends. So just do what we do and line up outside at 6:50pm and grab a seat at the bar at 7pm when the doors open. Taking nothing away from Jones’ sexy, Old Hollywood-era dining room, but the wrap-around bar area is where you want to be anyway. The full menu is available, the crowd is lively and ready to mingle, and most importantly, the martinis arrive much faster than if you were sitting at a table. 

Attached to South Beverly Grill, this all-day bar is our favorite place in Beverly Hills to grab a quiet drink at lunch and pretend we’re wearing a lot more jewelry than we actually are. Sure, this place is part of the aggressively corporate Hillstone empire, but the sleek, dimly lit space feels entirely separate, like you just stumbled into the back bar of a fancy hotel in Tribeca. There are a few tables going along the wall, but sitting at the long wrap-around bar is where you want to be. The bartenders are chatty, the martinis are strong, the burger is one of the best in the neighborhood. 

This tiny French bistro, which opened back in 1998, is a Silver Lake classic and one of the most objectively romantic restaurants in the neighborhood. When we say “romantic” though, we don’t mean it in a snoozy-one-glass-of-red-and-home-by-9pm kind of way. Cafe Stella is dark, sexy, and a bit mysterious—the kind of place where you can sit at the bar, sip a martini, and eventually strike up a conversation with the most interesting person in the world. You might even casually date them for a few months. For food, go for the gooey French onion soup and the generously portioned steak frites. 

Gran Blanco wins the award for being one of the only restaurants on the Venice boardwalk with good food and a bar crowd you actually want to hang out with. The Tulum-esque aesthetic is certainly a bit generic, but sitting at the bar, sipping an espresso martini, and eating a juicy smashburger is one of our favorite ways to start a night out on the Westside. 

Found Oyster bar in East Hollywood is less of an oyster bar (they’ve only got two kinds of oysters, albeit great ones), and more of an all-purpose clam shack/wine bar, but that’s fine with us. Sit at the bar, and let the staff guide you. They’re friendly in a way that makes you feel like you’re a cousin of theirs, and they’ll gladly tell you everything about what they’re shucking that day. This will involve Skaket Beach oysters from the owner’s family farm on Cape Cod, littlenecks from Maine, and peel-and-eat blue prawns. Add in a lobster roll, a steak, or—if they have it—some steamers frites, for a truly incredible seafood feast.

Cento’s indoor/outdoor space in West Adams is certainly bigger than its original pop-up operation, but still maintains the look and feel of a neighborhood wine and pasta bar. There’s a cozy, string-lit front patio if you’re looking for something classically romantic, but the bar inside is even more exciting. Here’s where you’ll get a front-row seat to the pasta show: spicy pomodoro covered in basil, and the iconic beet spaghetti drenched in brown butter, whipped ricotta, and chives. Wine is poured generously—meaning you’ll definitely be best friends with the people next to you by night’s end. 

This Sherman Oaks spot successfully combines two of god’s greatest gifts—wine and sushi—all in a laid-back space that will make you want to hang out all night. It’s a small dining room, but even so, our recommendation is to make a reservation at the bar and do the full omakase. It’s $140 per person, but considering you get 12 premium cuts of fish, soup, salad, appetizers, and a handroll, it’s a good value. From there, work with the sommelier to pair different wines with your meal. They’ll happily let you taste as many wines as you’d like before finding the one you want.

No matter where you sit at this dimly lit Japanese Izakaya in Echo Park you’ll have a very good meal. If you sit at the tiny bar in the back, however, you’ll have an excellent meal. That’s not because the food is any better than it is in the dining room, but because of the people standing behind the bar. If there’s a sake they think you should try, they’ll just pour it. If there’s an interesting ingredient in the prawn skewers you just ordered, they’re going to tell you about the chef’s recent trip to Japan that inspired it. With only four or so chairs, the bar is certainly intimate, and it’s our favorite way to do this place.

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