It’s an exciting time - you’re back in the dating game. But that also means you have to do that thing where you meet someone for the first time and also advertise yourself as a stable person for two hours. A.k.a., the first date. You need a bar that’s not so fancy it’s uncomfortable, where you both can hear each other and ideally have great drinks. From cocktail bars to wine places to a divey spot with a jukebox you’ll use to prove your superior taste in music, LA has plenty of great first date options to get this relationship started off right. Here are our 17 go-to spots for the occasion. Don’t screw this up.
Dinner at Triple Beam was a huge success, and after inhaling four slices of pizza and splitting a bottle of wine, both of you have no intention of calling it quits. Walk a few blocks down Figueroa to Checker Hall, a massive bar inside an old Masonic Lodge that’s our favorite place to drink in the city right now. The crowd is low-key but looking to have a good time, there’s a great outdoor balcony, and if you’re a spicy tequila drinker, their Carmen #Six cocktail is excellent.
Sunset & Vinyl
Generally speaking, if anyone takes you to an 800 Degrees on a first date, you should immediately lose their number. Unless, of course, it’s the 800 Degrees on Vine in Hollywood home to a hidden upstairs bar called Sunset & Vinyl. But by hidden, we don’t mean hard to find. All you need to do is head down the hall by the take-out sign and walk up the back staircase. There you’ll find a little cocktail bar with well-made drinks, a record player, and a relaxed atmosphere where you can actually hear the person across from you talk.
Roger Room is one of our favorite places to grab a cockail, but it works especially well for a first date. It’s on La Cienega, right next to the Largo as well as a bunch of good restaurants, so you’re well-positioned for pre-show drinks or a post-dinner nightcap. From the outside, this place is just a maroon door next to a tattoo parlor, but inside, you’ll find a dimly-lit interior that feels like a fancy train car from the 1920s.
When it comes to first dates, finding a bar with other things to do besides just drink is always a good strategy. That way, when conversation inevitably dries up or you overshare an awkward detail about your parents’ relationship, you have something to stare at until the energy shifts. The San Fernando is a cocktail bar on the outskirts of Glendale, and the best thing about this place is the little stage in the back, where they have nightly acts ranging from jazz bands to stand-up comedy to a banjo player who just threw a flower into the audience.
You realized pretty early on that wine was a common ground for you and this person, so you’re going to lean into it. While LA now has plenty of not-boring wine bars, or favorite for a first date is Oriel. Located in Chinatown next to the raised subway tracks, this place kind of makes you feel like the central character in a sexually-charged film noir. They have a great wine list with tons of unusual stuff, and if you get hungry, their French food menu is also very solid.
If the idea of sitting in a quiet bar sipping chardonnay and nodding along to conversations about how humid it is outside sounds like a nightmare to you, go to The Dresden. The Los Feliz classic is weird and wild and unlike anything else in LA. There’s a full restaurant section off to the left, but skip that and head right to the bar area where the iconic jazz duo, Marty and Elayne, have been performing every week since the 1980s. Drinks are strong and affordable and if Marty and Elayne can’t get sparks flying, nothing can.
You initially bonded over your mutual disdain for well drinks and now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Go to Accomplice. The tiny bar in West LA is serving the best cocktails west of the 405, in a calm environment that never ends up being boring. If things go well, you can order in food from the Taiwanese spot next door.
While the claustrophobic chaos of the original Father’s Office on Montana is part of its allure, you should avoid it at all costs for a first date. At the Culver City location, however, you can actually sit and talk and not have a drunk dude elbow you in the spine all night. The burger is the reason most people come here, but Father’s Office is underrated as a place to grab a pint of craft beer or a glass of wine and actually see if you’re into this person. Obviously, you’re still ordering the burger.
We don’t need to tell you that wine will always set the mood. But a lot of wine bars have a tendency to kill it. Not Tabula Rasa. This wine and beer spot along Hollywood Blvd. in Thai Town keeps things cool and unpretentious. Also, that snack menu is not to be ignored. Split the Cubano or live a life of solitude.
Sunset Beer Co. isn’t really a bar. It’s a beer store/hangout space where you can play some board games and drink whatever you just bought from the refrigerator. It’s extremely approachable, which should help calm your nerves about meeting someone off a two-month old app. The people here are having fun, actually talking to each other, and enjoying some of the best craft beer you’ll find on the Eastside. Just make sure you let your date win a few times in Scattergories.
Know Where Bar in Hollywood gets strangely overlooked. The casual spot right on the edge of Thai Town is that place you go to when you’re sick of long lines, $15 cocktails, and bartenders who only care about taking your money. Come here for a midweek date, get some house-made sangria or beer tumblers, throw a record on the jukebox, and see if this relationship has any legs to it.
Down on La Brea and Wilshire and the never-ending subway construction, there’s a little strip of bars and restaurants that gets passed over by everyone who doesn’t live within walking distance. Namely, Little Bar. The small, divey spot doesn’t have a shtick or theme - just affordable drinks, a laid-back atmosphere, and plenty of booths to hide away in.
Seven Grand is one of the best-known spots to grab a cocktail downtown. A slightly lesser-known spot? Bar Jackalope, the tiny whiskey specialty bar in the back of Seven Grand. Its tiny space keeps things feeling pretty intimate, the cocktails are great (even for non-whiskey drinkers), and the cigar patio is ready for you when you need to get some air.
You thought about suggesting Cassia, but then you thought better. It’s not time for a full sit-down dinner just yet. Instead, go next door to Esters - the adjoining wine bar with the same great atmosphere, but only half the commitment. Get involved with some cheese and charcuterie, the long wine list, and even the attached retail shop. If things go well, you’ll need that bottle for the second date.
Blue Collar rides that fine line between a high-end cocktail bar and a low-key neighborhood hang. If you’re looking to impress a little on the first date and show this person you know what a good cocktail tastes like, this is your place. If you want to grab a small booth and still be able to hear each other, this is also your place.
30+ rotating beers, no crazy crowds or waits, and Kogi BBQ tacos. These are three pillars to a great first date and Alibi Room has them all. The Culver City standby has been around for years now, and remains that cool, dependable spot you always know will deliver. It’s also dimly lit, with hidden tables in the corners for late-night...snuggling.
If you’re looking to keep it simple, but still make it interesting, the Bar at The Culver Hotel is a great option. The historical hotel in downtown Culver has an old-Hollywood feel without the crowds and scene of actual Hollywood. The cocktail list is full of classics like sidecars and mules, but if you notice a Wizard of Oz theme too, you aren’t imagining it. This is the same hotel the actors were housed in during the original production, and you don’t even have to credit us when you tell your date that.