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The Best LA Bars For A First Date

Good luck out there.
The Best LA Bars For A First Date image

photo credit: Bar Bohémien

After months of swiping, messaging, Instagram lurking, and bargaining with a higher power, you finally did it—you’re going on a first date. But that also means you have to do that thing where you meet a complete stranger and then attempt to convince them that you are a cool, stable person worthy of love and affection (or at least one little smooch).

To pull that off, it helps to have alcohol. Preferably at a bar that’s not so fancy it’s uncomfortable, not so loud you have to shout, and not so quiet you can hear the other person regretting this decision. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if that bar also has delicious drinks and a decent menu, either. It’s a tall order, but we have some ideas. From cocktail spots to neighborhood dives to wine bars where the lighting is so romantic, you might fall in love with yourself, these are our go-to spots in LA for first dates.


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Offhand Wine Bar

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Wine Bar

Santa Monica

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good WineFirst/Early in the Game DatesDate Night
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At Offhand Wine Bar, you might find yourself slipping into the same laid-back, uninhibited state you usually only feel in your living room. This Santa Monica spot is a coffee shop during the day and a vibe-y wine bar at night, but it’s also the kind of place where you could show up in sweatpants after 9pm and not be an instant pariah. There’s usually a DJ spinning vinyl records in the corner, a long bar inside where you can chat with a date by candlelight, and occasional pop-ups with places like LaSorted and Vegan Playground. Come here the next time you need a low-key Wetside option for a chill wine night.


Baby Gee is a cozy, colorful neighborhood bar in Long Beach where the just-fancy-enough cocktails have names like “Butterfly Blood" and “Vinegar Valentine.” Bringing a date here shows that while you definitely appreciate a quality beverage, you're also looking for someone who you’d want to take shots with at your future birthday party. Almost everything on the drink menu is under $15, plus they’ve got some quiet little nooks where you can hang out and nibble on snacks like toasted rosemary focaccia and burrata pizza.


photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Skinny dipping in the LA River is probably too bold for a first date, but if you still want to go somewhere that shows you've got a little edge, head to Cafe Triste. This sexy natural wine bar in Chinatown is a Euro-chic fever dream with lots of orange wine and serious mood lighting. Between glasses of vermouth and bites of anchovy toast, you and your date can discuss your favorite A24 film or Phoebe Bridgers album in a see-and-be-seen space that’s fun (but not too loud). Afterward, you can head down the street to Hop Woo for late-night fried rice if the mood strikes.


During the day, Homage Brewing has everything you’d expect from a solid beer bar: Great snacks, sours on tap, and lots of cute dogs. But if you show up after 10pm on a Friday or Saturday night, there will probably be a DJ playing in front of a packed dance floor. The massive brewhouse is a perfect cool-but-not-rowdy place to drink beer, hit the two-step under a disco ball, and get to know someone who you might co-parent a labradoodle with someday.


Despite having a name that screams "dive bar," Blue Collar is actually a sort of fancy cocktail place in Mid-City. There’s no menu—you just describe your favorite cocktail to the bartender and let them come up with something that suits your tastes. Starting the night here with a drink is a good way to suss out your potential partner’s taste in whiskey and, if things go well, walk to another dinner spot on Fairfax.


From big groups to to patio enthusiasts, we’ve recommended Everson Royce Bar for so many situations, our guides should come with an automatic slot for this place. Because guess what? It's also a great spot for first dates. This massive Arts District bar has everything you’d want while getting to know a complete stranger: no lines, a spacious back patio, tables that are just the right amount of spaced-out (a.k.a. far enough apart that no one can eavesdrop), excellent cocktails, plus burger that’s one of the best in the city.


You’ve swiped through all their online photos a thousand times, but still can’t seem to tell if they’re actually cute or just tall. Suggest Bar Bohemien for your first date. This rooftop bar in Culver City is right above Citizen Public Market, a food hall with vendors serving everything from fried chicken to hand-pulled noodles to oysters. The bar's covered patio is slightly romantic, but still informal enough for two strangers to meet up and ask each other getting-to-know-you questions. Start things off easy with cocktails, and if you feel a spark, you can head downstairs for a full-on dinner date.


As anyone who’s watched Vanessa Hudgens’ 2006 music video “Say OK” knows, bowling alleys and a romantic night out are the ultimate combo. Which is why we love Highland Park Bowl, a relic from 1927 that got a major renovation several years back. You’ll find eight super shiny lanes here, plus comfortable leather couches and draft cocktails for you and your plus one to share. Make a reservation then do something cute and cheesy, like bet the loser has to kiss the winner (or at least pay for a game).


Thunderbolt is a charming neighborhood bar with fantastic drinks at the edge of Historic Filipinotown that's become our go-to for first dates near Echo Park. Semi-hidden between The Park’s Finest and a Knights Inn motel, it's the perfect little hideaway where you can sip some of the city's best cocktails and eat Southern-style snacks on comfy leather couches without feeling rushed. The move is to order their gluten-free buttermilk biscuits with whipped butter and jam, then give your date the last bite—this little act of sacrifice might just help you secure a second date.


Because of its slightly hidden location under the Gold Line tracks, entering this French bistro’s patio in Chinatown is like stepping into a New York film noir: everything has a moody reddish glow to it and the romantic drama is palpable. In addition, all of the food is fantastic (get the bavette steak), and the wine list is full of organic and biodynamic reds, whites, and sparklings that will help break the ice.


If the words “60-year-old dive bar in Santa Monica” don’t immediately make you think “perfect first-date spot,” we don’t blame you. On paper, Chez Jay sounds more like a place you’d take your much older, out-of-town cousin than the setting for a romantic evening. But after an extensive update, the large back patio is now decorated with fire pits, string lights, and big comfy chairs ideal for making you feel relaxed and super cute. We like the crispy chicken sandwich with house slaw or the cheeseburger, but if you aren’t that hungry, stick to martinis and an order of calamari.



It’s a fact of life that wine will always set the mood. But some wine bars (the stuffy ones) have a tendency to kill it. Not Tabula Rasa. This casual spot keeps things cool in an unpretentious, industrial space in Thai Town. The wine features a variety of natural whites, reds, sparklings, and oranges, and their draft beer selection is quite solid as well. If you’re looking for something to snack on, you should order the Cuban sandwich, plus a salami board, just to be safe.


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The Black Cat in Silver Lake is the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure date spot. If you want something a little more serious, grab one of the green booths in the back and order a full meal, with dishes like chopped kale salad, shishito peppers, and an excellent burger covered with melted onion and raclette cheese. But if your date is showing some red flags, like going on and on about how Die Hard is their favorite Christmas movie, it’s just as easy to hang out at the bar or front patio for a single drink, slip out quietly, and bury that memory forever.


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