It’s an exciting time to be alive - you’re officially back in the dating game. But that also means you have to manage all the first dates inevitably coming your way. It’s not easy, but we’re here to help. You need a place where you both can hear each other, are comfortable sitting close, and can get great drinks along the way. Whether it’s a cocktail bar or a wine bar or a weird divey spot with a jukebox you'll obviously use to prove your superior taste in music, LA has plenty of great first date options to get this relationship started off right. Here the 12 spots you can depend on. Don't screw this up.
We don’t need to tell you that wine will always set the mood. However, most wine bars (with their high prices and stuffy atmospheres) have a tendency to kill it. Enter Tabula Rasa. The new wine (and beer) bar along Hollywood Blvd. in Thai Town keeps things cool and unpretentious. Its wine list isn’t the biggest in town by any means, but it’s certainly solid. Also, that snack menu is not to be ignored. Split the the Cubano or live a life of solitude.
The cool thing about Sunset Beer Co. is that it’s not really a bar. It’s a beer store where you get to hang out, play some board games, and drink the beer you just bought. And for that reason alone, the nervous energy of most first date spots is nowhere to be found. People are having fun, actually talking to each other, and enjoying some of the best craft beer you’ll find. Just make sure you let your date win a few times in Scattergories.
Rosewood is almost pitch-black inside and that’s great for you because by 11pm your hair will no longer be doing the things you want it to. Also, you’re always able to find a table here. The big space is basically only known and used by locals, and that means a far more subdued vibe and a crowd that isn’t typically there to get sh*t-canned. The have a solid whiskey and beer stock, and if you get hungry late, their bar food will hit the spot as well.
Know Where Bar is one of the most overlooked bars in Hollywood. 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 involved with 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 to get you in the door, just affordable drinks, a laid-back atmosphere, and plenty of booths to hide away in.
Anyone who’s ever gone out drinking on Main Street in Santa Monica knows it caters far more to Fireball shots and regret then building long-term relationships, but Library Alehouse is the rare exception. The laid-back spot does regular tap takeovers of local SoCal breweries, so if craft beer is you and your date's common ground, this place will be heaven. And even if it’s not, the calm back patio, the burger, and her Icelandic-mountain-lake eyes will do the rest.
Seven Grand is one of the more well-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. The candle-lit space is straight-up sexy, and its tiny space keeps things pretty intimate. The cocktails are as good as they come (even for non-whiskey drinkers) and the tiny cigar patio is a great place to get some air.
You're thinking about suggesting Cassia to her, but the thought of a full sit-down dinner just doesn’t seem right tonight. 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 never-ending 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 low-key neighborhood hang. If you’re looking to impress a little on the first date and show this guy 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. Drinks aren’t as cheap as other places on this list, but this tiny, art deco bar on Fairfax makes it worth the few extra bucks.
30+ rotating beer stock? Easy to get into? Kogi BBQ tacos on the premises? 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 old Hollywood vibes without the crowds and scene of actual Hollywood. The cocktail list is full old standards like sidecars and mules, but if you notice a clear Wizard of Oz theme too, you aren’t imagining it. This is the same hotel the actors were housed in during the original production. History lesson over.
ETA is the newest spot on this list, but the bare-bones Highland Park cocktail bar is the stuff of first date nightcap dreams. The space is dark and somewhat muted, but not in the pretentious way you're imagining. The cocktails are tremendous, and unlike the popular Hollywood cocktail bars, you won’t have to wait 45 minutes to get one.