Some things aren’t for everyone. Kombucha. Heavy metal pilates. 90 Day Fiancé. But unlike that sea salt harvesting class your roommate wants you to try with her, all of these restaurants are actually good for all human beings, and all situations.
The spots on this list are the kinds of places where you can bring anyone - cool younger people, cool older people, un-cool people, picky people, people you are romantically interested in, clients you (hopefully) are not - and know you’ve made the right choice. Pat yourself on the back for making the first (only?) good decision of your night.
This quick, casual spot in Highland Park makes some of our favorite Taiwanese food in the city, including a thousand layer pancake stuffed with egg and cheese, and mapo tofu that we’d never believe was vegan if it didn’t say so on the menu. Round your order out with some of the deli case sides - the pig ear salad and marinated wood ear mushrooms are two of our go-tos - and you’ll be all set. And even though there’s often a line to order at the counter, the food comes so fast that no one’s going to complain.
If you like pasta, then you’ll like Union. And if you don’t like pasta, we’re not sure we can be friends anymore - but you’ll still like Union. This Italian spot in Old Town Pasadena is among the best places to eat carbohydrates in Los Angeles, and you genuinely can’t go wrong with any of their pastas - the squid ink lumache with lobster is briny, rich, and buttery, and the torchetti with pork ragu and fried rosemary is going to stay in your head longer than a Carly Rae Jepsen song. And even if you don’t like pasta, there’s still plenty to order here - mainly, a porchetta the size of a Frisbee that could feed an entire second grade class, and a creamy mushroom polenta worth starting wars over.
Baran’s 2239 is a strip-mall bistro in Hermosa Beach with a great crowd of locals, charmingly crooked wine racks, and an extremely eclectic menu. They have - quite literally - something for everyone here. The menu reads like a bunch of really talented chefs had a potluck, and your meal will include everything from red curry Brussels sprouts or a shrimp-stuffed tostada to a filet mignon with creamy corn underneath. Yes, it’s all a little unrelated, but that’s ideal when you’re looking for a place anyone would be happy with.
A funky little spot on Sunset, Eszett is the ideal place for a night out with your cool coworker, your old college roommate, and just about everyone in between. They’ve got a killer wine list of mostly Austrian varietals, and a great menu of innovative, hearty-but-not-too-heavy dishes like tuna grilled cheese sandwiches with kampachi, glazed local cod with Tokyo turnips, and a knödel (potato dumpling) dessert that we’d start actual fights over. It’s pretty intimate inside, but they take reservations, and it’s not so tiny that you’ll worry about spilling wine on the table next to you.
It’s true - seafood might not be for everyone. But Dudley Market in Venice is. In addition to serving some of the best, freshest fish in town (we know this because most of it is caught on their very own boat), they’ve also got a bunch of non-seafood dishes we love, like eggplant with nuoc cham and a perfect burger with cheddar and bacon-onion jam. The seafood tends to change based on whatever they caught that day - though they’ll usually have a whole-fried fish with herb salad, crispy pork and clam toast, and smoked trout dip. They’ve also got a whole library of wine options, and servers who know a lot about it to help you navigate what goes best with your tuna meatballs.
Yes, we put Jon & Vinny’s on quite a lot of our guides. Yes, it was also the first spot we wrote down when we were brainstorming for this one. In fact, we wrote it down before we started brainstorming, because you don’t need a brain to know that Jon & Vinny’s is perfect for literally everyone and literally every eating situation you might find yourself in. You will never have eaten that spaghetti Bolognese too many times.
Do you hate feeling like you’re on the set of a Nancy Meyers movie (complete with the giant glasses of wine)? Then you’ll definitely hate A.O.C., with its stunner of a patio, dimly lit dining room, and very solid roast chicken. Also, if you hate private dining rooms that feel like a cozy ski lodge crossed with a wine cellar, then you’d hate having your next very fancy dinner here. If you hate life, then you’ll definitely hate A.O.C. Everyone else will love it, though.
Nothing bad can happen at Republique. You can come here for a solo weekday breakfast, a long lunch with a big group, or a sexy date, and you will leave thinking that life doesn’t get any better. Except if you value your money, because they will take that from you. Sorry Janet Jackson, but the best things in life are not free.
This all-outdoors Mexican restaurant in Frogtown makes you feel like you’re on vacation, even when you’re eating with a group of people you’d never share an Airbnb with. We recommend going all-in on the tacos (and the excellent cocktails), and adding one of the larger meat dishes at the end if you’ve got a big group. There’s enough to keep vegetarians happy too, and if it’s a tiny bit chilly out, they’ll switch on the heaters and keep that one whiny friend happy.
The reason Belle Vie is perfect for everyone isn’t because of their excellent, modern spins on French classics, or their interesting wine list, or the fact that they’ve somehow airlifted a Parisian bistro onto the most boring part of Wilshire in Brentwood. The reason you are guaranteed to love this place is because, within five minutes of walking in, you’re already best friends with everyone who works here. They’ll tell you what to eat and drink, where to eat in Paris on your upcoming trip, remember you the next time you visit (because you will be visiting again), and do all of it in a very thick French accent.
If you’re in Venice, Superba is the answer any time of day. Need a hangover-killing breakfast sandwich, but your friend is eating clean? Superba’s brunch menu is here for you. Pastries and a coffee at 11am (without the craziness of other local establishments), a lunch meeting, or even a casual weeknight dinner with friends and their spawn? Superba works in all those situations. The menu itself is imaginative without being too out-there, and the space is big enough that you won’t mind (or notice) all the people taking photos of their food.
The first reason Salt’s Cure works for everyone is their truly excellent pancakes. Because everyone likes pancakes, and Salt’s Cure makes some special pancakes. But brunch is just the gateway drug to Salt’s Cure - this spot in no-man’s-land Hollywood will help you out at 4pm when you need an actual meal, not a reheated slice of pizza left over from lunch, at 7pm for an easy dinner, and even at 10pm on a Friday night. If you’re not here for pancakes, get the pork chop.
Do you like cauliflower? And fresh-made ricotta, and cornbread, and hummus that’s made with some ingredient it’s not normally made with? Of course you do, you live in Los Angeles. All of these things are present and accounted for at Norah, but not in a “Let’s make sure all the latest food trends are on our menu” kind of way. They’re at Norah because they’re delicious, and you should be at Norah because your night is guaranteed to be a good one here.
Sure, you found the right Moon Juice order on the internet, and your friends told you the best place to park for your weekly Runyon pilgrimage, but you found Jones all by yourself. This is the kind of place that makes you feel like you might actually know something about LA, and they’ve got you covered no matter what the night has in store. Which could be a lot of things, but should always involve the apple pie.