Where To Eat With Your Parents In LA
photo credit: Jakob Layman
We live in Los Angeles - the city of eternal sunshine, year-round vegetation, and Kiefer Sutherland sightings at hot pilates - but most likely, your parents do not. Which means one thing: they’re on their way. Whether it’s for vacation, graduation, or because they miss you and Indiana is 2,000 miles away, they’re heading west, and it’s time to impress.
We hope you know your parents better than we do, but over our years of parent-entertaining we’ve figured out some of the LA essentials. Here’s an updated list of where you should be eating the next time your parents arrive in Los Angeles.
Your parents don’t get many ocean views, so they demanded a beach visit, but now Dad is hangry-complaining about the sand and it’s clearly time for dinner. This modern Spanish spot in Redondo Beach is calm without being boring, and is generally filled with locals eating big plates of jamon and getting wine-drunk. Get some clams and the tortilla Espanola - if anything is going to convince them that a family trip to Malaga is a good idea, a giant potato cake is probably it.
Lasa will make your parents feel like you let them in on a secret. And secrets make them feel cool. This place is hidden inside a Chinatown arcade, and the modern Filipino food is spectacular. Plus, it’s a good spot for when Mom and Dad have already been here for five days and dinner conversation is starting to get a little strained. Everyone who works here is so nice and chatty that you’ll only have to manage a few nods while they keep your parents entertained.
You’re taking your parents to Rossoblu because, above all else, this Italian restaurant in the Fashion District is impressive. Opened by the Sotto crew, Rossoblu is all about pastas and meats and eating them in large quantities. The large industrial space is beautiful, the waitstaff will help you figure out how to plan your meal, and the wine list will have your folks feeling good in no time. Get the belly-on pork chop.
This relaxed all-day spot is extremely parent-friendly, and not just because it’s relatively quiet, has a nice patio, and won’t involve waiting for a table. All Time works for brunch where you can have a family disagreement about whether the Adventure Bread is actually adventurous, or dinner ordered from the weekly-changing menu (get the cavatelli and the Good Ass Salad). Either way, be ready for your mom to spend a good amount of time with the hand-written wine list and its pictures of volcanoes and funny annotations that she’s going to read to the table multiple times.
Your parents aren’t the only ones in town. There’s also your brother, your sister and her husband and two kids. And there are only so many nights you can squeeze around your tiny dining table eating takeout. Go have a big family dinner at Park’s BBQ. This is one of the more expensive K-BBQ options in town, but it’s also the best, and the $99 P1 combo with a couple of extras added in should feed the whole crew. Put Dad in charge of the grill - he wanted to take over anyway.
You were born and raised in the Midwest, and to your parents seafood is a gamble you simply don’t take. Change their minds and head to Malibu Seafood, the best seafood shack in LA. Located right along PCH, this tiny spot gets largely bypassed by the typical Malibu tourist circuit, leaving lines shorter, the atmosphere far more relaxed, and your parents realizing they’re eating somewhere truly special. Everything is great here, but their calamari is some of the best we’ve ever had.
Giorgio Baldi looks like the hometown Italian joint your parents eat at once a week, except the guy they recognize at the corner table is Jimmy Kimmel, not Dave the social studies teacher. You’re here for celebrity sightings and the corn agnolotti (in that order), so expect your parents to freak out over Drew Carey ordering the same bottle of wine, but completely ignore Rihanna three feet away.
At some point on your parents’ visit, you have to hit a few of the classics. And since you’re driving down Rodeo anyways, you might as well head two blocks over and grab brunch at Nate ’n Al. The Beverly Hills landmark has been serving Jewish deli staples since 1945 and is still one of the best spots to grab a bagel and lox and watch the rest of neighborhood roll in behind you. This is that rare LA restaurant where 70-year-olds in jazzercise pants peacefully brush shoulders with hungover CAA bros, and your parents will want to sit back and soak it all in.
At brunch yesterday, your dad called your grain bowl “chicken feed.” He’s clearly worried about your protein levels, so let him take you to Lawry’s Prime Rib, the classic spot on La Cienega that’s a complete throwback. Everyone is here for the prime rib and the spinning salad, and your table should be no exception. By the time you get to the tableside ice cream sundae, even Dad will be able to admit that LA does have “real” food after all.
Cafe Birdie is the grown-up restaurant that Highland Park has long needed, and will show them not everyone in LA lives in Santa Monica or West Hollywood. They’ll love the comfort food, and you’ll love the cocktail you’ve needed since 11am this morning when they started asking about when you’re going to be able to afford an apartment without roommates. Take them out the back to the hidden bar too - they’ll definitely be telling Cindy and Joe from cookbook club all about how cool it was once they get home.
Your parents are fascinated by everything about Beverly Hills, from walking up and down Rodeo Drive and pointing in every store, to driving past enormous houses with duck ponds and 17 car garages. They’d also happily go to The Farm every night, but that’s where you draw the line. Take them to Si Laa instead. This Thai spot on Robertson is still very Beverly Hills - the dining room is quiet and full of white tablecloths - but in a neighborhood of bad Italian food and fake noses, it’s also one of the least pretentious things you’ll find in the 90210 zip code. Get the crispy duck and the hidden treasure dumplings.
Kinky Boots is at the Pantages, Mom is dying to go, and the only way you’re going to get Dad to agree is if he eats enough food so that he’ll fall asleep five minutes in. This is a time for APL. It’s a steakhouse - but a fun one. Sure, The Doors coming on during dessert means Mom will have another excuse to tell her drinking-with-Jim-Morrison story, but that’s a small price to pay for an enormous steak you couldn’t afford on your own.
At that inevitable point in the visit when they start not-so-subtly dropping hints about you moving back East, it’s time to make a visit to Salazar. When you can comfortably drink horchata and eat delicious tacos served on housemade tortillas while sitting outside at the end of October, you’ve answered the question for them.
Your parents haven’t missed a Friday night episode of Hawaii Five-0 since 2010, so it’s safe to say they like consistency. And seeing as Dad won’t stop talking about the linguine with clams he had at Son Of A Gun two years ago, you should probably just take them here again. The menu never changes, so Dad can have his pasta while the rest of the table shares fancy guacamole hidden under a pile of raw tuna and a very good fried chicken sandwich. Plus, it’s a well-known fact that parents love buoys hanging from walls, even if it means you also have to put up with a few pirate jokes.
If your parents are like our parents, the only thing they actually give a sh*t about in LA is being by the water. And at Malibu Farm, you’re not just by the water, you’re hovering over it. Located on the Malibu Pier, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular setting with prices this reasonable. The menu generally veers toward the salad/sandwich route, and that’s ideal for your midday cruise down PCH. Mom and Dad also won’t need much convincing on hitting up the mimosa bar.
Steps from the beach and just far enough away from the mixtape salesmen of the boardwalk, C&O is a completely cheesy and totally awesome Italian restaurant that your parents will never stop talking about. The family-style menu is familiar and appealing, and their all-you-can-eat garlic knots should definitely be on the list of most dangerous foods in America. Yes, the courtyard and its painted facades are over the top, and the waiters are definitely going to sing “That’s Amore!” more than once to you, but who cares? Mom’s totally buying into it and so are you. The corkage fee is minimal, so surprise them by bringing a bottle of their favorite wine.
At some point during their trip, LA will become too much for your parents and they’ll need a break. Time to get out of the city. And while you can pretty much go in any direction to find cool stuff, one of our top moves for parents is Saddle Peak Lodge in the Santa Monica Mountains. This place feels more like stepping into a wilderness lodge in Jackson Hole than into a restaurant above the Malibu coast. Head up on a weekend to take advantage of their tremendous brunch situation.
Every person who lands in LA wants Mexican food, and your parents are no exception. The 70-year-old Westside staple is the old-school California/Mexican everyone can appreciate: gigantic burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, tacos, plates of meat, and all the unlimited chips and salsa you can handle. The atmosphere is casual and fun (with live mariachi music on the roof), and there’s a bright back patio perfect for soaking up another warm California night. And lots of margaritas.
Matsuhisa is everything an out-of-towner imagines an LA sushi restaurant would be, complete with an anonymous-looking building and celebrities wearing caps in the corner. Plus, really fantastic sushi. Sit at the bar for the full experience (just nod and smile when your mom asks if her seat is Robert De Niro’s regular seat) and order the miso black cod and as much sushi as you can get away with until Dad starts with the Circle Of Trust impression once he’s two sakes deep.
Whether your dad will ever admit it or not, he definitely smoked pot in the ’70s, loved it, and is now simply waiting for his state’s legislature to catch up to Colorado. Give him a taste of what’s to come with a jaunt up the hippie highway that is Topanga Canyon. There’s plenty to see up here, but no day trip is complete without a stop at The Inn of the Seventh Ray. Unfortunately not a peyote commune, Inn of the Seventh Ray is a stunning restaurant in the trees. It’s also far more upscale than you’d think it would be, and that’ll calm your mom’s fear of your dad trying to buy weed off the waiter.
Sometimes you want pasta and sometimes you don’t really want to work hard to get it. Welcome to Spartina - the neighborhood trattoria on Melrose that’s always solid and always fairly easy to get into. The front patio is fantastic, but our suggestion with the parents is to move inside for a slightly more intimate experience. And even though pasta is king here, there are also over 40 shareable dishes from pizza to salad to an uni panini they probably won’t want. But order a bottle of red and anything is possible.