There was a time when dates were a big deal. You had to pick the right outfit, part your hair in the correct way, come up with witty conversation topics, and generally make a lot of effort. Once you get married, you might think those days are in the past, and that you’re destined to many years of eating delivery on the couch while wearing stretchy pants and watching HGTV.
But in reality, date nights when you’re married are great. You’re not trying to offer a thoughtful take on cryptocurrency or prove that you’re someone who always wears matching socks. You just get to eat a nice dinner with a person who also thinks Bitcoin is a scam and doesn’t need to talk about it again. You can even wear your stretchy pants to dinner if you want to. It’s yet another perk of married life.
No one suggests a 5pm dinner for a second date. But now that you’re married, you can have all the geriatric dinners you want. Which is good, because 5pm also happens to be the best time to get a table at Petit Trois. You won’t have to wait around in a strip mall parking lot, you’ll get a spot at the bar rather than one of the awkward wall-facing seats, and you won’t have to worry about elbowing your neighbor’s steak tartare by accident. Plus, even if you’re having dinner while the sun’s still up, at least you’re doing it in a place that feels like a Parisian bistro, and eating incredible French classics.
You just got a raise, and you feel like spending a slightly stupid amount of money with the person you share all that money with. Dialogue does an experimental, 20-course tasting menu inside a food court on the Third Street Promenade, and manages to make something that sounds terrible extremely enjoyable. The food is super creative and, more importantly, delicious, and you can sit at the bar and chat with the chef while you eat. If you’re willing to sacrifice your Christmas and birthday presents for the year (you’ll be dropping $700 for two people), this is the place to do it.
You have to break the news that your Italian vacation is going to have to be pushed back because of work. For the third time. Good thing Cafe Birdie is home to some extremely comforting food. Start at Good Housekeeping (the bar in the backyard) for a couple of drinks, and then head inside to the dining room for pastas that will remind him that he doesn’t need to go to Italy for great ragu, and excellent salads that you could only get in California. We’d forgive you.
In a town full of romantic Italian restaurants, Barrique is the most romantic Italian restaurant of them all. It’s in a two-story yellow bungalow house on Main St. in Venice, and has all the makings of an ideal date venue - a side balcony with only enough room for a couple of tables for two, many Italian-accented waiters, and some seriously great food. This is your spot for anniversaries, birthday dinners, or “we don’t need an excuse, we just want to go somewhere fancy” dinners.
You have your routines. Monday nights one of you cooks and you watch The Bachelor, Tuesday night the other cooks and you watch Drunk History, Wednesday nights you go to the same bar and restaurant for drinks and dinner and then watch a re-run of The Office. When it’s time to mix things up, try Oriel. This wine bar with not-very-wine-bar food is in a hidden pocket of Chinatown, and between the dimly-lit bar and the elevated light rail line the building sits under, you can pretend you’re in NYC. Which all means you should start a new routine - drinking a bottle of wine you’ve never had before to have with a very good steak, and inevitably watching another episode of The Office when you get home.
Your interfering and “spiritual” sister gave you a relationship self-help book called Bring Back The Magic. We’re not sure The Magic Castle is really what she had in mind, but that’s how you’re going to interpret her advice. You’ll need to find a magician to put you on the list to get in here, but a trip to this actual castle in the Hollywood Hills is worth the hassle. There are secret passageways, magic shows happening behind every door, and a surprisingly not-entirely-terrible restaurant.
Sometimes you just need to not be in the house. But also, you don’t want to have to think about where to go or what to eat. Chez Tex is sort of a wine bar, sort of a neighborhood hangout, and feels like an extension of your dining room where people bring you glasses of pinot. It’s a fun place to sit at the bar, chat with the owners over some paella and a nice piece of fish, and realize you went on a date without actually intending to.
Italian restaurants and date nights are about as married as you are. But if it works, it works. Seeing as Osteria Mozza is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, it’s also one of the best date night places around. For something a little different, get a couple of the first-come, first-served seats at the mozzarella bar. They’ll serve you an inadvisably large amount of cheese, although we’d advise you to leave some room for their pastas too.
You secured grandparents as babysitters, which means you can be gone as long as you want. When time (and money) aren’t really factors, you should head for The NoMad. This hotel/bar/restaurant recently arrived from NYC, and really knows what it’s doing on pretty much every front. Start with a drink at the Giannini bar downstairs - a cocktail for two served in a rooster-shaped vessel seems appropriate - before moving up to The Mezzanine. There you’ll sit on some sort of velvet chair, be able to talk about all the people you saw in the lobby downstairs, and share an entire chicken that has truffle stuffed under its skin. And probably end up impulse-booking a room at the hotel by the end.
Shibumi might not immediately strike you as a great place for a date. It’s on a very non-descript strip in downtown LA, and the restaurant itself feels a little stark when you walk in. But get bar seats, let the server pick a sake for you, and then order a bunch of the familiar-but-different Japanese dishes to share. You’ll instantly feel like you’re in on a secret the rest of the city doesn’t know about.
You met in college, and proceeded to spend almost all your time at your local bar, eating burgers and drinking beer. And while married life isn’t exactly that, you always have Hinano when you need a reminder of how it all began. This Venice dive bar has sawdust on the floor, pool tables in the back, and burgers grilled behind the bar. They’ll probably start playing Aerosmith, too, if you ask.
You’ve been fighting about whose responsibility it is to refill the Brita all week, but you know you need to make up. A good way to start would be lovingly hand-feeding each other Ethiopian food. The practice is called Gusha, and it’s a pretty key part of a meal at Messob, the best Ethiopian restaurant in Los Angeles. But Gusha isn’t the only reason to eat here - the food is fantastic, and if there are just two of you, you’ll probably get to sit at one of the traditional hand-woven tables. You’ll just have to figure out whether the two of you can tackle the enormous Super Messob Exclusive plate. Just kidding, of course you can.