Where you decide to eat dinner has a big impact on the trajectory of your night - especially if you’re planning on going out after the meal. Pick someplace too snoozy, and you’ll be in bed by 10. Choose somewhere that only serves salads, and your stomach won’t be prepared for the rest of the night. And you definitely don’t want to eat at some sh*tty clubstaurant where the tuna tartare is made with StarKist and the vodka is watered down. So whether you make a regular habit of pregaming at dinner, or this is the first time you’ve gone out since before LA had a football team, we’ve picked some places (in actually fun neighborhoods) where you can cut loose, drink a bit, and most importantly, have a great meal before your big night out.
If you’re going out in Silver Lake, you could wait in line for two hours at Silver Lake Ramen. Or, you can have an even better, more fun meal at Same Same, a Thai wine bar directly across the street. Get everything that catches your eye, and split it all - the khao soi, chicken laab, and (appropriately) drunken noodles are all highly worth your time. Pair it all with a bottle from their natural wine list, and you’ll be as ready as you’ll ever be for a night at The Satellite.
In a neighborhood with no shortage of fun restaurants, West Hollywood’s Ronan is among the best. The patio is always crowded with young people housing pizza and drinking high-concept (and highly drinkable) cocktails like the Rickey Menáge (gin, with three different types of fennel and grapefruit), or the bourbon-based Strawberry Fields For Now. We recommend going all-in on the pizzas - our favorites are the the guanciale-heavy Sweet Cheeks and the zucchini flower and stracciatella-loaded Zucca - and maybe adding in the Señor Carrots (served over spiced yoghurt and honeycomb) and the almond pesto-y burrata, too.
Sun Nong Dan might be the best-known place in Koreatown to end your night (they’re open 24 hours), but this is just as good of a place to start it. Besides a few rounds of Hites, your order here will include just one thing: The gabi jjim, a brilliant, spicy red stew loaded with short ribs, carrots, potatoes, onions, and rice cakes. It’s ceremoniously served in a massive cast-iron pot, and then blowtorched by your server to melt the cheese on top. If there’s one thing that’ll prepare you for a night of pounding soju, this is it.
Starting your night at El Compadre is definitely taking a risk - meaning you might have three margaritas and not remember anything after 7:30pm. But it’s a risk you should take, because this spot on the border of Weho and Hollywood is worth whatever memories you may or may not be sacrificing. Don’t expect too much from the food - this is a place that lights their margaritas on fire, after all - but it’s exactly what you want when you’re about to spend the rest of the night doing tequila shots. Get the Camarones a la Diabla - fiery hot shrimp with rice and beans. It goes great with that flaming marg.
Starting your night at a distillery would usually be an absurdly aggressive move, but Portuguese Bend is a little bit different. Mainly because they’re also a full-blown restaurant. This spot is right in the center of the chaos by Fourth St. in Long Beach, which means that whatever bar you’re going to afterward - Bar Tiki Tiki, Beachwood, Elinor - is nearby. Get a martini with the house-made Smoke Bay gin, share some pastrami chili cheese fries, and Nashville hot chicken strips, and you’ll be ready for wherever the night takes you.
DTLA’s Bar Amá is the perfect place to begin a night of bar-hopping in the Historic Core. That’s not just because their high-end Tex Mex is among the best party food in the city, or that hip-hop is always playing from the speakers to a packed crowd - it’s that their margaritas are absolutely fantastic. They’re relatively straightforward, but they’re strong, and the chili lime salt rim completes the dish. Pair that with some off-menu puffy tacos, and the queso-loaded nachos.
Starting the night with Korean BBQ is definitely a choice, and one we fully support before partying in Ktown. Ahgassi is a place with the ideal combination of atmosphere, affordability, and quality for this occasion. And it will almost certainly have you ready to sing your face off at Soop Sok later on tonight. We recommend a bottle of soju per person here, and the beef combination.
The main section of Sunset in Echo Park is one of the only parts of town where you can truly bar-hop - but you need a place to start your night before all that. And preferably, a place with great cocktails, before you descend into tequila shot-madness. Make that place Bar Caló. They have mezcal-based cocktails and a great menu of filling small bites you can make a meal out of - think chipotle peanut salsa, tom kha ceviche, and mole-doused Oaxacan hot chicken. Eat them on their tiny patio, close your eyes, and pretend you’re on the coast in Mexico (instead of an Echo Park parking lot).
No, you’re probably not used to starting your night with dinner at a bowling alley. But Highland Park Bowl isn’t just any bowling alley - this spot on York has great pizzas, and shockingly good cocktails on tap (especially the Old Fashioned). Bowl a couple strings before dinner, and then head upstairs for pizza. Get the prosciutto and arugula, the sausage and ricotta, and whatever else looks good to you.
If the only time you go to Jones is at 11pm after hitting four other bars, you’re making a huge mistake. Because as much fun as it is to end the night at this dark, Old Hollywood-inspired spot in Weho, it’s even better to start it here. Get there right at 7pm when the dining room opens, head straight to the bar, and get your martini before things start to get too backed up with orders from the tables. And, while maybe it’s not the most innovative pasta in town, the cast-iron spaghetti and meatballs is all we want to eat before we go across the street for tiki drinks at Formosa Cafe.