LAGuide

The Best Date Night Restaurants In Los Angeles

Whether it’s the first or the 101st date, this guide to date night has you covered.

Dating is tough. First dates require the strategy of a war council, second dates are arguably even worse, and if you make it to a third one, you have to finally start telling the truth about your life. But what about the 20th date? Or the 120th date? Or the please god let’s not sit on the couch and watch HGTV again date? NONE OF THIS IS EASY. But we’re here to help. Read on for our best LA bets for all-around dating success.

THE SPOTS

Cento’s new indoor/outdoor space in West Adams is certainly bigger than the original operation, but it still maintains the look and feel of a neighborhood wine and pasta bar—and that’s exactly what date night calls for. There’s a cozy, string-lit front patio if you’re looking for something classically romantic, but the bar inside is even more exciting. Here’s where you and your date will get a front row seat to the pasta show: spicy pomodoro covered in basil, and the iconic beet spaghetti drenched in brown butter, whipped ricotta, and chives. Cento’s expanded menu has plenty of excellent new dishes like savory chicken liver crostini and banana pudding tiramisu that will live in your subconscious for weeks, but at the end of the day, you’re here to eat a lot of pasta—which is still among the best in the city.

Jones Hollywood is what we call an ace restaurant. Pull this casual Italian Weho spot out for any kind of date imaginable, and Jones will get the job done - and then some. The menu is full of solid staples like margherita pizza and spaghetti and meatballs served in a skillet, and their briny Dirty Sue martini is one of our favorites in town. The atmosphere inside always feels like a cool after-party in the Hills, but not in the way that’s intimidating. At Jones, everyone feels like a Hollywood insider.

Date night doesn’t have to mean meat sweats in a cramped leather booth. If you’re looking for something far more casual—but still special—head to Checker Hall. On the second floor of an old masonic lodge in Highland Park, the sprawling space is equal parts bar and restaurant, meaning whether you want to hang at a table all night or flirt with each other at the bar, both are equally acceptable. The cocktails are well-made (we love the perfectly-spicy Carmen #6), the music curation is always right, and if you get hungry, seafood-centric pop-up, Little Fish, is currently running the menu.  

On paper, the concept of Mātu is sort of absurd. This dimly lit spot in Beverly Hills specializes in a five-course prix-fixe menu consisting of various premium Wagyu beef dishes. It's an indulgence of the highest variety, and yet, the experience inside is toned-down and sensible. For starters, the prix-fixe menu is $78. Sure, that’s a lot of money and no one should be mistaking Matu for a casual Tuesday spot, but to be eating five courses of premium meat on S. Beverly Blvd. for under $100 is a good value. Secondly, the food is excellent and coursed out in a way that doesn’t feel like a grotesque meat parade. You’ll sip clear earthy beef broth, sample thinly sliced pieces of NY strip steak, and finish with a wood-fired ribeye and perfectly cooked broccolini. Mātu is the kind of place where celebrating an anniversary or the fact that you’re head-over-heels for this person feels euphoric—without having to constantly check the prices. 

On paper, a cramped tavern that doesn’t take reservations might not seem like an ideal date spot, but Ototo proves that theory wrong. Sure, you’ll probably have to wait a half-hour or so to get in, but this izakaya/sake bar in Echo Park lets you drink on the sidewalk, making the downtime much more palatable. Inside, you’ll find a dark, sexy space, a delicious snack menu (the pan-fried yakisoba noodles and cheese okonomiyaki are standouts), and over 40 different kinds of sake. If date night has become a bit boring lately or you’re looking for a great pre-game spot before seeing a show on the Eastside, move Ototo to the top of your list.

After a successful crowd-funding campaign, the popular Koreatown spot is back in the same great corner space with a menu that mixes old favorites with plenty of new dishes as well. If you were a regular, you’ll recognize the tomatoes topped with crispy lap xuong, steak tartare mixed with red chili and tamari, and frog legs. If you and your date are new, you’ll get to experience those plus plenty of new standouts like the crispy, crackly duck confit that’s meant to be eaten with your hands (acceptable date night behavior in our books). 

Outside the world of $400 omakase, it’s rare to find a sushi experience that truly surprises us. But that’s exactly what we discovered at Kinkan, a new half-Japanese, half-Thai restaurant in Virgil Village that feels like an intimate dinner party with friends. This won’t be a cheap night by any means (the nighttime omakase runs about $150 per person), but if you’re in the market to splurge and experience one of the most unique restaurants in LA, snag a reservation right this very instant. The 10-course meal changes all the time, but prepare to eat dishes like roses shaped from seared fish slivers, ikura served in teacups, and red-hot pepper stews.

Mazal opened only in November 2020, but has quickly become one of our favorite casual dinner spots on the Eastside. This completely vegetarian Israeli restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, but we love their alleyway patio adorned with string lights, awnings, and patterned concrete walls. That said, Mazal is more than just a cute space - the food is excellent too. We love their smoky babaganoush and flaky bourekas, which come filled with potato, feta, or pesto/olive mix. Everything is sharable and under $20, meaning even with a few glasses of wine, you won’t be burning holes through your wallet on this date.


The Best First Date Spots In LA guide image

LA Guide

The Best First Date Spots In LA

Located on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, Sushi Note is a wine bar/sushi restaurant hybrid - a dream combination for a splurge-y date night. You can order anything a la carte here, but we prefer to go all-in on the Whole Note omakase. At $115, it’s a higher-end omakase, but after eating 12 pieces of high-quality sushi, edamame, miso soup, a starter, hand roll, and dessert, you’ll feel like this meal has more than earned its price point. Then make friends with the sommelier, who will happily course out all the wine you need.

Run by the power duo behind République, this cozy, subterranean spot in the old Sotto space in Beverlywood is a traditional French bistro in every sense of the word. Unlike their other restaurants, the focus here is on French home-style cooking; simple, heavy dishes like caramelized onion tarte tatin, crusty baguettes topped with sardines, and beef short ribs served with golden potato mousseline that are so tender, you can slice through them with a butter knife. Bicyclette is indulgence of the purest variety, and sometimes that’s all you want when you’re trying to plan a date with someone you’ve been married to for 15 years.


Not only does Dudley Market serve some of our favorite seafood in Los Angeles, this neighborhood spot also has a fantastic location one block off the Venice boardwalk. It feels like one of those fake, too-good-to-be-true settings only reserved for Diane Keaton in a rom-com, but it’s real and exactly where you should be going on dates right now. You’ll eat a bunch of excellent seafood like oysters and whole fried rockfish that were caught that day and drink funky, biodynamic wine as the sunsets across the ocean. Also, their onion jam-topped burger is our #1 burger in the city. Plan accordingly.

Located on the grounds of Yamashiro, Kensho is a tiny Japanese wine bar with views that include the Hollywood Sign, the sun setting over the surrounding hills, and your date realizing that this is you taking the relationship to the next level. The menu is filled with snacks like mushroom inari, a perilla bowl, and charcuterie plates, but keep an eye on their calendar, as different pop-ups happen throughout the week (Thursday and Friday yakitori night is a must). Make sure you get involved with their excellent natural wine and sake as well.

With several inter-connecting patios, exposed wooden beams, and a big triangular bar where the neighborhood congregates nightly, this Glassell Park wine bar looks like a movie set where the protagonist always finds undeniable love in the end. Go and try your luck at Wife & The Somm. There’s a solid menu full of snack-y dishes like roasted brussels sprouts and spicy tuna tartare, plus excellent rotating pastas like tagliatelle in yuzu butter. That said, the real reason everybody’s here is for the excellent wine list, which includes a mix of regular and biodynamic options.

If some of the things you know about French food are that it’s typically rich, and it’s sometimes expensive, then you already know a lot about Pasjoli. Both of those are true at this Santa Monica spot, but that doesn’t stop us from going when we want incredible French food prepared with traditional techniques. That includes a lot of things happening tableside, like canard à la presse - a pressed duck, prepared on a little cart wheeled to your table, then juiced in an antique contraption that could be a 15th-century torture device. It’s an experience that will transform any seal-the-deal date into a home run - and not just because it results in an excellent-tasting duck.

The two-story oyster bar in the heart of Silver Lake has one of the strongest curb appeals/front patios on the entire Eastside, with the food and environment inside to back it all up. This is a real neighborhood spot, but with an upscale atmosphere that makes it feel more special than your Tuesday night go-to. Order the moules-frites and several rounds of oysters.


LASA, the family-run Filipino spot in Chinatown, has pivoted to a new rotisserie and wine concept called Lasita. The place is still in the Far East Plaza, but the interior has been redone with bright, peach-colored walls and cozy wooden booths perfect for a casual date night. The streamlined menu focuses primarily on brined meat like pork belly lechon, but the star of the show is without question the inasal. The rotisserie chicken dish is stuffed with lemongrass and garlic, giving it sweet and citrusy notes, with a slight acidic bite at the end. Split a bottle of natural wine and a turon cream pie at the end, and you’re all but guaranteed a second date.


One might expect a “globally inspired” restaurant that’s been open since 2011 to feel somewhat tired at this point, but not Tar & Roses. There’s still a genuine excitement at this popular Santa Monica spot, and it’s because the food is better than ever. You and your date are going to eat dishes like shellfish curry, strawberry crostatas, and share a plate of oxtail dumplings you’ll both be making mental note of to have served at your eventual wedding.


Hidden away in everyone’s favorite cut-through to The Valley (Laurel Canyon), Pace has always had one of the more idyllic restaurant settings in LA, but now with an expanded outdoor situation, dinner here feels like you’re eating in Tuscany, not three minutes from Hollywood Blvd. Whether you’re in the mood for prosciutto-topped pizza, tortellini stuffed with ricotta, or wood-grilled salmon, everything at Pace is solid and the perfect thing to eat while you and your significant other contemplate leaving it all behind and opening a jam store in the Central Coast together.


This spot in Beverly Grove isn’t the kind of stuffy French restaurant with $20 glasses of wine and servers who talk about mussels like they’re Jacques Cousteau describing seal mating rituals. Rather, it’s the kind with fantastic pasta, affordable (and excellent) wine, and a cool crowd of people you’ll wish you could get fashion advice from. It’s impressive, yes, but more than that, it’s just a fun way to spend a night with somebody who you’re still getting to know.


Little Beast is one of those places you always forget about, and then remember it, and then make plans to get back there for night date immediately. Located in a century-old Craftsman bungalow in Eagle Rock, this American comfort food spot has an affordable menu filled with solid dishes like sweet corn risotto and pork osso bucco, all the parking in the world, and a string light-adorned back patio that makes you feel like you’re eating at a best friend’s house. Save room for the brioche bread pudding.


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