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 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.
Fishing With Dynamite is one of the best restaurants in LA. That’s largely because of its seafood, but also because this Manhattan Beach spot is fun, casual, and approachable. The entire place is the size of a deluxe janitorial closet (get a reservation), and it’s a true neighborhood restaurant that’s worth the hassle of driving to Manhattan Beach on a Friday night. Start with the oysters, get the yellowtail tacos, save room for the key lime pie, and end it all with a make out session by the pier.
Some dates are less about the food, more about the vibe. Wolfdown, in Silver Lake, is packed with vibes. It feels like the sophisticated bungalow house you don’t yet live in, and the small side patio is magic if you need to bring out the big romance guns. Plus, the family-style, Asian-inspired menu is a great way to test your theory that people who don’t share food well are actual psychopaths.
Your boyfriend wants to go to Paris for the holidays, but you need to break it to him that your boss believes the holidays are a consumerist construct and you’re working straight through them. Let him down gently with dinner at Belle Vie - the closest you can get to the feeling of being in Paris, without having to buy a ticket to France. Grab a booth or a spot at the bar, let the (French) waitstaff pick the wine for you, order the gravlax and beef burgundy tacos, and promise that Christmas with his parents will be just as good.
When it’s time for no-holds-barred, candlelit, Let’s Get It On romance, Barrique is your place. It’s in a yellow wooden bungalow on a quiet stretch of Main St. in Venice, has many candles and charming Italian waiters, and a money-back guarantee if you don’t get laid after dinner. Aside from all of that though, the food here is truly excellent - more like what you’d get at a trattoria in Florence than a red-sauce joint or fancy modern Italian spot. Order pasta and get going on your Lady and the Tramp reenactment.
Both of you love date nights, but neither of you excels at planning them. Make it easy on yourself and head to Same Same. This Thai restaurant/wine bar in Silver Lake doesn’t take reservations, but is one of those golden spots you walk into any day of the week when it’s crowded and they’ll still have a table ready in under five minutes. The food is always good (and affordable), and all the wine goes perfectly with whatever you’re eating. If it’s an early date and you’re trying not to show that you have no idea what you’re doing, this place will save you from your wine-ordering anxiety.
You’ve been together for a while and at this point, can safely say you’ve been to every semi-romantic restaurant in town. Time to make the trip out to Saddle Peak for an actually-different experience. This century-old restaurant up in the Santa Monica Mountains feels like you’re eating dinner at a billionaire’s wilderness lodge, complete with a library, an attic, and enough taxidermied animals to stage a well-received production of The Lion King. It’s all about rare meats here (elk, emu, etc.) and the Johnnycake (cornbread from the gods).
We don’t need to tell you that French things are sexy. But it bears repeating - French things are very sexy. And when it comes in the form of a beautiful restaurant with an even better patio, the romance is more than palpable - making AOC a date night no-brainer. With a setting this special and food this good (the Spanish fried chicken is a must), you’re definitely here to impress.
Despite the crowds and the scene and the nightmare prospect of trying to find parking at night around Abbot Kinney, Gjelina remains one of LA’s ultimate date night spots. You’re going to ignore that girl wearing her sunglasses inside at 9pm, and instead focus on all the things that Gjelina gets right: the pizza, the gnocchi, the wine, the vibe, and the back patio where everything wrong in the world goes away.
L&E has been around for a few years now, and yet it still somehow flies under the radar. The two-story oyster bar in the heart of Silver Lake has one of the strongest curb appeals of 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. Also, google aphrodisiac.
Tar & Roses is one of those rare LA restaurant stories - a place that has actually gotten better with age. This Santa Monica restaurant gets everything right: a cool atmosphere, excellent food (the best duck in town), and a back patio that will make any date a success.
At the end of the day, old-school Italian always wins out on date night. And at Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, you’re getting the kind of meatball and red sauce dishes you just don’t come across frequently in LA. Add that its location on Hillhurst feels like a backdrop to a Woody Allen movie, and you’ve got yourself date night glory.
And some nights, you just want something completely different. Cicada Club is where you go when you want to put on a suit jacket or a dress and dance the night away to big band swing music. Be sure to check the calendar online to see who’s playing when, and then go all in on the very reasonable pre-fixe dinner for $59 a person. The food is good, the bar serves classic cocktails, and the dance floor is where you want to be.
This hidden Laurel Canyon spot has been a Hollywood staple for a long time now, but come on a weeknight, and you’ll find the quiet, romantic version that makes this place so special. The food is familiar, but it’s also downright delicious - pizzas, pastas, and perhaps the best grilled salmon in town. Just be sure to take a cab if you can - parking is non-existent.
In the middle of Santa Monica Blvd., Norah brought a classy, elegant option to a part of Weho that surprisingly lacks such places. The American menu isn’t reinventing the wheel, but you won’t care because it’s good and everything is easily shareable. There’s also not a bad cocktail on the list.
There’s tons of great modern Mexican food in LA these days, but Broken Spanish is the best. Oxtail quesadilla? Lamb neck tamale? You’ll be into it. And you’ll also be into the dark, romantic space and a wine list that goes on forever. It’s not cheap here, but it’s certainly worth it.
Located in an ivy-covered building along Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, Firefly has been a Valley staple for awhile now, but also one that gets better each time you go back. There’s the library-themed lounge area up front that’s still perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail, and a patio that remains one of the most romantic spaces in the Valley. Order the mushroom pappardelle.
This town has no shortage of excellent places to eat raw fish, but when it comes to date night, Asanebo is your spot. The Ventura Blvd. space is sleek and cool, far more so than your weeknight sushi staple. Omakase is generally the move here, but it also doesn’t have to be - they have a full a la carte menu that’s excellent.
In that strange, sleepy section of Culver City West you always thought was Mar Vista sits Hatchet Hall. The modern Southern spot is one of our favorite dinner date places, thanks to a fantastic menu and a beautiful space. You’re definitely going to want to sit out on the front patio for dinner, but be sure to stroll around inside until you find the hidden bar in the back. You’ll be drinking there afterwards.
Little Beast is one of those places you always forget about, and then remember it, and then make plans to get back there immediately. Well, here’s your reminder. The vintage bungalow in Eagle Rock has a fantastic, affordable menu (get the pork chop), all the parking in the world, and a bright back patio that makes you feel like you’re eating at a best friend’s house. Save room for the brioche bread pudding.
Culver City isn’t exactly the first place your mind goes to when you think old Hollywood, but in the center of its lively downtown sits the Culver Hotel - one of LA’s landmark buildings, steeped in movie history, and home to an excellent bar/restaurant situation perfect for a slightly off-center-in-a-good-way date night. Think live jazz music, silent movies playing on the wall, Wizard of Oz themed cocktails, and a solid bar menu.
Restaurants come and go all the time, but no matter what, there is always The Little Door. One of the most reliable date night spots in the entire city, this tiny brasserie in the heart of 3rd St. has an extremely romantic patio and a French-inspired menu that never disappoints.