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.
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 briney 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.
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 hole through your wallet on this date.
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.
Early-in-the-game dates are a great way to flex your restaurant knowledge and prove to the person you’re courting that you are, in fact, pretty cool. And that’s why you need to know about Amiga Amore. The Italian/Mexican pop-up has been doing various stints around town for a while, but recently planted permanent roots on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Right now, the experience happens in a discreet parking lot (you get directions once you RSVP) decorated with string lights, papel picado, and a front row seat of Chef Danielle Duran-Zecca’s cooking. The menu changes weekly, but you can generally expect dishes like pillow-y soft elote agnolotti, lobster black ink fettuccine topped with epazote breadcrumbs, and a calzone filled with perfectly-cooked pork carnitas and mozzarella and Oaxacan cheese. Oh, and a lot of wine.
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.
Simply put, Anajak is serving some of the most exciting Thai food in the entire city. Their weekends-only, prix-fixe menu is designed in the style of the Japanese omakase, and includes dishes like dry-aged barramundi and haw mok, a creamy fish curry custard that tastes like a spicy dessert. There’s also a fantastic natural wine list and a lively side patio, making Anajak the perfect date spot when you want to impress, but also keep things fun and casual.
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.
Fishing With Dynamite is a very small seafood spot with a handful of tables and one of the best raw bars in the city. There’s an upscale, but easygoing feel here, making it a great option for a big-deal date night or a casual lunch after picking up your long-distance beau up from LAX. We like the smaller dishes more than the larger ones, so be sure to put a heavy emphasis on the oysters, Peruvian scallops, and ceviches. And then end your meal with their iconic key lime pie.
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 there aren’t any extracurriculars afterwards. Also, the food here is 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.
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 brussel 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 wine.
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.
Tucked 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 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.