Here at The Infatuation we take our “Perfect Fors” pretty seriously. A good restaurant could be perfect for a first date, but an all-out disaster when it comes to a big group birthday. It’s about knowing where to go for the specific occasion.
But what about all the times there isn’t necessarily an occasion? You know the night. It’s 7:30pm, you’re still in your work clothes, and you completely forgot you said you’d grab a bite to eat with your friend. It’s the casual midweek dinner.
Rarely talked about, and yet it’s every damn meal of the week: all you want is a place that’s easy to get into, won’t empty your wallet, and will get you home watching Netflix by 10pm. Oh, and with good food too. It’s a harder combination to nail than you think, but we’ve rounded up a collection of LA’s best spots for it. Your last-minute Wednesday night dinner will never be mediocre again.
Lodge is really more of a lunch spot, but a lot of people don’t know that this Culver City bakery is open until 8pm, making it ideal for an easy early dinner. They recently expanded their space, and serve their killer pizzas nightly along with a solid selection of beer and wine. Also of note, if you enjoy eating at blue plate special time: Happy Hour runs from 3 to 6pm, with 25% off food and $7 wine glasses.
You’re craving tacos, but it’s Thursday and you live on the Westside, so heading east is a fate worse than death. But it’s fine because you have Loqui in Culver City, and their tacos give the Eastside’s a run for their money. Loqui is very low-key (see what we did there?) - you order at the counter and there aren’t a lot of seats - but they also have beer and some of the best flour tortillas in existence, so the whole place is a net win.
There are neighborhood spots you go to because the food is acceptable and you can wear pajamas, and then there are neighborhood spots you go to because the food is actually great. Such is the case with Local Kitchen + Wine Bar in the Ocean Park area of Santa Monica. You’ll be able to get a reservation the night of or walk right in, but there are also plenty of people around. The food is simple and easy to share, although you might want to keep the thin and crispy pizzas to yourself.
Work was bad enough for you to decide to drown your sorrows in a burger — you want something fast, filling, and preferably served with a drink. Head to Bareburger. This spot is a popular chain in New York, and its first LA location has that whole corporate-but-trying-not-to-be-feel, complete with mismatched wooden furniture and exposed brick. But you’re not here for design inspiration. You’re here for fast service and a huge selection of consistently good burgers (including options like elk and bison, if you’re feeling adventurous). Are they revolutionary? No. Will they satisfy your stress-eating needs without making your car smell like a deep fryer for a week? Absolutely.
You promised your sister you’d have dinner with her tonight, and despite the call of delivery Thai and your couch, you’ve already rescheduled three times and will no longer have a sister if you do it again. Belle Vie makes everything better. The place feels like it was airlifted here from the middle of Paris, and the French staff will not only soothe you with their accents, but also tell you what to order - meaning you can dedicate all your mental energy to hearing about your sister’s latest life drama.
If there’s anything you’d rather eat on a Wednesday than sweet potato tots and one of the best burgers in town, then we’ll leave you to your cabbage soup. Because there’s nowhere we’d rather be on Wednesday right than The Tripel. This Playa Del Rey spot is the neighborhood hangout everyone else in the city is jealous of.
Located on a strip of Sepulveda in Culver City best known for carpet cleaning outlets, Maple Block is the cool and affordable BBQ spot your week could always use more of. The brisket is tremendous, but it’s everything else on the menu that keeps us coming back: the pimento sandwich, the mac and cheese, and whatever dessert they easily convince us to order. We want it all.
If Plan Check has the first date game on lock, Milo and Olive has the second. This Santa Monica pizza joint is excellent and casual and the right kind of sloppy for a second date. Because if they still can’t eat a slice of pizza in front of you, just leave now. Especially Milo and Olive’s pizza, which is some of the best on the Westside. Just don’t forget to order those garlic knots.
Italian restaurants on Montana are like actors in Los Angeles - they’re everywhere. And for the most part, we find they’re generally stuffy and pretty mediocre. Not Forma. This is a bright, modern trattoria that brought a much-needed breath fresh air to the sleepy neighborhood. Everything from the pizza to the pasta to the banana tart is good here and all well-priced for your Tuesday night dinner.
Koreatown is an obvious move for a group dinner involving barbecue, but sometimes sitting around a giant smoking table of meat with your friends just isn’t what you envisioned for your Tuesday. EMC, on the other hand, is pretty ideal no matter what kind of mood you’re in. The modern space on the ground floor of a Ktown mall is always a good time, and while it’s seafood-heavy, there’s plenty of other stuff to eat on the accessible and affordable menu. Also, $1 oysters every day from 4 - 7pm is always a good idea.
Kochi is located in the heart of La Cienega’s restaurant row, but unlike its sceny, overpriced neighbors, you don’t need to have a fake IMDB page to get a table here. In fact, you probably only need about ten spare minutes to wait for table and you’ll be sitting in front of the best bowl of udon outside of Little Tokyo. The place is small, but lively, with the kind of neighborhood atmosphere you don’t find in this part of town. The bowls are huge and all fall within the $15 range. Get the Uni Cream Udon.
One of you wants to go on a date, while the other just needs delivery pizza. Split the difference, pick up a bottle of wine on the way, and head to Pace Joint. The pizza (and pasta, and salads) are better than the ones you would have ordered, and the secret patio out back makes it feel like you actually planned ahead. And because the place looks like a delivery-only spot up-front, you shouldn’t have much trouble walking right in.
Hollywood isn’t exactly the neighborhood for casual dinners, but La Carmencita is the exception to that rule. When you have a bunch of friends in tow and no one is willing to make a decision, take the reins and direct the team to La Carmencita. Baja-style Mexican seafood is a lot more fun than the mediocre sushi place you always end up at, especially when you get one of the cheese-covered shrimp cazuelas to yourself. Sharing is overrated.
While you could make the case for just about any Thai Town joint for a casual midweek dinner outing, our choice is always Hoy-Ka. The modern space has a great vibe, plenty of TVs if you want to catch a game, and most importantly, excellent Thai food. You can’t go wrong with any of the traditional staples, but if you’re in the mood to break the routine, the fish curry is excellent.
There are very few things Stout doesn’t get right. This casual burger bar in Hollywood (and a few other locations around town) has a reasonably-priced menu with consistently delicious burgers and a concise beer list that’s just as good. You can always find a table and the vibe is low-key and relaxed - an astounding feat considering you’re eating dinner on Cahuenga.
Jones Hollywood is one of LA’s great restaurants because of the simple fact that they do casual better than anybody else. Jones is easy to get into, affordable, and full of beautiful people who are actually tolerable. We love the pizza, the skillet-served spaghetti, and the apple pie that’s among the best desserts in LA.
The Hollywood relocation of one of Weho’s favorite brunch spots was, on paper, an odd decision. But it paid off. The new space on Highland is twice the size, far more efficient, and serves an expanded menu that’s reliably great. If you live on the Eastside and your old co-worker who’s been Facebooking you to catch up lives on the Westside, Salt’s Cure is the ideal middle ground.
Time and time again, Plan Check proves itself as one of LA’s best casual restaurants. With Fairfax, Sawtelle, Santa Monica, and DTLA locations now, the trendy-but-not-too-trendy spot has a strong beer list, good food, and the kind of low-key vibe that generally works for everything. If you’re hunting for a solid first date spot on a Tuesday night, your search ends here.
This Melrose spot has been a neighborhood staple since it opened thanks to its low-key vibe, good crowd, excellent drinks, and English pub food that’s way better than it needs to be. If you’re in the market to catch up with your college roommate over some IPAs, but know you’ll get hungry at some point, Village Idiot is your move.
Not every casual sushi night has to end in the word Sugarfish. Murakami on Melrose has good regular sushi, but you really come here for one thing: the sushi bowls. Either from their “favorites” menu or build-your-own, Murakami’s sushi bowls are one of the best deals in town. And the modern space is easy and efficient, ensuring you leave with plenty of time to get home and watch that boring documentary you’ve been looking forward to all week.
Ignore the occasionally long wait time and not-totally-set-in-stone hours of operation. Mh Zh is one of the best casual midweek dinner spots in the whole city. The place is essentially a sidewalk cafe along Sunset, and by our estimations, the entire menu can be ordered for about $90. You should consider doing so, because the Israeli/Mediterranean food here is phenomenal, and life’s too short not to become excruciatingly full on something called lamb ragoooo. They don’t take reservations, but if there’s a wait, put your name in and go grab a drink at Cliff’s Edge next door.
There comes a point in everyone’s week where you just need some orange chicken and chow mein and you need your friends to be eating it with you. Fat Dragon is our go-to neighborhood Chinese spot on the Eastside, serving extremely solid classics that always taste really fresh. Delivery is never a bad choice, but dining-in at their Sunset Blvd. strip mall location is easy and affordable.
If only all neighborhood pizza joints were as good as Cosa Buona. This new Silver Lake restaurant from the Alimento crew has all the classics (mozzarella sticks, meatballs, margherita pizzas), and doesn’t really mess with them, except that the quality is way higher than the place your parents used to take you for dinner when you got good grades. If you want one of the booths, you’ll need to make a reservation, but (for now at least) bar seats are relatively easy to come by for a weeknight dinner.
This particular corner of East Hollywood has a lot in the way of casual options, but we find it hard to go past DeSano. The space is huge, the Neapolitan pizzas are some of the best in town, there’s plenty of wine, and there are lots of Italians screaming at soccer on the TVs. If you’re keeping things casual, might as well drink one too many glasses of Chianti and learn some Italian swear words.
Daw Yee isn’t just a great casual midweek dinner spot. It’s also a great weekend spot, start of the week spot, and end of the week spot. If it was socially acceptable we’d eat here every night. The Burmese food is fantastic, and if you’ve never tried it before, this is the perfect place to start. Important to note: they don’t serve alcohol.
It’s Monday night, your day was sh*t, and you need wine. A lot of wine. But you also told your friend you’d grab a quick dinner with her. Easy fix: go to Bar Covell. This casual wine bar has a huge number of glasses and bottles, and an accompanying food menu that’s surprisingly strong. You’re obviously getting the cheese and charcuterie, but the mac and cheese is not to be missed.
It’s Tuesday, and you’ve got a date. You want it to be nice, but also not that big of a deal. This Sunset Junction spot (in an actual bungalow house) perfectly rides that line between casual/cool and sexy/I really like you. The North African-inspired menu is also well-priced and excellent.
Maybe everyone you know is about to go on trips and you used up all your vacation days going to your cousin’s wedding in Florida. Barcito’s aggressive Buenos Aires theme will make you forget that you’re stuck in LA for the foreseeable future. The food is occasionally hit or miss, but if you get the pulpo and churros, you’ll leave happy. The vibe is laid-back, something we’re very appreciative about downtown.
If you turn down queso on a Thursday, you are not to be trusted. If you need it, you go to Bar Ama. The downtown spot is the ideal place to roll in with some friends for a last-minute dinner and have a fantastic, affordable Tex-Mex feast. It can get crowded, so a reservation might be a good idea, but even if you walk in, you won’t wait long at this casual downtown spot.
B.S. Taqueria is the older brother to Broken Spanish, and it’s the bright, casual taco joint we’d be happy to eat at weekly. The cocktails are excellent, the lardo tacos are worth every bit of hype, and those churros are the best we’ve ever had in our life.
Just because a place is considered a destination restaurant, doesn’t mean it’s some fancy once-a-year spot. Coni’Seafood is located off the 105 Freeway in Inglewood and is the low-key Mexican seafood joint your Wednesday needs. The interior is fine, but you want a spot on their massive back patio. Get the marlin tacos and as much of the house habanero salsa as you can handle.
If you’re in the South Bay looking for a casual dinner with friends where you won’t be forced into buying rounds of Fireball on a Monday night, Abigaile is your spot. The Hermosa Beach microbrewery/nightclub can get a bit rowdy upstairs on the weekends, but midweek there’s not a better place to drink good beer, eat delicious comfort food, and make plans to come back on the weekend.