Dating in college is tough. You’re busy and broke and mostly just want to play the field - no shame there. But every once in awhile, you’ll walk by that boy in the quad or match with a cute girl on Bumble, and everything changes. LA has no shortage of great date spots, but you’re in the market for someplace fun, reasonably priced, and ideally no more than a $10 Uber from campus. Don’t worry, it’s all possible. Below we’ve broken down, campus by campus, the best date night options for you and your budding love life (on a budget). Have fun out there.
After two weeks of back-and-forth on Tinder, that guy you pass every day outside TroGo finally grew a pair and said yes to a date. Everybody does the downtown date thing, so you’ve got other plans - Ktown. LA’s coolest neighborhood has more great restaurants than it knows what to do with, but your move here is to the old standby Escala. The bright Colombian-inspired restaurant has a fun, kitschy interior, good food (frito mac and cheese is a must), and very affordable prices.
B.S. Taqueria514 W 7th St
Date #1 was a wild success, but now it’s time to step your game up because you might actually like this person. Go all-in at one of downtown’s best restaurants where you also won’t go into debt - BS Taqueria. The colorful cantina has a cool, casual atmosphere at night and some of the best Mexican food in the area. And no, you won’t be housing wet burritos in front of each other. Think cauliflower al pastor, chorizo tacos, and beet tortas.
Barcito is one of those places that flies immensely under the radar, and we don’t really know why. Only a few blocks from Staples, Barcito is a relaxed Argentinian cafe serving authentic, affordable food that both of you can easily share. The Buenos Aires streetscapes plastered on the walls are certainly aggressive, but by the end of the meal, you don’t care. You love it here and so does she.
After three failed first dates, things are off to a rough start this semester. Time to change things up. Deep in the Arts District, Resident should definitely be considered a bar, but one that has date night glory written all over it. For one, it’s almost entirely outdoors. The bar is in an Airstream and the long community tables are ideal for not getting stuck in a dark corner with nothing to talk about. There’s a rotating list of food trucks on the premises when you both get hungry, and there’s even live music happening inside most nights. You’re welcome.
For whatever LA lacks in quality Tex-Mex food, it makes up for at Bar Ama. The casual little spot in downtown’s Historic Core has the kind of welcoming vibe that will calm any pre-date jitters, and food that’ll give you at least one thing to talk about. The move here is the queso, mom’s green enchiladas, and the off-menu puffy tacos.
So that girl you’ve been staring at in American Cultures finally said yes to dinner and now you’re in a panic. You need someplace great, but also somewhere you’ll both be comfortable. The Tripel over in Playa is just a few minutes from campus, but feels like it’s in its own little universe. The space itself is pretty small, but the vibe is laid-back, and the food is always top notch. Get the squid ink pasta or go all-in on the burger.
Downtown Culver is still a bit a mystery to you, and it’s time to fix that. Smack in the center of all the action is The Wallace, a casual, modern restaurant with an ideal first date vibe - slightly romantic, but no so much so that it feels awkward. The food is good and familiar, in case you aren’t ready to share that you're actually a really picky eater. Bonus: Skip dessert and get some gelato at Ugo around the corner.
Bacari is great for when you want a solid date night, but neither of you wants to totally commit to a full sit-down dinner. Bacari is essentially a wine bar that feels like a beach bar, but also happens to have some pretty solid tapas as well. That said, the move is come to Bacari as the sun is setting, order a cheese and salumi plate, and grab a few glasses of wine. The night will take you from there.
Let’s get real - Hawaiians always have more fun. The same is true at A-Frame, the Hawaiian-inspired and themed Culver spot. Prices are reasonable, everything is shareable, and that side patio is all kinds of good energy. Everything from the hush puppies to poke to cracklin' beer can chicken is worth ordering - just skip the house-made loco moco. Nobody needs steak patties and gravy on date night.
You’ve got a date tonight, but you also wouldn’t be opposed to going out with them afterwards. Head to James’ Beach. The Venice go-to has a great little patio, some seriously delicious fish tacos, and a bar scene that can get a tad rowdy (in a good way) as the night goes on. And if that doesn’t suit your fancy, you're already in the center of all things Venice nightlife - you could go anywhere.
Welcome to the best first date spot in the city. Plan Check’s vibe strikes that crucial middle ground of being laid-back, but also sexy at the same time. Prices are reasonable, the food delicious (seriously, that burger), and you look really hot in that dim lighting. Thank us tomorrow.
When in doubt, pizza is always the answer for date night. And at Milo And Olive, you’re getting perhaps the best on the westside. The relatively small Santa Monica spot has a fun energy, a young crowd, and pizzas all under $20. But you’ve been warned - one order of those oven-roasted garlic knots will definitely not be enough.
Tonight’s an important date, but you don’t want to wake up to three missed calls from your mom asking why you charged a $30 Uber to Beverly Hills to their credit card. Head to Fundamental LA instead. The casual wine bar just south of Wilshire is easily walkable from campus, and has the slightly romantic vibes inside to let this person know you care. The move here is definitely the brussels sprouts (with deviled egg puree) and a steak tartare to share. You’re only allowed to leave the room after a few orders of those churros.
Upper West is always one of the more overlooked restaurants on the Westside. Yes, it might reside in that West LA no man’s land, but the atmosphere at this bright spot on Pico is relaxed, fun, and with food that has no business being as good as it is. The crispy ahi tuna tacos, lamb nachitos, and pork tenderloin are all must-orders. And we’ll say this exactly once - they might have the best veggie burger in town.
All you hear about is how good the sushi in LA is, but then you look into your wallet and you only see tumbleweeds. We have a solution - Hara Sushi. Just down Wilshire a bit, Hara is one of our favorite affordable sushi spots in LA, and also a great spot to go to if neither of you are the most seasoned raw fish eaters. It’s all about the specialty rolls here, and they're massive, delicious (and very accessible) wonders. And you'll still have money to get back to campus.