Where To Have A Unique Dining Experience In LA

Head to these LA restaurants for a time you’ll actually remember.
Rémy Martin

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Whether you've decided to put considerable effort into your next date or you have to entertain out-of-town friends, one thing is clear: You need something that feels original. Eating pretty vegetables on a pretty patio isn't always going to cut it. You need something stand-out, maybe something glitzy or a little bit hidden, maybe a jazz club or an invite-only club for the greatest magicians in the world. These are the dining experiences unlike any other in LA.


photo credit: Maxime Lemoine


Santa Monica

$$$$Perfect For:Special OccasionsUnique Dining ExperienceDate Night
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Before you enter The Georgian Room, you’ll have to buzz a mysterious doorbell, waddle into a closet-sized waiting room, and put a privacy sticker over your phone camera. Let that be your first indication that this Italian steakhouse is only partially about the food. Mostly, you come to this revitalized Old Hollywood dining room underneath The Georgian Hotel for the experience. It’s the kind of martini-soaked nostalgia den that makes people-watching at other "speakeasies" seem like a waste of time. Start with calamari in a deep green booth, and don’t leave until you hear the jazz singer crooning slowed renditions of Brittney Spears songs next to a vintage Steinway.

If you’re looking for a sensory overload kind of night with a group of friends, Level 8 delivers. This is a chaotic nightlife complex on the eighth floor of the Moxy DTLA. Just getting inside feels like participating in space travel. First, you'll be escorted down a hallway of pulsing psychedelic lights and then into an elevator that shoots you up to a maze of restaurants and bars (plus an outdoor pool deck open to anyone). You could very well swim, drink, and watch aerial burlesque in the same night. But we recommend starting with dinner at the crowd-pleasing South American steakhouse, Qué Bárbaro. Just be aware that you’ll need reservations for most of the concepts.

This Central American street market in Koreatown will keep you occupied all afternoon with chicken soup, blood oysters tossed into ceviche, and pupusas sizzling on hot grills. The tented roadside market operates daily on the stretch of Vermont Avenue from 11th to 13th. In between the soccer jersey sellers and people snacking on green mangoes dusted in sour achiote powder, you'll see a ton of different Salvadoran stands. Our favorite is Pupuseria Jazmin’s #2, where you sit at long banquet tables and eat crispy-edged pupusas with equal parts frijoles, cheese, and chicharrón. These hit the table still spongy in the center, with pork minced so finely it blends into the molten filling like a spicy, fatty seasoning. 

If you wanted to plan a bus tour of LA's best Thai spots (sign us up), the food court at Wat Thai food court would be a mandatory stop. Every weekend, the Thai Buddhist temple right on the border of Sun Valley and North Hollywood hosts a street food market in its parking lot. Each vendor opens around 8am, and popular dishes can sell out as early as noon. A one-stop destination serving a wide range of excellent Thai specialties, Wat Thai serves juicy BBQ pork skewers, beefy boat noodles, creamy mango sticky rice, and spicy papaya salad that you can grab in one walk-through. Just remember that it’s cash-only and you’ll need to exchange your money for tokens that you’ll trade for your food later.

While you won’t eat anything remarkable for lunch at Restaurant 917, you will get front-row seats to a thrilling car show. This daytime spot is located on the second floor of the Porsche Experience Center in Carson, the official driving school of the luxury car company. As you eat dishes like crab spaghetti or a wagyu beef burger in the casual dining room, sports cars will whizz by at 110 mph on the track down below. Most people come here to drift a Porsche 911 with a birthday crew, but the restaurant is still a fun place to sip a martini and have a light bite even if you don’t plan on getting behind the wheel.

photo credit: Katrina Frederick



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Dinner at Hansei in Little Tokyo begins not at a hostess stand, but with a tour of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s lush gardens followed by shochu-infused drinks and small bites. From there, the multi-course experience takes you through various other locations around the center, including an interior "chef's counter" where you’ll be served dishes like teriyaki wagyu steak and a play on the California roll that involves fried seaweed. There are a lot of moving pieces to dinner here, but you can set your own pace. We suggest hanging in the garden to watch the sunset or sipping green tea after dessert. It’s pricey—the nine-course menu runs $175 per person (before tax and tip)—but for a splurge-y dinner that’s unlike anything else in LA, this is a reservation to make.

Most West Hollywood lunches involve standing around waiting for an $18 custom-made salad to arrive. If you’re looking for something completely different—and whole-heartedly nostalgic—go to Tail O’ The Pup. The legendary hot dog stand (that’s shaped like a giant hot dog, no less) has recently reopened on Santa Monica Blvd. with a full build-out that includes two separate patios and an interior that looks like a deluxe In-N-Out. Our favorite dogs on the menu include the fully loaded Chicago Pup and spicy Jalapeno Pup, but don’t overlook the Sassy Cheese, a fast food-style burger with a layer of crispy, griddled cheese inside. 

Cicada Club is one of those places that reminds you there’s always more to downtown LA than meets the eye. This Art Deco supper club across from Pershing Square feels as if you’re eating in the grand ballroom of the Titanic (sans iceberg), complete with a live brass band that gets the dance floor heated up early. You can go all-in for the dinner setup, or just buy separate tickets to just come and dance. The dress code is suits and cocktail dresses—show up in a flapper outfit and no one will blink an eye. If you’re looking for something different to do on your birthday this year, take the crew to Cicada Club. 

A night inside MainRo is like hanging out on the set of The Voice, if it were filmed inside a spaceship rocketing towards galaxies unknown. In other words, it’s complete chaos from the moment you walk in. If you’re in the market for an over-the-top clubstaurant experience, though, MainRo is the best show in town. You’ll see trapeze artists, aerial acts, and girls coming down from the ceiling belting out Adele songs. Servers will dance on tables to ABBA and Cher hits, and you’ll eat overpriced sushi rolls and random finger food like wagyu-stuffed gyozas that kind of taste like Big Macs. The food isn’t great, but it also isn’t so bad that it distracts from the pandemonium—which is why you’re here anyway. 

Finding enough space in your apartment for your crochet button collection is hard enough, let alone hosting a proper dinner party. That’s what makes Ilé, a Nigerian fine dining pop-up in Hollywood, so impressive—it’s actually held inside the chef’s luxury loft apartment. You’ll make a couple of new friends, eat some delicious and dramatically presented food, and enjoy an intimate experience highlighting West African cuisine. The dinner is BYOB and you can reserve spots for a four or eight-course meal, depending on your budget. Just be prepared to learn a lot about the chef, who tells personal stories about his upbringing in Lagos between courses.

To call The Magic Castle merely a restaurant would be doing it an injustice. It’s a private club, home to the best magicians on the planet, with a restaurant that’s better than you’d expect. Getting into this massive Victorian mansion in Hollywood takes some effort (you need to secure an invite from an actual club member), but once you’re inside, you’ll embark on a night of up-close magic, strong old fashioneds, and mechanical owls that’ll talk back to you. The fairly traditional steakhouse menu (think jumbo shrimp cocktails and beef wellington) isn’t going to melt your mind, but that’s what the magic is for.

Whenever we need a break from the chaos of Los Angeles, we drive up to Old Place. It’s in the Santa Monica Mountains, located on the grounds of a 19th-century general store-turned-saloon and steakhouse, complete with a Wild West aesthetic that reminds us of the movies our dad loves to watch. The menu is packed with American comfort foods like bone-in ribeyes, glorious apple crispy, and something called a “noodle and cheese bake,” a mac-and-cheese type dish that’s made with thick egg noodles smothered in parmesan, goat cheese, and mozzarella.

Opened by the legendary American trumpet player, Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill is anything but low-key. As soon as you enter the Bel-Air spot (from the parking lot filled with Aston Martins and Porsches), you’ll be greeted by a glittering ballroom and the live jazz band up front. People are wearing suits, jackets, and dresses they found in the “evening wear” section at Neiman Marcus, and everything–from the steak to the calamari to the complimentary ice cream scoop they’ll give if they know it’s your birthday–tastes perfectly acceptable, sometimes even good. Be prepared to spend money and have fun.

A meal at this high-end sushi bar in the San Fernando Valley can only be described as a transcendental experience. The bar is filled with regulars, the walls are a strangely soothing bright orange color, and fluorescent lighting flickers overhead. It seems like a casual experience, despite the $200 price tag, and everyone’s having fun. The chef behind the counter is as calm as a Headspace instructor, carefully constructing ahi tuna four ways or shrimp tempura with a hint of yuzu. The omakase is the way to go—you’ll get things like four different cuts of ahi prepared four different ways, blue crab hand rolls laced with truffle oil, and scallops topped with caviar.

The Tam O’Shanter is one of those extremely European places that Southern California seems to love so much (see also: literally all of Solvang). Wrought iron chandeliers swing from the ceiling, there are about five miles of carpet on the floors, and you can find fireplaces in nearly every room. The menu’s stacked with foods that feel like they should be eaten in candlelight, like a funky Scotch rarebit or Toad In The Hole that’s essentially a filet mignon stew. This Scottish pub feels like it's been frozen in time in the best way possible.

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