We live in Los Angeles - the city of eternal sunshine, year-round vegetation, and Kiefer Sutherland sightings at hot pilates - but most likely, your parents do not. Which means one thing: they’re on their way. Whether it’s for vacation, graduation, or because they’re simply losing their minds in WhatTheF*ck, Indiana, they’re heading West, and it’s time to impress. We hope you know your parents better than we do, but there are a few things they all have in common:
- They want to make sure you’ve got your life at least somewhat together.
- They don’t see the need of going outside of their comfort zone.
- They want to drink.
That’s no easy checklist. But help has arrived. Here is an UPDATED list of where you need to be eating and drinking the next time your parents arrive in Los Angeles.
Of all the restaurant choices in Venice, Salt Air is the most parent-friendly - it’s not outrageously loud, the menu isn’t full of scary-sounding ingredients, and the number of hats worn inside is kept to a minimum. Instead, there’s lots of seafood, meat options if Dad is scared of shellfish, and a pea toast you should bully them into ordering either way.
Cafe Birdie is the place to take your parents when you need to convince them that you are, indeed, an adult who can make responsible life choices. Because Cafe Birdie is the grown-up restaurant that Highland Park has long needed, and will show them that the Eastside is actually a civilized part of town. Take them out the back to the hidden bar too - they’ll definitely be telling Cindy and Joe from bridge club all about how cool it was once they get home.
At that inevitable point in the visit when they start not-so-subtly dropping hints about you moving back East, it’s time to make a visit to Salazar. When you can comfortably drink horchata and eat delicious tacos served on housemade tortillas while sitting outside at the end of October, you’ve answered the question for them.
Salt’s Cure is good for any and all dear-god-I’ve-been-spending-too-much-time-with-the-parents situation. Mom and Dad been getting snippy at each other? The oatmeal griddle cakes at brunch will fix that right up. Dad complaining he’s had too many salads this week? That 16oz pork loin will solve his problems. So what if all these things happen on the same trip and you end up here multiple times? No one will be complaining.
Choosing a bar to hang out at with your parents is a tough one. Obviously, anywhere too loud is out of the question, and dives are a no-go when Mom is wearing her best pair of kitten heels. 71Above is the perfect parent bar - it’s pretty swank, and to say it has killer views is putting it mildly. Great cocktails and friendly bartenders round things out and, if you want to settle in for the evening, dinner is an excellent option too.
Dad probably complains that brunch “isn’t a real meal,” but Mom loves it and we all know who’s the boss around these parts. Take them to Terrine, a French brasserie that turns kind of American for weekend brunch. Mom can have all the mimosas she wants and Dad will be happy once he sees there’s fried chicken and grits.
Steps from the beach and just far enough away from the mixtape salesmen of the boardwalk, C&O is a completely cheesy and totally awesome Italian restaurant that your parents will never stop talking about. The family style menu is familiar and appealing, and their all-you-can-eat garlic knots should definitely be on the list of most dangerous foods in America. Yes, the courtyard and its painted facades are a touch put-on, and the waiters are definitely going to sing “That’s Amore!” more than once to you, but who cares? Mom’s totally buying into it and so are you. Corkage fee is minimal, so surprise them by bringing a bottle of their favorite wine.
If your parents are like our parents, the only thing they actually give a sh*t about in LA is being by the water. And at Malibu Farm, you’re not just by the water, you’re hovering over it. Located on the Malibu Pier, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a more spectacular setting with prices as reasonable as Malibu Farm. The menu generally veers toward the salad/sandwich route, and that’s ideal for your midday cruise down PCH. Their cocktails are unique and refreshing, but your obvious move is the mimosa bar. Mom and Dad won’t need much convincing on that.
Your mom is so excited to finally be eating outside because there are seven inches of snow back home and your dad never finished the back deck like he promised anyways. Take them to Maré. When you walk them through the back door of a grilled cheese store they’ll fall instantly in love with what’s waiting on the other side: A hidden restaurant serving approachable European food all on a beautiful back patio. The wine list is excellent, and the Mezcal cocktail is danger in a glass.
It’s time to show the parents that LA isn’t all glitz and glamour. While this city has plenty of old-school relics, Pace stands out thanks to its Laurel Canyon location and the laid-back vibe that comes with it. The food at this throwback Italian joint is solid and accessible, but you’re really here to show mom and dad that LA can be just as warm and cozy as back home. And it’ll only take a few glasses of Malbec and some rigatoni before they wholeheartedly agree.
At some point during their trip, LA will become too much for your parents and they’ll need a break. Time to get out of the city. And while you can pretty much go any direction to find cool stuff, one of our top moves for the parents is Saddle Peak Lodge in the Santa Monica Mountains. This place feels more like stepping into a wilderness lodge in Jackson Hole than into a restaurant above the Malibu coast, but that’s the allure of it. Dad’s going to love the meat-heavy menu, and Mom will love everything else about it (especially the wine list). Head up on a weekend to take advantage of their tremendous brunch situation, too.
Your parents didn’t come all this way for just another dinner. It’s time all those years of nurturing and tuition checks are reciprocated. If you’re looking for a swing-for-fences type experience, then Rustic Canyon is your answer. The Santa Monica staple is at the top of its game, with a menu full of food Mom and Dad will actually be excited to see on a menu in winter (read: fresh vegetables). Oh, and the wine situation is arguably the best in the city. Someone’s got to drive back to the hotel and it’s not Mom.
Whether your dad will ever admit it or not, he definitely smoked pot in the 70’s, loved it, and is now simply waiting for his state’s legislature to catch up to Colorado. Give him a taste of what’s to come with a jaunt up the hippie highway that is Topanga Canyon. There’s plenty to see up here, but no day trip is complete without a stop at The Inn of the Seventh Ray. Unfortunately not a peyote commune, Inn of the Seventh Ray is a stunning restaurant in the trees you have to see to believe. It’s also far more upscale than you’d think it would be, and that’ll calm your mom’s fear of your dad buying weed off the waiter.
If you don’t know by now, parents will never be upset when you suggest Italian food for dinner. So you might as well go right to one of LA’s best. Sotto might not have the old Hollywood allure of some of the other Italian entries on this list, but its basement digs on Pico are still warm and inviting. Oh, and from the chickpea panelle, to the pork meatballs, to the pizzas, to the canoli, Sotto’s menu is top-to-bottom excellent. With a cocktail list that’s just as good as its wine stock, the parents won’t know what to do with themselves except hand you a 20-spot for no reason. And those are the best kind of dinners.
Located on a quiet corner in Silver Lake, Cliff’s Edge is one of our city’s great restaurants and yet it somehow still feels like a secret. The back patio is legendary, falling somewhere between your childhood treehouse and a Jurassic World premium suite and the parental unit will be beside themselves. There’s definitely a grown-up vibe here, but with a cocktail situation rivaling any on the Eastside, there's still plenty of fun to be had. It’s hard to argue there’s a more complete restaurant in Los Angeles.
Every single person who lands in LA wants top-notch Mexican food, and your parents are no exception. While we could write a whole guide on Mexican restaurants your parents would love, our ultimate pick here is La Cabana in Venice. The 70-year-old Westside staple is the old-school California/Mexican cuisine Mom and Dad are expecting: gigantic wet burritos, chicken quesadillas, tacos, and all the unlimited chips and salsa you can handle. The vibe is festive (with live mariachi music ON THE ROOF), and there’s a bright back patio perfect for soaking up another warm California night. And lots of margaritas.
Sometimes you want pasta and sometimes you don’t really want to work hard to get it. Welcome to Spartina - the fantastic trattoria on Melrose that’s the neighborhood pasta spot we’ve all been waiting for. The front patio is fantastic, but our suggestion with the parents is to move inside for a slightly more intimate experience. And even though pasta is king here, there are also over 40 shareable dishes from pizza to salad to an uni panini they definitely won’t want. But order a bottle of red and anything is possible.
Every single thing about Otium is impressive - from the jaw-dropping design to the fantastic menu (during both lunch and dinner), Otium is where you take your parents when you want to prove to them they don’t need to worry about your writing career so much. Downtown is also a terrifying mystery to them, and Otium’s Broad Museum-adjacent location will open to their eyes to what they’ve been missing at their Santa Monica Marriott all these trips. The cocktails are the way to go at Otium, and the Bloody Mary is particularly special.
Greetings from the best smelling restaurant in LA. When your parents walk into Odys and Penelope for the first time and see that towering pile of chopped wood slowly being fed into the open ovens - and the glorious smells emanating from it - they’ll never want to leave. The menu is American comfort food of the best variety, and all things your parents will recognize, but done in ways they maybe haven’t seen before. The fried mushrooms, creamy cauliflower, and tri-tip bearnaise are musts, as is all the red wine the family can handle.
The problem with your dad is he loves a good steak but doesn’t bring dress pants on vacations. We don’t blame him. Luckily, you have Pistola. We won’t go as far as saying Pistola is entirely casual, but with a TV playing NBA basketball on the wall and Top 40 hits playing over the sound system, don’t sue us for wearing a nice pair of jeans. The food isn’t life-changing, but everything is solid and familiar. Dad will love his dry-aged delmonico, and the carbonara’s breaking of the egg ceremony will have mom firing up her Facebook in no time. The wine list is a little underwhelming, so definitely bring your own.
Chances are your parents come from a part of the country where ordering seafood is a gamble you simply don’t take. Luckily, we have have fantastic seafood here, and our favorite is Fishing With Dynamite. Deep down, your parents hate stuffy dining rooms just as much as you do, and that’s why FWD’s small, cool space is perfect for your parents’ night out at the beach. Whether or not you can convince mom to slurp down a few oysters before night’s end is inconsequential. With a menu full of seafood staples, no one’s leaving here disappointed, especially after all the sparkling wine you guys will polish off.
Your parents probably didn’t expect to eat Southern food in LA, but Hatchet Hall isn’t your typical Southern restaurant either. This is the best California/Southern menu in LA, and that means your parents (and you) won’t be rolling home afterwards from over-eating too much fried chicken. Think mushroom gravy tostadas, yellowtail tartare, and roasted game hens. The space is upscale, but cool, and you’re going to be taking full advantage of all the old-school cocktails being poured at the Old Man Bar inside. Another round of Mint Juleps, please.