Some nights are easy: you pick a restaurant, you eat at the restaurant, then you go home and fall asleep to Friends Season 2. But other nights are filled with the entertainment LA is known for - concerts, musicals, one-man shows that are just a recount of someone’s pretty average life story. And those nights need a gameplan.
We’ve done the work for you: here are the best dinner-and-show combinations in Los Angeles.
You made the mistake of telling a first date that you LOVE experimental techno-funk, despite never having listened to it, and now they’ve asked you to an indie show at the Mint. Make dinner plans at Messob Ethiopian and you will at least look like an expert when it comes to eating. This restaurant serves incredible Ethiopian food (get one of the combo platters), and if you’re feeling brave, you can point out the fact that you’re supposed to hand-feed your food to each other here. That will probably make them forget to ask you what your thoughts are on the Rival Rivers Art Project’s second album.
If you’re seeing a musical in Los Angeles, chances are you’re seeing it at The Pantages. But the immediately surrounding area has very few pre-theater dinner options - save for Madera Kitchen. This Mediterranean-ish spot off Franklin has the kind of patio you wish all restaurants did, the food is mostly shareable small plates like meatballs and burrata, and there are plenty of cocktails. Just maybe cut off that one friend before they start belting out the lyrics to “My Shot” from Hamilton on your way to go see it.
Whether you’re going to see live music or a DJ, a night at the Mayan means you’re going to get very sweaty and dance very close to strangers. Before you do either of those things, you might want to have a slightly calmer dinner and drinks thing with your crew. DTLA’s Stocking Frame is a big restaurant where you and your friends can easily fit into a booth. Share some plates of octopus and tacos, get a round of cocktails, and enjoy actually hearing each other talk for the last time tonight.
LA’s standup comedy scene is vast, which means you get some really good acts, but also you end up seeing a lot of bad Jerry Seinfeld impersonators at open mics. So if you want to play it safe, head to the Improv. You’ll either see comedians you recognize, or comedians you’ll recognize in a few years. And just like how the Improv won’t fail you, neither will Rosaliné, the modern Peruvian spot down the street. The patio is basically a very pretty greenhouse, the food is great (get the ceviche and the paella), and the cocktails are all interesting and pretty strong. Although you might want to pace yourself - the Improv has a two-drink minimum.
You just got tickets to see that indie sad-rock singer you like to drive and cry to sometimes. If you’ve managed to find friends who will indulge your inner emo kid, take them somewhere a little more uplifting for dinner. Like Mama Shelter, the rooftop bar and restaurant on top of Mama Hotel. Most people know it as a bar, but they do a full menu of food that’s better than it needs to be, considering you’re on a roof looking out at all of Los Angeles. And if you have more time before the show starts, you can get another round of drinks and play foosball. Or sit on a couch, staring wistfully at all the people enjoying themselves. They just don’t know.
The Roxy / Whiskey A Go Go / The Viper Room
Before the Sunset Strip became a place where people drank $20 vodka sodas and Instagram Storied next to rooftop pools they’re never getting into, it was the best place to see live music in the country. While those days are long gone, the great music venues still exist and no matter which one you’re heading to, make sure to start your night at Night Market beforehand. The LA Thai staple doesn’t just have some of the best food in the city, it’s also an excellent place to get a little rowdy. Prices are affordable, the atmosphere is very casual, and they have beer towers. Repeat: They have beer towers.
Rule: Oysters always work on date night. And when the move afterwards is to The Satellite up the street, L&E Oyster provides the ideal pregame. The two-story seafood joint is one of the few true neighborhood spots left in Silver Lake, and its low-key atmosphere and stellar wine and champagne list will get the night started right.
The Walt Disney Music Hall
And some nights, you just want to listen to some classical music. Which means you’re going to The Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the LA Philharmonic and the most acoustically perfect space in Los Angeles. And if you’re having a night of Tchaikovsky downtown, you’re only dinner move beforehand is down the hill at Redbird. The stunning space has a massive menu full of things you’re going to want and a classy feel that’s perfect for classical music pregaming.
Chicago has The Second City, but Los Angeles has The Groundlings. And if you’re in the mood for the best sketch comedy in LA, the 40-year-old theater on Melrose is your place. The neighborhood has more pre-show dinner spots than it knows what to do with, but our move is always Village Idiot. The restaurant/bar a few blocks down has a good crowd, a fantastic beer list, and a solid menu that won’t make you slip into a food coma.
The Palladium is a Hollywood icon, and one of the most famous/infamous live music venues we have. Don’t do yourself the disservice of showing up there with an empty stomach. Head up the street to Hoy-Ka first for some excellent Thai food and a full bar that can get surprisingly rowdy. The pad see ew and the sneaky pork are standouts, and it’s never not fun to say “I’ll have the sneaky pork” out loud.
El Rey Theatre
Down amongst the corporate nothingness of Mid-Wilshire, the El Rey often gets overlooked as a great live music venue, but the large space is one of our better ones. And with Commerson now in the neighborhood, your ideal pre-show spot has arrived. The modern seafood restaurant is casual (with TVs on the wall), so rolling in with a group isn’t a problem, but it’s still nice enough to use for a date. The poke appetizer and scallops are must-orders.
The Greek Theatre
The Hollywood Bowl is easily LA’s most iconic outdoor music venue, but let’s not forget The Greek over in Griffith Park. The smaller, more manageable amphitheater feels like you’re seeing a show in the woods, and if you’re looking for a spot to grab food beforehand, Messhall is your answer. The sprawling restaurant has solid food, a big outdoor patio, and a very dangerous two-hour Happy Hour if you’re catching a weeknight show.
The echo / echoplex
You really haven’t lived if you haven’t spent a night dancing uncontrollably at The Echo/Echoplex. And there isn’t better way to get your evening of glory started than over at Button Mash - the arcade bar down the street. There’s tasty Chinese food, a solid beer list, and long communal tables for everybody in the group to share everything. And nobody turns down pinball.
largo at the coronet
Easily the best place to see very famous comedians do stand-up and improv, the Largo on La Cienega is a classic and if you date enough in this city, you’ll absolutely see a show here. The move beforehand? Across the street at Sushi Fumi - our favorite affordable sushi spot in the city. Their $80 omakase is an excellent value, but if you’re looking for less of a commitment, head to the bar and go in on the daily specials (the red snapper with yuzu pepper is a mouth miracle). Alcohol bonus: The Roger Room in the back of Largo is one of the best bars in Weho.
The half block trek between The Troubadour and Dan Tana’s is one of the great date night pilgrimages in this city. Go eat some chicken parm and caesar salad inside the West Hollywood institution, get more drunk on red wine than you had expected, and go get weird at the very famous music venue next door.
Back before the Arts District was a place people even knew about, Villians Tavern was that strange vaudevillian bar/outdoor music venue “by the river” that you went to for a crazy weekend adventure. Fast forward a few years and now there are more reasons than you can count to stay down there. Among our favorites? ERB. The restaurant/bar has excellent food (the burger is a must), a long beer and wine list, and a perfect outdoor patio for getting your night started.