“Can I explain our menu to you? It’s a bit different. Everything is designed to be shared, and we recommend 2-3 plates per person.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard it at every single restaurant that’s opened in LA over the past three years. There’s certainly nothing wrong with small plate restaurants, but the reality is, unless you’re dining with just one other person, you can’t actually share anything on the menu. One lap around a full table of adults, and suddenly that shrimp crostini is nothing more than a few crumbs and a discarded crustacean head.
But there are still plenty of great restaurants where you won’t be subjected to the small plate craze. They’re the spots you go to when you want to order a single plate of food and keep it to yourself, or willingly share with everyone because the portions are actually large enough for adults.
Walking on the grounds of Saddle Peak is like wandering into another dimension, or Ron Swanson’s hunting lodge in Montana. Located deep in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, this sprawling, meat-centric restaurant has three separate floors with roaring fireplaces, an actual library, and a patio overlooking the mountains. With giant portions of exotic meats - elk, ostrich, emu, or whatever is on the butcher’s block that night - and stuff like mac and cheese and cast-iron johnnycakes on the menu, there will be plenty to share. But only if you want to.
Myung Dong Kyoja is the kind of place where sharing isn’t a suggestion - it’s practically a requirement. The dining room is always filled, and everyone’s having the kalguksu - a bowl of noodle soup with chicken and pork dumplings so filling you’ll need to share it. Almost everything else on the menu falls into the same category. We really like the spicy cold noodles when the temperature starts to rise.
LA might have a reputation for loving grain bowls and collagen lattes, but you wouldn’t know it inside this old-school party landmark. Dan Tana’s isn’t the best Italian restaurant in the city, but it is the most fun one. And the chicken parm is so big you could wrap its melted cheese around yourself like a fleece blanket. You’ll also want to get the Caesar salad. Order one for the group - it’ll be more than enough.
Pailin is a tiny Thai Town restaurant that specializes in Northern Thai cuisine. The large menu is full of rice and noodle dishes that your friends will order, but you’re here for one reason - to house a giant bowl of their incredible khao soi all by yourself. This curry noodle soup is the perfect blend of sweet, savory, and spicy, and is one of our favorite versions of this dish in LA. Throw in an order of the spicy shrimp balls and you have one of the best lunches in Hollywood.
On those afternoons when we just need a whole sandwich to ourselves, you will most likely find us at Eastside Market. Since 1929, this Italian deli in Chinatown has been making the kind of messy, slathered-in-red-sauce sandwiches that you can’t find anywhere else in Los Angeles. The #7 (roast beef, pastrami, marinara, and cheese) is probably our favorite, but if you’re feeling ambitious, step up to the D.A. Special (sausage, meatball, roast beef, and pastrami), a one-way ticket to an all-day nap.
If you aren’t exactly sure what you want to eat today, but you know you want a lot of it, head to Zam Zam. The tiny Pakistani market in Hawthorne doesn’t have a menu or even a dedicated waitstaff - it’s just a husband and wife who cook whatever they feel like on any given day. This is ideal when you’re with a few other people and you all want to share gigantic platters of food. One thing that will almost always hit the table is the chicken biryani rice - a dish we’d willingly brave 405 rush hour traffic to eat.
Slab is a casual, order-at-the-counter BBQ spot in Beverly Grove where you can get huge trays of meat that you’re not sharing with your vulture coworkers. The ideal order is a half-rack of spare ribs, a quarter-pound of brisket, and a side of mac and cheese - for yourself. If you want to be generous, you can let Alan take a bite of the pecan pie bar you got for dessert, but one bite means one bite.
There’s a near-constant line outside this Koreatown spot, and everyone’s here for the galbi jjim. This braised short rib dish comes boiling in a cast iron cauldron, and you should add cheese, mostly so you can watch the server break out a blowtorch. It’s a $65 dish, but with some banchan, it’s more than enough food to feed four, because it comes with potatoes, rice cakes, and roughly four pounds of ribs. It’s especially great if you and your friends are tired of splitting three pieces of jalapeño yellowtail four ways.
You’re coming to this San Gabriel strip mall spot for one thing: the House Special Lobster. This comically oversized dish starts with noodles, green onions, and garlic, then gets topped with a Maine fishing-boat’s worth of lobster. It’s a pretty straightforward dish, but one that tastes fantastic and will easily feed you and the three friends you brought to help.
This Beverly Hills steakhouse might seem corny - the servers wear outfits straight out of the ’50s, they make a performance out of serving their “spinning salad” tableside, and you can find their seasoning salt in every supermarket from here to Topeka. And yet, we keep going back to Lawry’s, because their prime rib is one of the best (and biggest) pieces of meat in town. All of the rib dinners also include salad, mashed potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding. That means you’ll walk out feeling like you just went to the Hogwarts End-of-Term Feast.
Open since 1985, Messob is a Little Ethiopia staple, and no matter how often we go (or how many people we bring), we always leave feeling full. Order the Super Messob Exclusive, a gigantic platter of ten different menu highlights that easily feeds four adults. You’ll sit around circular tables made of straw, tear off pieces of spongy injera with your hands, and no one will even glance at their phone - mainly because their fingers are too covered with food to respond to texts. We’d consider that quality time.
While we appreciate a thoughtfully-constructed scallop taco, it’s hard to split one three ways, which is why we like eating at the Hollywood El Compadre. They serve platters of food that are perfect when you just want some enchiladas with rice and beans, and you don’t want to think about sharing with the person next to you. This place is always a good time - the dining room is packed with people listening to the mariachi band while getting blasted on flaming margaritas.
Our favorite deep dish spot in LA, Echo Park’s palace of massive pies is ideal when you feel like splitting a pizza. The pies are filling - two slices is easily enough - so you’ll be able to have your fill and still bring home leftovers. The pizzas take some time to cook, so call ahead and they’ll start making yours before you arrive.
Raffi’s is a classic Middle Eastern restaurant in Glendale that specializes in kabobs, rice platters, and other dishes ideal for sharing with large groups of people. And by large, we mean “you might not be able to see the other end of the table” large. Come any night of the week, and the indoor/outdoor space will be filled with family reunions, neighborhood get-togethers, and big groups of friends getting buzzed on martinis before seeing a movie next door at The Americana.
This Caribbean jerk chicken spot in Santa Monica might be best known for its BYOB policy, but the huge portions deserve a shout out, too. A whole coconut fried chicken is massive, and comes with really good jerk and mango dipping sauces on the side, plus dirty rice and black beans. There’s so much food that no one ever has to worry about taking more than their fair share, and if anyone goes home hungry, it’s only because they were trying to be polite.
Tired of having to coordinate a group lunch order at Grand Central Market? Let your coworkers fend for themselves and get a sandwich from Wexler’s, instead. Everything on the menu is hefty, so no matter what you order, plan for a light dinner later. Maybe at a small plate place.