What happens when that “We should totally get dinner sometime!” conversation becomes a reality? You end up having to eat a meal with a third-tier friend. Maybe it’s someone you took an improv class with in 2014 and can’t stop running into, or a person at your gym who you knew extremely tangentially in college. No matter how this person got into your (very loosely defined) circle of friends, they’re there to stay. So here are some places to eat with them that won’t cost too much money or take up too much of your time. And you never know - maybe they’ll be in the second-tier by the time the meal’s over.
You’re kind of ”meh” about this person, but you’re way more than ”meh” about pizza - which is why you’re having this meal at Roberta’s. You can’t go wrong with any of the pies, but our favorites are the Bee Sting (with chili oil, honey, and soppressata) and the Lamb Of God (with lamb sausage and ricotta). The rest of the menu doesn’t quite live up to the pizzas, so stick to those. Located in Culver’s Platform complex, you’re basically eating in a mall restaurant, but third-tier friends are the mall restaurants of your friend group, anyway.
Rosaliné is a flashy Weho spot that’s ideal for a dinner with that friend from college you don’t have anything in common with (besides sitting next to each other in the first and only Wesleyan Ornithology Club meeting). It’s a Peruvian-ish spot with a lot of fish and a good selection of family-style paellas. The food comes out quickly, and maybe you’ll discover a shared appreciation of large pans of rice and seafood. If the conversation starts to lag, you can always just fall back on talking about how it looks like a botanical garden in here.
Joy is an excellent, casual Taiwanese spot in Highland Park that happens to be one of the best places in town when you’re trying to get in-and-out in 30 minutes or less. You’ll be tempted to order the whole menu, and we won’t stand in the way of that, but it might slow things down a bit. So limit yourself to the essentials - the thousand layer pancake, the minced pork over rice, and the cold sides. The food’s so good, your friend won’t even realize how quick your meal was.
Escuela is one of those restaurants that everybody knows about, but everybody forgets about - which, oddly enough, is exactly how you’d describe Miranda from college. Luckily, this casual Beverly Grove taco spot is exactly where you want to go when she sends her bi-annual “catch up” text. All the tacos are good (the pork ribs and shrimp are our favorites), the table chips are among the best in town, and its convenient Grove-adjacent location works for just about everybody. Also, there’s a true BYOB policy, if the night heads in that direction.
It’s plausible that this Franklin Village restaurant/bar was created solely for people to grab a quick drink with their third-tier friends. Located on the same block as UCB, Birds is the unofficial spillover-room for improv actors who don’t have an off button and their flustered ex-roommates who got coaxed into seeing a Harold show. It’s a chaotic environment, but one that at least has strong cocktails, surprisingly good roast chicken, and a loud enough dining room that you don’t even notice when your friend slips into an Australian accent for no apparent reason.
Sitting at a loud bar is a great way to pretend you didn’t hear that sorta-friend when they start getting too personal. That’s why we head straight to the huge bar at DTLA Tex-Mex spot Bar Amá. Order some queso and the off-the-menu puffy tacos or the green enchiladas. Their deadly margaritas should also ease the pain of listening to Geoff drone on about how he’s never found a therapist he likes. We get it, Geoff, but we’re not going to acknowledge it. We only do that for our first-tier friends.
You’re not even positive how you met this person, so you definitely don’t know what they like to eat. Fortunately, Messhall in Los Feliz has a huge menu, and anyone can find something that they like. Our favorites all come from the wood-fired grill, like the baby back ribs and the oakwood salmon. The shrimp and grits are also very good, and every Tuesday they’ve got dollar oysters.
Bondi Harvest is a very good Australian cafe in Santa Monica, and an ideal spot to meet someone who you only like spending 35 minutes with. Everything is ordered at the counter (we like the Bondi breakfast or the pulled chicken sandwich), you find a table on the outside patio, and in no time at all, you’re eating solid brunch food and nodding along to your friend’s story about how she’s thinking about maybe doing Bali next year.
When you’re not really not sure how much time you want to spend with this person, go to Plan Check in Santa Monica. It’s a perfectly good place to grab a burger and be out in an hour, but it’s an equally acceptable place to spend the night drinking excellent craft beer if you two somehow hit it off. If you haven’t had the killer burger before, go for that, but we also like the Santa Monica location of this local chain for its great selection of seafood.
You honestly don’t know what this friend does for a living, but you do know they post a lot about sushi on social media, so you can assume that Hara is a safe bet. This popular Santa Monica spot isn’t where you come for life-changing omakase or the freshest nigiri west of the 405, but if you’re in the mood for gigantic specialty rolls, half-off Sapporo, and a loud dining room that will keep you both distracted, head to this casual sushi spot immediately.
A-Frame isn’t a restaurant you’re going to talk about for the next week, but it’s got solid food and it’s easy to get into, so it’s perfect for this meal. The tiki drinks alone will loosen you up enough to maybe consider upgrading this person into your second tier of friends. Get the beer can chicken, split some ribs, and do not leave without ordering the fried ice cream - it comes with a whole bunch of citrus and sesame, and you might eventually come back here for it by yourself.
This vegetable-focused spot in Silver Lake is an extremely good option when you want to walk in, go through your prepared list of small talk, and be out in 45 minutes. The menu is full of things that your imaginary wellness coach would approve of, such as heirloom melon and seared chicken with snap peas. It’s also a very nice space, and the cocktails are way better than you’d expect, considering they have names like “Blossoms,” “Strawberry,” and “Arugula.”
One strategy to get through this meal with your boyfriend’s sister is to have a positive attitude - another, much more realistic one, is with $6 Happy Hour martinis. That’s what you’ll find at Electric Owl, along with a smashed cheeseburger with griddled onions that we think about while we’re falling asleep at night. Be sure to sit in the bar area out front - it’s buzzier than the dining room, and you can secretly watch sports over her shoulder while she’s talking about the cat-sitting start-up she’s working on.
Despite a name that sounds like somewhere you’d eat after riding Big Thunder Mountain, Boneyard Bistro is one of the most consistent BBQ restaurants in LA. It’s also a great place to meet up with Tyler, who still works at CAA and wants to know everything about your life now that you’ve left the business. You can’t really go wrong with any of the meats here, just make sure you get them Santa Maria-style, meaning they’re dry-rubbed and smoked over red oak. Add in some fried mac and cheese and any beer from their 42 taps, and suddenly, you don’t even care how many times Tyler mentioned a project “Has real traction.”
Manhattan Beach has no shortage of laid-back beachside sports bars, but Fishbar is our favorite. It’s the kind of place you can roll into after work, order some beer and tremendous fish tacos, and quietly watch sports on TV while your cousin’s best friend talks about the pros and cons of Bitcoin.
If you’re looking to eat decent pasta and get rowdy with a bunch of people whose numbers you didn’t have saved in your phone until a month ago, go to Scopa. This chaotic Italian spot is one of the loudest, most popular restaurants on the Westside - and that means even if you’re sitting next to the person who’s talking, you won’t really be able to hear them. Considering you’re only half-listening to their speech about bird glaucoma anyway, it’s not the worst setting to be in.
This converted bungalow is easily the most popular brunch spot in Long Beach, and everybody’s here for three things: A great patio, massive Bloody Marys, and Long Beach’s unofficial food icon, the Mac N’ Cheetos. It’s a giant bowl of mac and cheese, covered in hot Cheetos, topped with everything from short rib to fried chicken, and somehow, it still tastes pretty good. This is one of those rare places where brunch with your roommate quickly turns into brunch with your roommate and her five friends you camped at Coachella with three years ago, and you aren’t even mad.
Commerson is a good choice when a friend is in the market to maybe move up a tier or two. The casual seafood-leaning spot in Mid-Wilshire has a bunch of very good, shareable plates like sweet pea agnolotti, seasonal ceviche, and a shrimp-and-chorizo burger, plus solid cocktails and flat-screens if you realize you both root for the same team. If things are really clicking, take your friendship date across the street to Little Bar, one of our favorite dives in the neighborhood.