We’d all love to eat meals with only people who entertain us to no end, but the reality is that’s not the reality. People are boring and chances are you’re currently stuck at a table across from your brother-in-law who works in weather data. But the meal doesn’t have to be a total wash just because they can’t stop talking about the marine layer. Find a place where they can be happy and comfortable, and you can at least get a solid meal in the process. Here our ten go-to places for getting the job done.
Your aunt by marriage who’s worked 40 years in legal is in town for a conference and wants to check in on you. She thinks you’re still a senior in high school, but that’s besides the point. Take her to Rustic Canyon because she requires good food that also won’t surprise her. This upscale Santa Monica spot has a solid menu across the board and plenty of burrata to eat while your aunt stops talking to you for eight minutes because she’s clearly thinking about her work presentation.
People describe your commercial talent agent as “having been at it for quite awhile." Gary might be pretty over it at this point, but it’s been a solid year of work for you, and it’s time to treat Gary to a thank you lunch. Viviane is the ground-floor restaurant of the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, and while the food isn’t life-altering, the poolside setting will at least give you something to stare at. And you’ll need that as Gary grumbles unintelligibly under his breath the whole time.
M Cafe is one of those places that looks identical to every other healthy-ish, order-at-the-counter spot in LA, but with food that’s just slightly better. Your shy cousin Megan is in town for a youth government convention and your parents arranged for a lunch even though neither of you asked for it. Make moves to M Cafe. The menu is quite large (get the yellow curry udon) and most importantly, you’ll be in and out in a half hour.
You like your boyfriend’s parents from Pasadena just fine, but they’re also very by the books and still don’t understand your burgeoning career in The YouTubes. Put that aside, and make reservations at The Larchmont. This giant bungalow converted into a fancy restaurant is flat-out beautiful, with food that’s way better than you’d ever expect. They’ll get the lamb shoulder and be thrilled and you’ll get the burger and realize why it’s one of the best in LA.
Bandera is one of the many restaurants owned by the very corporate but somehow very tolerable Hillstone group. The dimly-lit Brentwood spot is of the more upscale steakhouse variety, and that means steak and potatoes served in whatever way you please. Not that you have to worry your financial consultant father-in-law won't let his preference be known.
The housewife lunch scene in Beverly Hills is frankly an attraction in and of itself. And The Farm is the best ticket in town. Nothing on the menu is going to blow you away, but the food is solid enough and cheaper than most things in the area. If that one friend you never see anymore because she fell off the grid after getting into a long-term relationship and doesn’t feel safe east of La Cienega keeps asking to go to lunch, choose The Farm and walk away happy.
It’s bonding night with the new Craigslist roommate and she just asked if she can bring a book to dinner. Great - head to Stir Market, the Beverly Blvd food hall/marketplace where you can look like you’re having dinner together, but actually do completely separate things. She’s going to get the very solid Mediterranean salad and you’re doing the Porchetta sandwich, and while she’s tucked away with Danielle Steele, you’re going get very involved with some Wednesday night trivia.
While Little Pine is certainly one of the better vegan/vegetarian spots in town, its quiet Silver Lake location isn’t exactly going to inspire party vibes. But your awkward co-worker mentioned he doesn’t do loud noises, so your forced-team-bonding outing has been solved. The Moby-owned spot steers clear from the it’s-not-meat-it’s-tempeh! route and sticks mainly to good old vegetables. And for the most part, it’s pretty great.
LA is full of those restaurants you pass every day and wonder how they stay open. And then by some random circumstance, you end up going and kind of liking it. This is Franco on Melrose. The sleepy little Italian spot (on Melrose) isn’t pushing culinary boundaries by any means, but if you come looking for a solid plate of pasta in a space you can hear yourself talk in, Franco fits the bill. And your gardening-enthusiast neighbor Charlotte agrees.
Your older brother who’s married with two kids is in town and his only requirement is a restaurant with chicken fingers. They’re obviously staying in Santa Monica, so just make it easy and head to Barney’s Beanery on the Promenade. Everybody will find something they like on the massive menu, and once conversation moves solely to weather-related topics, Barney’s impressive beer stock will get you through the rest.