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 are 12 go-to places for getting the job done.
Your 17-year-old cousin from Buffalo just landed at LAX and she hasn’t seen unfrozen water in five months. You’re going straight to Malibu Farm. She’ll take boomerangs of the ocean for half an hour and mention that California is calling her, and you’ll sit quietly in peace with your fried egg sandwich, knowing you already have 20 versions of that same boomerang stored on your phone.
At first glance, Friends & Family reads like an oversized internet cafe. The space is sparse and most people here are typing furiously on a laptop. But their breakfast-focused menu is actually great and reasonably-priced, and you can be in and out in under 40 minutes. And you will be, because the least-talented kid in your improv class just asked if you wanted to grab a late breakfast so he can pick your brain on how you got an agent.
Same Same is a neighborhood wine bar in a Silver Lake strip mall that also happens to serve some of our favorite Thai food on the Eastside. All of that should be music to your ears, because the only way you can get your lab technician cousin to talk is through a strongly-poured glass of cabernet. The menu has everything from an extremely spicy papaya salad to an addictive pad see ew, so you should both be able to find something you want to eat.
Uncle Ron and Aunt Pat are staying in Venice for a few days before they hop on their three-day cruise to Ensenada, and they’ve requested a “nothing too weird, please” brunch. Go to 26 Beach. The neighborhood spot on Washington Blvd. feels like you’re eating at an antique store in Ojai and has a crowd-pleasing menu with no less than a hundred different things on it. If Ron and Pat can’t find something they like on it, they’re in for a long cruise.
While Little Pine is one of the better vegan/vegetarian spots on the Eastside, its quiet Silver Lake location isn’t exactly a party. But your antisocial 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 vegetables. And unlike most meat-less restaurants, Little Pine has no put-on agenda or tableside affirmations you’re supposed to read out loud.
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 won’t surprise her too much. This upscale Santa Monica spot serves plenty of things you can focus on while she 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.
In an area full of places that boring people will like and you will not, Cassia remains one of the few Westside places everyone can get excited about. This Southeast Asian fusion spot in downtown Santa Monica can get pricey, but ultimately, it’s worth it. Besides, your family’s financial advisor, Lyle, is picking up the tab tonight, so order as much charcuterie fried rice as you want.
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 big slabs of meat 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 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 good enough and cheaper than most things in the area. If that one friend you never see anymore because she’s in a long-term relationship and doesn’t go east of La Cienega keeps asking to go to lunch, choose The Farm and walk away happy.
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 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.