Yes, we’re talking about blind dates here. But no one says that anymore, and in the age of swiping right and sliding into DMs, going on a date with someone you’ve never actually met before is no longer a novelty. It’s just called dating. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a right way to do it. You need places that are comfortable, with good (strong) drinks, and an easy out if things go awry. Also, good food if things go well. Here are 15 spots that get the job done.
So maybe you don’t look quite as good as the headshots you have in your profile. It’s not a crime. For this first date though, you want to maintain the illusion, so you pick someplace nice and dark. Make it Formosa Cafe. This Weho bar is an LA institution that feels like it’s straight out of the ’50s. The dining room is inside an old train car, which is a lot cooler than it sounds, and there are huge red booths, so you two can get to know each other without anyone else listening in. The tiki drinks on the menu are highly worth your time, but we usually go for the martinis - they’re strong enough to loosen you up, even if this is your first date since 2016. The Chinese food here is also good (get the pot stickers and the dan dan noodles).
You really want to impress this person - like, really, really want to. But not in a way that’s going to scare them away, just in a way that makes you seem much cooler than you are. Meet at Mignon. This little French spot is below ground on 6th St., and has an excellent (and surprisingly affordable) list of very hard-to-find wines from France, Spain, and Eastern Europe. They’ve got a whole bunch of extremely shareable small plates, too, including great cheese and charcuterie boards - the official snack of first dates.
It’s hard to know how serious this date is going to be - maybe you’re just going to end up getting drunk, spending the night together, and only texting each other on Friday nights for the next few months. If you suspect it could be that kind of thing, go to Know Where Bar. This is a tiki-ish spot in East Hollywood with a killer selection of whiskeys, and excellent cocktails - especially classics like margaritas, martinis, and aviations.
You have your location on your app marked as “Venice” even though you technically live in Marina del Rey. To prove to your date that you’re still cool, meet them at Dudley Market. This is a seafood restaurant a block from the beach, and it serves a changing selection of fresh catches like Pacific rockfish, bluefin tuna, and sheepshead. It’s a perfectly acceptable place to come if you’re not trying to make this a whole meal - they’ve got an impressive list of natural and biodynamic wines, so get involved with those while you decide if you like this person enough to suggest sharing some oysters or pork and clam toast.
The Edmon is a place that everybody forgets about, but this ground floor bar/restaurant inside the Hollywood Historic Hotel is a great spot to have a cocktail and figure out how many of your date’s profile photos are actually retouched headshots. The big, art deco-designed space feels like you’re drinking in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mansion, and its quiet (but not dull) atmosphere will ensure you hear everything they have to say about why it’s so hard to break into voiceover.
So far the only tangible common ground you and this person have is a love for queso, so you might as well lean into it. This casual Tex-Mex spot Downtown has been around for a few years, but is still a great spot to grab some cocktails and eat the best queso in Los Angeles. The modern space gets crowded, so make a reservation - you don’t want to get stuck hovering around the bar. Also, order the off-menu puffy tacos. Not only are they fantastic, but you’ll appear much cooler than you probably are.
You know damn well it’s a red flag that this person has their dog in all of their photos, but you don’t care. The dog is cute, and you want to meet it. Pull the “Day dates are better than night dates” card, and meet them at The Morrison. The neighborhood restaurant and bar in Atwater Village has a great front patio, as well as an actual dog menu that involves bones being served on a silver platter. As for you and your date, their “The One” burger is the way to go. But who’s really your date here?
It’s unclear at this point whether this person wants to date you, work for your company, or both. Petty Cash is the perfect place to find out the answer. The modern taqueria on Beverly doesn’t have the best Mexican food in town, but its colorful space and party-ready atmosphere make it an ideal place to go when you aren’t totally sure why the other person is even here. Focus on the ceviches, the spicy margarita, and their cauliflower nachos.
This person looks entirely different in every one of their profile photos, and you frankly have no idea which version is going to show up. Keep it to a Happy Hour. Like the one at Saint & Second in Long Beach. Located in Belmont Shore, Saint & Second’s Happy Hour runs weekdays from 3-6pm with deals on beer, cocktails, and wine, along with a $13 charcuterie board you should get involved with. Skip the downstairs dining room and head to the second-floor patio instead, where a full food menu is also available in case you are into the version they showed up as.
Checker Hall is a massive restaurant/bar on the second floor of an old Masonic Lodge in Highland Park. And if that doesn’t pique your interest, we’ll make it quite clear - Checker Hall is fantastic. The crowd is local and probably listens to better music than you, the cocktails are tremendous (get the Carmen #Six), and there’s also a full Mediterranean-leaning food menu. Which is good news for you, because your date’s been in the bathroom for 20 minutes, and you wanted your own hummus appetizer anyways.
Accomplice is one of the more underrated bars on the Westside, and its Mar Vista location is an ideal middle ground when neither of you really want drive more than 15 minutes outside Venice and Santa Monica for this. The cocktails at this modern bar are great, and when you get hungry, you can order from Little Fatty, the solid Taiwanese spot next door. They’ll serve you right at the bar.
Is it weird taking someone you direct messaged on Instagram to a dive bar? Probably not any weirder than any other bar. But when you simply want to make things more comfortable, go to Crawfords. The tiny dive in Historic Filipino has been around for a few years, and has become one of the most reliable bars in the city. You always know what you’re going to get here - good beer, affordable prices, a few games of Buck Hunter in the corner, and a hot chicken sandwich you’re absolutely finishing in front of your date.