It’s 2016. Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid, Hinge, Hitch, and something called Coffee Meets Bagel rule the romance world and there’s probably no going back. Is the art of the first date dead? Let’s hope not. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
For starters, you need a place where you can hear each other. Nothing kills momentum more than having to scream “WHAT?!” after every question they ask you. Secondly, don’t over impress. This is a real first date, not The Bachelor. There’s no rose on the table and you don’t need to share your whole life story in hopes of making it to the next episode. Save the prix-fixe menus and helicopter rides for later. Casual always wins out. And lastly, be tasteful. This might seem obvious but you need a place that proves you know what you’re doing, without overdoing it. You want sexy, not sceney. Accessible, but not amateur. Still breathing? Good. Because now’s where we come in. Here’s an updated list of LA’s best first date spots.
Here’s a killer first date move: escape the office early, make your way down to Manhattan Beach, and have dinner in the nicest seafood shack you’ve ever seen. You’ll seem adventurous, he’ll be impressed, and you’ll both be eating oysters within 45 minutes. No social media though: you want to still have a job on Monday.
If you suggest a pop-up restaurant where you’re floating in the air at a table hanging from a crane, you’re probably going to scare them off. Go with Chez Tex instead, the cutest neighborhood bistro they most likely have never heard of. You’ll win points for creativity straight off the bat, and then even more once the chatty owners start pouring you glasses of wine and the inventive plates of food start coming out.
You’ve been trying to get together for weeks, but your schedules never match up. Suddenly, she’s free tonight and it’s go time. It’s pretty much a guarantee that Osteria La Buca will have a table, and if she’s not into the best carbonara in the whole damn city, then at least you’ll know it’s a lost cause from the get go.
You have to be pretty confident to go with tacos for a first date (the messiness factor can be tricky), but once you’ve gotten over this mental hurdle, go straight for Salazar. Sure, it’s in a part of town that has a made up name (Frogtown), but it’s worth walking through some industrial wasteland to get there. The all-outdoors setting is a romantic alternative to a white tablecloth situation, and the tacos are excellent.
Not sure whether you’re ready to commit to an entire dinner? Barcito is the best of both worlds - suggest meeting for a drink at this Argentinian bar downtown, and if all is going well, it can easily morph into dinner without having to get in an Uber.
Escuela is perfect for many things, but it might be most perfect for first dates. It sits on the right side of casual, but won’t ever feel like you didn’t actually put some thought into the night. The tacos are good, the housemade tortilla chips are even better, and you can BYO a nice bottle of wine and not pay more than you should have to for it. And, if conversation starts to lag, you can always start inventing scenarios for just why there are so many wooden shoes hanging from the ceiling.
Despite what you may think, we aren’t advocating a brunch date here. Superba Food + Bread is kind of a secret in that nobody seems to know that they’re open for dinner, and once the sun goes down it becomes the kind of low-key spot that Venice does so well. There’s plenty of wine (the patio seems made for multiple glasses of rosé), and the lamb ribs are both out of left field, and really, really tasty.
How many LA relationships have started inside this restaurant? Is there data on that? We’ll assume a lot. There’s not much this casual pizzeria inside the MozzaPlex doesn’t do well and that includes getting you comfortable with someone your friend from CAA knows from The Weinstein Co. and thought you’d be perfect for. The pizzas are the obvious headliners but just about anything on the menu is worth ordering. Stick around for the late night happy hour too.
So that girl who always pops on your Tinder at the downtown office finally agreed to meet up after work one day. This might not be a formal first date, but welcome to 2016, Mom. And our choice here is Bar Ama. The casual Tex-Mex spot is trendy enough to make it clear you’re not an axe murderer and chill enough so you don’t look stupid. Just make sure you don’t eat all the queso in front of her. Easier said than done.
By our estimation, this is the best first date spot in the city. Let us explain. Plan Check’s vibe strikes that crucial middle ground of being laid-back and casual, yet sleek and sexy all at the same time. The food is good and that beer list is one of the most underrated in the city. And this is a first date after all. Good beer goes a long way.
“I just didn’t like that we were drinking wine,” said no one ever. It bears reminding in 2016 that conversation is still important on dates and at Venice Wines, you’ll be able to do just that. This casual, cool wine bar might not have the biggest wine list in town but it’s still well-rounded. And a menu full of charcuterie, shared plates, and “nibbles” is exactly what the doctor ordered while you’re guzzling Chardonnay.
You’ve got a good feeling about this one so DON’T F*CK IT UP. Jon and Vinny’s space on Fairfax reads more like a co-ed thermal spa in Reykjavik than an Italian joint but that’s exactly what you want for a first date. Top notch Italian food in an unstuffy, lively, and immensely cool environment. Just call ahead for a reservation so you aren’t sitting at the bar. Peripheral-only vision on a first date is never a good thing.
Euphemisms aside, tacos are never a bad option for a first date. And while Petty Cash’s aren’t the best in the city, they’re still good, and the non-taco portion of the menu is stellar. The vibe is sexy, cool, and not at all smothering. Petty Cash is also in the business of lighting their drinks on fire and that just always wins for us.
Because is there a more appropriate first date food than hummus? Bowery Bungalow is a North-African/Mediterranean fusion restaurant in Silver Lake that absolutely no one is talking about. But with a casual vibe that’s as welcoming as it is romantic, this refurbished craftsman bungalow is first date gold.
Remember: not every first date has to be over a bowl of penne or tall glass of Merlot. If you get the vibe your date is looking for something a bit more left of center, Button Mash is your spot. We’ll be clear here – this is an arcade bar. In a strip mall. Still listening? Good. Because aside from pinball and Atari, the food here is by none other than Chinatown’s old Starry Kitchen. Dan Dan Noodles and video games? Yes please.
The Viagra-washed sidewalks of Montana Ave. might seem like the worst place for a good first date, but fear not. Forma is the youthful, fun, and downright delicious Italian spot that’s the long awaited answer to all the nameless, stuffy joints that tend to populate the area. Oh, and there’s a guy named the “cheese scraper” here. Just don’t talk to him, because he won’t talk back to you.
Seafood is sexy and so are you. Connie and Ted’s space might have the best curb appeal in the city and the good vibes continue inside. The menu is stacked with accessible and relatively affordable seafood dishes – this isn’t anywhere close to a Providence-style dining commitment. Also, their burger is great. Don’t ask us how.
Honestly, if anyone turns down pizza, they’re not to be trusted and a relationship was never in the cards. But if they do accept the offer and you’re on the Westside, Milo and Olive is your one and only move. They finally expanded the space, too, so you’ll no longer be sitting on top of each other (at least not yet).
We’re all about big moves here, and suggesting a Belgian beer cafe in the Arts District is just that. The A.D. might not be the easiest to get to, but if you’re a downtown dweller or in the mood for a little adventure, Little Bear can’t be beat. Belgian beer means saisons, sours, and lambics. And that means an easy buzz. Soak it up with some solid Belgian pub food.
Dating in LA comes with several typical ice breakers. Are you in the business? How bad is that Coachella line-up? Wait, you eat meat? If the answer to the last one is even remotely close to a yes, make moves to Father’s Office because a burger frankly always wins out. We’re choosing the Culver location due to its less frantic setting and ideal front patio.
So the third picture on his profile is of a lone-standing bottle of IPA. OK. He’s a beer drinker. Immediately suggest Mohawk Bend because not only will he be impressed, you’ll walk out happy too. Located in an old Vaudevillian theater, Mohawk has one of the top beer stocks in the city, unpretentious vibes, and way better vegan food than you’d ever expect.