Of all the three-word phrases we’ve taken part in over the past year (face-down sobbing, staring into infinity - just to name a few), “big night out” definitely isn’t one of them. But with the advent of outdoor dining and warmer weather, the opportunity to leave your home and celebrate something big is now possible. From upscale Mexican food in the Arts District to a natural wine bar in the Hollywood Hills, here are 13 restaurants perfect for a big night out... outside.
A dinner at this cozy sushi bar in the Valley is like the culinary equivalent of a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, or this scene from Mamma Mia: 2 Here We Go Again. In other words, it’s an instant classic. They’ve set up a quiet, outdoor patio, secluded from the noise and bustle from the Ventura freeway, and serve everything from stone-grilled Wagyu to sushi omakase, as well as steamed fresh crab legs and glasses of their house sake, made in Fukushima. Reservations can be made here.
This New England-style seafood restaurant in West Hollywood has always had a nice patio, but now it has a really nice patio. Taking advantage of a front parking lot usually reserved for valet, Connie & Ted’s outdoor space includes tons of astroturf, string lights, and an entire structured roof to keep out the elements. The setting kind of feels like you’re in a park, and that’s ideal when there are crab cakes and lobster on the table.
Damian had the unfortunate occurrence of opening only a few weeks before LA’s second shutdown last December, meaning the debut of this upscale Mexican restaurant in the Arts District flew pretty under-the-radar. But rest assured, Damian is now back up and running with a beautiful, spacious back patio ideal for your big night out. The menu has been helmed by chef Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Cosme) and is filled with tremendous, inventive dishes like a shrimp tlayuda and albacore carnitas, plus excellent cocktails like the brine-y kimchi martini that’ll get the celebration started in no time. Be sure to make a reservation ASAP, they fill up quickly.
With astroturf, umbrellas, and string lighting, al fresco dining at Dan Tana’s certainly has a different energy than the old-school interior. But as far as being socially distant is concerned, it’s an incredible option. Besides, after a few rounds of celebratory martinis and chicken parm, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference anyway.
Even in quarantine, eating at this 50-year-old South LA staple is still the kind of nice, wholesome experience you forgot existed after a particularly rough day of literally no one letting you merge in traffic. They have a super-romantic back patio, made snug and intimate by lots of string lights, picnic tables, and occasionally, even a live band. Their menu is full of Southern favorites, like charbroiled oysters, Louisiana-style catfish, shrimp & crawfish étouffée, and one of the best gumbos in town - a traditional filé with a dark roux and lots of sausage, chicken, shrimp, and meaty pieces of crab that makes for a hearty, flavor-packed soup sure to build your strength back up before you hit the road.
Spot prawns and vermicelli noodles, caviar in koji butter, and dungeness crab soup - these are just a few things you can expect from a night at Kato, an omakase-style Taiwanese restaurant in West LA, perfect for any special occasion. The multi-course, prix-fixe menu changes daily, but what stays consistent is the unique mix of the familiar and the not-so-familiar: Chinese-style steamed fish and mapo tofu live on the same menu as three-cup abalone and tapioca made with boniato yams, a sweet potato popular in Caribbean cooking. Which is a long way of saying that no matter what’s on the menu, you’re in for a pleasant, unexpected ride that lasts for hours. Kind of like the time we got stuck on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland and they gave us all fastpasses afterward. Reservations can be made here.
If your version of a big night out is still something a bit more subdued, yet special, snag a table at Kensho. This tiny wine bar behind Yamashiro is one of our favorite date night spots in the city, with tremendous views of the Hollywood Hills and excellent natural wine and sake, plus a rotating menu filled with snacks like salmon tartare, inari, and perilla bowls. Kensho is the kind of place you come to for quick drinks and dinner and end up staying for three hours.
Nothing says “You f*cking did it!” like a big slab of meat - and the cuts of beef don’t get much more epic than the ones at Lawry’s. The Beverly Hills original is home to a legendary prime rib dinner that comes with your choice of cut (get the Lawry’s Cut), plus spinning salad, Yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes. Throw in a few house-made cocktails and a side of the best creamed spinach in the world, and your night of celebration on their sprawling parking lot patio is set.
This new Mexican spot in Beverly Hills is fancy, fun, and a tremendous option when you need to get out of the house and celebrate something. There’s crispy salmon skin chicharrónes, a tender short rib quesadilla covered in fresh herbs, and some really incredible costilla tacos with Bordelaise sauce. And unlike other upscale places in the neighborhood, you’ll only need about two dishes per person since the portions are enormous.
At this point, any night out with your significant other is a big night out, so lean into the romantic side of things and head to Pasjoli in Santa Monica. The upscale French spot on Main St. was one of our favorite new restaurants of 2019, but has recently reopened both of their patios, plus a new-ish menu filled with dishes like lobster bisque and a mushroom and cauliflower tartare that we’re very excited to try.
The team behind one of our favorite Vietnamese comfort food spots, Porridge and Puffs, just opened a new fine dining experience, complete with a secluded outdoor garden and a one-of-a-kind journey through the land, sea, and air. No, we’re not talking about the time you got super high and accidentally watched The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe twice in a row (Mr. Tumnus looked pretty cute though), we’re talking about chef Minh Phan’s latest restaurant, Phenakite. Located in the colorful, newly built coworking space, Second Home, Phenakite serves a nine-course meal including dishes like braised short ribs, pan-smoked abalone, and a sweet, creamy carrot ice cream presented in homemade pottery. It’s a bit of theater, a little pyrotechnics, and 100% a dining experience to write home about. Well, or at least in your gratitude journal. Reservations can be made here.
Much like a Penn & Teller magic show, a meal at this literal cathedral of French food feels like a well-oiled machine. Gorgeous patio views from either their shaded sidewalk or lush back patio, the tables are properly spaced out, servers leave a carafe of water with you instead of stopping by to refill your glasses, and, of course, the food is French being done at the top of its game. Butternut squash agnolotti - impossibly perfect pillows filled with sweet, nutty squash - are bathed in brown butter. Campanelle pasta is joined by Santa Barbara uni, Calabrian chilis, and preserved Meyer lemons. It’s a casual-yet-fancy meal, ideal for celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, or buying a new couch off Craigslist. Reservations can be made here.
Who says it only has to be a big night out? Make a day of it and head up to Saddle Peak Lodge in the Santa Monica Mountains. The truly ancient spot (it used to be an old Pony Express outpost) feels like you left Southern California and stepped into a billionaire’s hunting lodge in Montana. As far as the food goes, concentrate on the meats, and in particular, the hard-to-find kind like elk tenderloin, emu, and the sweet and smoky braised bison short rib. Get there before 7pm for their nightly Happy Hour featuring $6 beer, $8 wine, and $10 martinis.