Your birthday is supposed to be the best time of the year. People treat you like star-powered royalty for a day during which you generally do nothing more than stay alive. So why then does it always end up being so goddamn stressful? You don’t know where to go, your friends can’t commit to anything, and you hate planning.
While we can’t sort out your entire life, we can give you some hard advice on where to plan that crucial birthday dinner. What’s important? For starters, a space that will accommodate a group. And unless your name is Kristen Stewart, you probably want somewhere that’s fun, festive, and where people are happy. Oh and drinks. Lots of drinks. It’s a simple formula, but one that’s not always easy to crack. Here is your newly-updated guide to the best birthday dinners in Los Angeles.
One could argue that this entirely-outdoor Mexican BBQ restaurant in Frogtown was created solely with birthday dinners in mind. Long communal tables, a family-style shared menu, and excellent cocktails guarantee no matter what sized group you roll in with, you’re in for a good time. The fact that it’s all outdoors also guarantees that you won’t be stuck in some sweaty booth of death all night either. Order everything that comes with housemade tortillas.
Don’t be fooled by Desano’s order-at-the-counter setup. Around back, they have one of the best dining halls in Hollywood. The massive space has vaulted ceilings, bags of dough piled against the wall, a row of gigantic wood-burning ovens in the back, and TVs on the wall playing Champions League games. The whole thing feels like some sort back kitchen rec room, and you want all of it for that casual birthday shindig you have in mind. As for the pizza, go for the namesake DeSano or Bianca pies and definitely order a few calzones for the table as well.
BYOB is pretty ideal for a birthday dinner. And at this neighborhood taqueria in Beverly Grove, you can pretty much roll in with whatever you want and they’ll happily put it on ice. Escuela isn’t big, but there’s a big circular table in the corner that fits up to 13 people if you feel like going all King Arthur (you do). The menu is essentially just a la carte tacos, which works well for all your friends who still can’t grasp the concept of sharing food and splitting the bill evenly.
Casa Vega is a Valley institution and one of those special LA places where Kris Kardashian and your tax guy drink margaritas in booths across from each other. Is this the absolute best Mexican food you can find in Los Angeles? Of course not. But it doesn’t matter at this dimly lit (and admittedly somewhat cramped) joint on Ventura. All of your friends are having too good of a time to notice.
Osteria La Buca is one of those places you tend to forget about from time to time, and then remember how perfect it is - especially for a birthday dinner. Too many times large groups of people and bowls of pasta lead to a total snoozefest, but the atmosphere inside this casual Italian spot is legitimately fun. We promise. There’s a great upstairs for large groups, Tom Petty is probably playing on the loudspeaker, and the bucatini carbonara just sent you into birthday nirvana.
Badmaash is probably the smallest place on this list. But if your idea of a perfect birthday dinner consists of you and your four closest friends eating great food without enduring a two-week long email thread planning the whole thing, make Badmaash your move. The modern Indian DTLA restaurant is cool, affordable, casual, and downright delicious. Everything from the butter chicken samosas to the ghost chili lamb vindaloo is great, but if you don’t order the chicken tikka poutine for the table, you probably shouldn’t even come.
If you want to get all your friends together for a meal, but the idea of a planning an official sit-down dinner terrifies you, Button Mash is the answer to your prayers. The Echo Park hotspot is an arcade bar (and an excellent one at that), but the real secret lies in the food menu. Opened by the Chinese-fusion masters from the old Starry Kitchen, this is the bar food of your dreams, and the eat-a-little, pinball-a-little setup is perfect for your casual birthday dreams.
E.R.B. is where you take the birthday crew when drinking is the focus, food is necessary, and bocce ball is welcomed. The new Arts District spot is definitely a bar, but reserving a table on the fantastic back patio and eating and drinking the night away is about as strong a birthday move as you can make. Think of the menu as worldly drunk food: pork belly baos, taquitos, buttermilk biscuits. YES TO EVERYTHING. The vibe is fun and relaxed, and in the heart of everything cool, if the party decides to venture elsewhere.
It’s your birthday and you’re going to eat pasta if you want to. This casual Italian trattoria on Melrose is as central as it gets, and half your friend group probably lives up the block anyway. While the interior here is great, save that vibe for date night. Your move is the front patio, with all the room in the world for your group to spread out, grab some bottles of wine, and get a little rowdy.
If you’re looking to eat, drink, and dance all in one spot on your birthday, Abigaile is your best bet. But don’t fear – Abigaile is definitely not a club. It’s a well-constructed shrine to birthday needs. The welcoming, first-floor dining room serves fantastic American food and great craft beer, while upstairs things loosen up with a full-fledged rooftop bar and the dance floor debauchery that goes with it.
This Westside institution epitomizes old-school Angeleno Mexican cuisine and that means crowd-pleasing food for your entire birthday group (think shredded beef quesadillas and burritos big enough for two). La Cabana is also downright fun, with a live mariachi band (ON THE ROOF) and a raucous back patio for all your drunken birthday desires. The pitchers of margaritas seemingly never end and next thing you know you’ll be stumbling out at 3am like a true birthday champ.
Cleo hails from the trendiest of Hollywood nightlife families (SBE), which means it was basically made for all your birthday needs. Located inside the Roxbury Hotel, Cleo’s tasty mediterranean tapas menu will also give everybody the necessary sustenance to dance all night.
El Coyote is not where you go to eat good Mexican food. It’s where you go to eat passable Mexican food and drink the stiffest Margaritas in town in an atmosphere that encourages it. The historic joint is also gigantic, with big dining rooms that will give you and your party crew the room to spread out and celebrate to your fullest potential.
Bludso’s is a perfect birthday dinner spot because it’s big, well-priced, and if someone in your group isn’t keen on eating delicious BBQ, it makes for a good time to realize that your friendship was never going to work out anyways. Also, the Large Party Tray for $100 feeds up to eight meat-hungry adults and we’re fairly certain you won’t find a better birthday deal than that.
Two words: Beer towers. OK, and Thai food. Really amazing Thai food. Night+Market might be one of the most-hyped Thai spots in the city (for good reason), but it’s also a fantastic place to get rowdy with your friends. The Weho location is large and lively, with an open-air back patio that has birthday success written all over it.
The best Mexican restaurant in Hollywood is also one of the best places to celebrate yourself. El Compadre is small-ish and usually quite crowded, but all that means to you and your party is one of the most authentic atmospheres in town. Everyone at El Compadre is there to eat great Mexican food, have fun, and to keep slamming those flaming margaritas.
Not a name you’re going to shut down a rap battle with, but certainly the best place to get Korean BBQ on your birthday. The place not only has top-notch meats, but also doesn’t give two sh*ts how “festive” you and your group want to get. This is Ktown though – nobody stays in one place the whole night. And Kang Ho-Dong is mere blocks from Normandie Club, the Line Hotel, and lots of other birthday-worthy drinking spots.
If you’re looking to publicly swan dive off a table into the arms of a woman you don’t know or cry openly during a Britney Spears lip sync, Tokyo Delve’s is your spot. It’s true insanity, and a place every Angeleno needs to experience once. Open only on weekends, the entire restaurant is seated at the same time and then promptly whisked off on a two hour dancing/singing/sake-bomb extravaganza you simply have to see to believe.
Messhall is an Eastside birthday dinner go-to purely because of how big it is. There’s the sleek interior with large tables, or the beautiful outdoor patio if you want to keep things more intimate. Either way, no one is complaining about the comfort-food menu and free shuttles to the nearby Greek Theater for whatever concert you have planned after.