LAGuide

Where To Have Your Birthday In Your 30s

15 great LA restaurants suitable for a birthday party in your 30s.
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photo credit: Jakob Layman

In your 20s, celebrating your birthday with friends feels like the best night of the year. In your 30s, it gets awkward. Some people are married, some people have kids, and pretty much everybody has a dog. You still want to go out and have a great time, but you have no interest in guzzling lemon drops with Gen Z. We suggest you focus on two things: great food and an environment where you can get rowdy if you want to, but doing so is not mandatory. Here are 15 places that will deliver on both fronts. Happy hangovers. 

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photo credit: Jessie Clapp

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Pizza

Echo Park

$$$$Perfect For:BirthdaysSerious Take-Out OperationCasual Weeknight Dinner
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Restaurants that don’t take reservations are often non-starters for birthday dinners, but then you realize you’re turning 37 and all you want to do is drink wine and eat pizza with a few friends. Make Quarter Sheets the choice. This walk-in-only pizza shop in Echo Park gets crowded quickly, but if you’re cool waiting 30-45 minutes for a table for four, you’ll be rewarded with the single best pizza in LA—all in a quirky dining room that feels like a cross between a wine bar and a '90s-era pizza parlor you might’ve gone to with your soccer teammates after a game. Only now you get to drink nebbiolo and eat as much layer cake (or any other dessert that’s on the menu that day) as you want.

photo credit: Jakob Layman

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If there’s one thing you learn in your 30s, it’s that you no longer have to hang out with people you don’t want to hang out with. Sometimes that includes random people in restaurants. A great private dining situation takes a good birthday and makes it even better, and Old Place is the most unique in town. Located deep in the Santa Monica Mountains, walking into this general store-turned-steakhouse is like doing a 1923 set visit. There are rickety old booths, an all-wood bar lined with regulars, and American comfort food like bone-in ribeye steaks and “noodle and cheese bake.” But you’re heading around back to the private “Mail Room,” which seats up to 12 people at the original sorting table from when this place was the Cornell Post Office. 

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

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You’re old enough to know what a three-day hangover feels like, so the last thing you want is to pour sugary margaritas down your throat all night. Go to Loreto for a grown-up dinner instead. This upscale Mexican seafood in Frogtown is ideal for any sized group, no matter if you’re looking to keep things small or invite everyone who texted you in the past 12 months. Expect tremendous ceviche, aguachile, and tostadas. And, if you’re with at least three people, get the pesca del dia. This spread includes a whole butterflied white fish, rice, beans, escabeche, tortillas, quesadillas, and various salsas. It goes well with the bar's selection of high-end mezcal.

One downside to your 30s is that friends start to move further away from you (i.e. they have children, mortgages, and...OK, we're bored just typing this). If you're looking for a restaurant that's easy to get to from various parts of LA, go to HLAY. Not only is this casual hangout spot located right in Koreatown, but the food—which pulls influence from Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Peru, to name a few—is consistently good. Think dishes like summer tomatoes topped with bagna cauda and crispy lap xuong, shark katsu in Japanese curry, and tiki cocktails that’ll get the party momentum going early. Bonus: Ddong Ggo’s beer garden is right around the corner for post-dinner camaraderie. 

One of the first things you learn in your 30s is shepherding your friends to a bar on a Friday night isn’t as easy as it was in your 20s. That said, propose having your birthday at Checker Hall, and you’ll still get people to show up. Located on the second floor of an old masonic lodge in Highland Park, Checker Hall is equal parts bar and restaurant, meaning if you have friends who want to chill in a booth all night and reminiscence, and others who are still in the business of flirting at the bar, everyone will be happy. The cocktails are well-made (we love the spicy, sumac-smacked Carmen #6), the music curation is always right, and if you get hungry, there's a menu of solid Mediterranean snacks and entrees.

Cobi’s is a Southeast Asian restaurant in Santa Monica that toes the line between a neighborhood hang and a full-on party restaurant. A meal here will certainly be loud (with soul and reggae blasting all night) and you might not be able to hear the person across from you, but who cares? The food is excellent and the kitschy, floral decor makes it feel like you’re throwing a birthday inside a 20th-century parlor room. If you'd prefer being outside, Cobi’s has an incredible back patio.

If the idea of planning and executing the perfect birthday dinner sounds like a complete nightmare, head to Lasita. At this Filipino rotisserie/wine bar in Chinatown, there’s no pressure to make decisions or a long-standing reservation. Looking to drink biodynamic wine and play catch-up for an hour and then put some food in later? Go right ahead. Maybe someone shows up hungry and with a hard out in exactly 45 minutes. No problem. Head right to the host stand and order all the garlicky chicken, pork belly lechon, dips, and sauces your table has room for. At Lasita, the only rule is there are no rules, (though we do insist that you order the pancit). 

This was a good year for you (it's OK, you can brag about it) and you’re ready to celebrate with a baller dinner. Head to Damian, an upscale Mexican restaurant located in a pristine half-jungle, half-futuristic concrete slab in the Arts District. Here you’ll eat uni tostadas, barbecued fish, swiss cheese quesadillas, and the creamiest guacamole we’ve ever had. It’s the perfect place if you want to keep the party under four people and spend your birthday sipping dill and absinthe-infused cocktails and eating hibiscus meringue for dessert. 

In the course of a few years, Anajak has gone from a neighborhood Thai standby in Sherman Oaks to one of the most exciting restaurants in LA—and our highest-rated restaurant. This is largely due to the tremendous dry-aged grilled sea bream and southern Thai fried chicken coming out of the kitchen, but also because Anajak’s alleyway patio is the perfect place for a birthday dinner. Everyone’s wine glass will be full of funky stuff that’s been sourced from a commune in central Slovenia, for example. Also, it doesn’t hurt that half your friend group lives in the Valley now anyway. 

Mazal is a restaurant that proves big group birthdays aren’t always a chore. The casual Israeli spot in Lincoln Heights has a charming, string-lit back patio, a great, biodynamic wine program, and an all-vegetarian menu. You know a meal is a success here when, at some point, every inch of your table is filled with dips, salads, and baskets of piping hot pita. You might even ask your friends how they’re liking everything and not get a response. Don’t stress. They’re all too busy ripping and tearing, dipping and dunking, and ordering bottle after bottle of wine. 

You want a little bit of Hollywood this year for your birthday, but you’re also not stepping foot anywhere near a club filled with backpackers who got kicked out of their hostels today. That's where Dan Tana’s comes into play. This old-school Italian restaurant is one of LA’s most iconic restaurants and also a place where you can still see the real people of Hollywood (the ones with movie deals) in their element. You’re going to eat a lot of chicken parmesan, drink more house red wine than you planned, and flirt with a 68-year-old waiter and feel great about it. Book far in advance.

If you’re ready to eat at a restaurant without stress-staring at prices for once in your life, this modern Vietnamese/Southeast Asian restaurant in downtown Santa Monica is the place to do it. While Cassia certainly falls on the upscale side of birthday dinners, it also won't feel like a graveyard. The lively space is big, with plenty of room for groups, a cool patio, and a fantastic menu that's ideal for sharing.

At some point in your 20s, you wandered down into El Cid’s gigantic side patio, drank a lot of beer, and deemed it your favorite bar in the city. You weren’t wrong. But now it’s time to move the party inside to experience what makes this Silver Lake spot truly special: their flamenco shows. The dinner-and-a-show setup runs every Saturday and Sunday night inside the dinner theater. For $75 per person, you'll get tickets to the show as well as a three-course prix fixe meal. The food isn’t going to blow anybody’s mind, but that's fine because, frankly, there's flamenco dancing.

Tar & Roses is a great choice for most group dinners simply because everybody can find something to eat. But it works even better for a birthday dinner because that back patio never fails to turn into a complete party by the end of the night. And here, the party consists of you and your friends going to town on a full wood-fired goat that comes in three courses and only costs $72 per person. If you aren’t eating full animals in public with your friends by now, it's time you started.

“Just do a steakhouse.” You turn 36, and apparently, the only place you’re allowed to eat anymore is a boring meat chamber. Skip all that and go to Taylor’s. This LA staple has been around since the 1950s, serving giant cuts at reasonable prices in an old-school environment (get ready for big red booths). The waitstaff is sassy, everyone dining here is in a big group, and the bar makes some of our favorite Manhattans in town.

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