In your 20s, celebrating your birthday with your friends is usually 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 zero interest in guzzling lemon drops with a bunch of college kids who definitely don’t have money for their Uber home. We suggest you focus on two things: great food, and an environment where you can get rowdy if you want to, but still be able to walk the dog drunk later tonight. Here are 11 places that will deliver on both fronts. Happy hangovers.
After blacking out at Skybar and drunk dialing your grandma’s pharmacist in 2011, you swore off the Sunset Strip for good. But it’s time to go back. Skip the atrocious clubs and rooftop bars, and take the crew to Night + Market. The modern Thai spot has become one of the best-known restaurants in the entire city, but its original Sunset Strip location is still always what you need for a birthday - a big space, easy reservations, a fantastic back patio you can rent out, and beer towers. Also, this is some of our favorite Thai food in LA.
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. And that includes random people in restaurants. A great private dining situation takes a good birthday and makes it even better, and Osteria La Buca’s is one of our favorites. This underrated Italian restaurant at Melrose and Western will put you on their second floor, inside a big glass-walled space they call The Pasta Room, where you have a bird’s-eye view of the restaurant and can hook up your own music. If you don’t want to celebrate your birthday inside something called The Pasta Room, we have nothing in common.
Getting people out of their houses, let alone their own neighborhood, is an uphill battle. But if there’s a restaurant you should force people to drive to, it's this one. Frogtown might not be the most convenient location for most people, but when the destination is Salazar, it’s worth it. The entirely-outdoor Mexican restaurant has plenty of long tables for big groups, fantastic housemade tacos, and a relaxed environment that won’t make you feel embarrassed when you get a little too sloshed on the boozy horchatas.
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 Australian backpackers who got kicked out of their hostels today. You need Dan Tana’s. The 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. The place is definitely cramped, but they always make room for a party. Definitely book far in advance, it books up quickly.
That promotion you’ve been waiting for finally came this year, and you’re ready to celebrate and not stress-stare at prices for once in your life. Cassia is a modern Vietnamese/Southeast Asian restaurant in downtown Santa Monica, and while the place is certainly on the upscale side of things, it’s also not a graveyard. The space is big, with plenty of room for big groups, a cool patio, and a fantastic menu ideal for sharing.
From the outside, Belle Vie looks like a place you take your grandparents for a 4pm Sunday dinner after a day at The Getty. But then you walk into this casual French restaurant next to a McDonald’s in Brentwood and realize it’s hardly some sleepy wine and cheese bar. The people running Belle Vie will make you feel like you’re the guest of honor at their house party, the food is great and not what you typically see at French restaurants (get the beef burgundy tacos), and everyone is here to hang out and drink a bunch of wine. There’s a big, semi-private table in the back that’s perfect for birthdays.
Yes, this modern Korean spot in Chinatown (from the people behind NYC’s Momofuku empire) is a blockbuster. Yes, it’ll take you several months and a possible child sacrifice to secure a table. But once you do, you’ll find not just one of the best new restaurants in LA, but one that is tailor-made for big groups. The industrial space is massive, with big tables and a great side patio, and while the whole menu is full of very good and very shareable small plates, the best dishes are the ones meant to feed 4-6 people. Get the spicy pork shoulder that's so tender you can pick it apart with ice tongs.
You’re old enough to know what a three-day hangover feels like, so the last thing you want is to pour sugar-poisoned margaritas down your throat all night. So go to Guelaguetza for an upscale Mexican dinner instead. The classic Oaxacan restaurant in Koreatown is massive, with live mariachi music most nights and some of the best mole you’ll find in town. They have over 150 different kinds of mezcals and tequila, so if you do go that route, at least you can do it right. Bonus: It’s kid-friendly here.
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, with three reasonably priced pre-fixe menus for everybody to choose from. The food isn’t going to blow anybody’s mind, but you don’t care. That’s what the flamenco dancing is for.
Tar & Roses works for just about any group dinner 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 that party will consist of you and your friends going to town on a full wood-fired goat that comes in three courses and only costs $58 per person. If you aren’t eating full animals in public with your friends by now, it's time you started.
You’re 33, not dead. Rally the crew and go discover something new. Like Oriel. The French restaurant/wine bar under the elevated train tracks in Chinatown feels like you’re closer to Brooklyn than West Hollywood, the crowd is full of interesting people who dress better than you, and their patio is the perfect size for your crew to take over. The menu covers all the bases of things you like to eat while drinking wine. Namely a lot of bread and cheese.
“Just do a steakhouse.” You turn 36, and apparently the only place you’re allowed to eat anymore is a boring meat chamber full of people that fell asleep on the way there. Skip all that and go to Taylor’s. This LA staple has been around since the 1950’s, serving giant cuts of meats at reasonable prices in an old-school environment (get ready for big red booths). The waitstaff is old and sassy, everyone there is in a big group, and they make the best Manhattans in town.