No matter how easy a long-distance relationship might have seemed in Sleepless in Seattle, dealing with daily FaceTime drama, misinterpreted text messages, and coworkers who don’t believe you’re actually in a relationship can be pretty rough. But you’re determined to make it work.
Because food is your love language, whenever your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/future co-owner of a herd of corgis is in town, it’s important to have some great date restaurants lined up. And these places are so great they might even convince your long-distance S.O. to stay a while.
Oriel is way more than a wine bar that serves food, even though it is both of those things. This French spot in Chinatown is dark and romantic, and the servers are very good at ignoring your heartfelt conversations while also keeping your wine glasses filled. And the food is pretty great, too: The cheese and charcuterie board is a nice option to split, and they also serve one of the best $27 steaks in town.
No matter how many times you’ve eaten pasta together, Felix will impress you. This Abbot Kinney spot has a glassed-in, refrigerated pasta-making room where you can watch people rolling out tagliatelle while you eat. The rigatoni all’amatriciana is arguably the best plate of pasta in LA, and the focaccia is going to ruin regular bread for you,. Reservations here aren’t easy, but if you show up before 6 or after 9:30pm, you can usually get a couple seats together at the bar.
Margot is a coastal-Mediterranean restaurant on the roof of Platform in Culver City that has great (and romantic) views of the ocean at sunset. Show up a bit before your reservation to get some cocktails by the fire pits outside, then for dinner, stick with the crudos and shared plates, like stuffed peppers and focaccia with ’nduja. The Platform is also a nice place for a post-meal walk and a bit of shopping, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Maybe because it’s technically a hotel restaurant, or that it doesn’t have a real name, but The Nomad is a massively overlooked spot for big-deal dates. It’s one of the best places in town to celebrate something - the huge art deco bank-turned-hotel feels like a private club. One that has cocktails served in golden skulls, plush velvet chairs, and the only roast chicken we will ever recommend spending $100 on. Plus, sometimes you want to get dressed up when you go out.
This tiny French brasserie feels like it was built just for date night. On the patio, there are candles everywhere, and it’s entirely covered by a massive tree. It feels so much like the French countryside that you half expect the candelabra to start singing “Be Our Guest” during appetizers. It’s expensive - entrees are all around $40 - but the food is great. We like the couscous royale, which is basically a really good lamb stew, and the charcuterie and cheese plates.
We don’t know why more places don’t combine two of the greatest things on earth - wine and sushi - but we’re glad that Sushi Note does. This tiny wine bar in Sherman Oaks feels more like a neighborhood bar than anything else, except this one has excellent fresh fish, and one of the best omakase deals in town. When it comes to wine, the staff here will help you find the best varietal to pair with everything.
Scratch Bar takes the food they serve incredibly seriously, and almost comically so - you get to inspect your cut of beef before they bring it out, and there are no servers handling your plates, just the chefs. Despite the self-seriousness, the dishes are fantastic and sometimes pretty weird, like a cheese ice cream you spread on toast for dessert. If you two really care about food, and want something truly unique, make a reservation here.
For a true special occasion - maybe an anniversary ending in a zero - Wolvesmouth is a wholly unique LA experience. You have to sign up for a mailing list just to get an invitation, and when they email, you only have a few hours to buy tickets. Then, they'll send you the Los Feliz-area address for an intimate, BYOB meal which typically involves around seven courses like rabbit with mole and churro, and albacore, crab, and green papaya salad. It feels like the coolest dinner party around, and there’s no better way to show this person what LA has to offer.
Lost Spirits is technically a distillery in the Arts District, but the tour here is nothing like a traditional trek around a distillery. This one involves a boat ride through the building, lots of jungle plants, and enough booze that you’ll be buzzed by the end of it. We won’t give too much away, but just know you should book ahead of time - tours here fill up fast.
Fishing With Dynamite is a neighborhood oyster spot that’s worth planning ahead for. Because this Manhattan Beach restaurant is roughly the size of a school bus - with half as many seats - so you need to make a reservation. It’s super casual, and they serve incredible raw seafood. Make it the first place you go when you pick your S.O. up at LAX, and the first place you go after you drop them off, since you’ll need to cheer yourself up. Or just cry in the car. Whatever works best for you.
Cassia is a French-Southeast Asian spot in Santa Monica that feels like a clubhouse for Westsiders. It’s always lively inside, and you’ll more than likely see a face from a Marvel movie or a fashion magazine at a nearby table. But staring at celebrities is only part of what makes Cassia a really fun place for a date night - the spicy wontons, grilled lobster, and excellent wine list don’t hurt, either. Make a reservation, but show up early. That way, you have an excuse to get a glass of wine at Esters next door beforehand.
Tsubaki is an izakaya that serves tremendous Japanese small plates, and is a great spot for a date. It’s an intimate setup - there are only a few tables and a small bar - but it’s the food and the sake that really matter. The fluke tartare and kanpachi sashimi are good, and the yakitori is excellent. Their sake selection is massive and even a bit daunting, but the super-knowledgeable servers are more than happy to help you navigate the list.
Maybe you’re trying to convince this significant other to ditch their job in New York and move to LA. If that’s the case, take them straight to Jones to show what every weekend could be like if you lived together. This rowdy Italian spot in Weho is a fun place to start a night, with some of the best martinis in town, a bunch of good pasta dishes, and an apple pie served in a cast iron skillet that should make your “Move in with me” proposal a bit more convincing.