Whether you’ve made it to a third date or you’re celebrating a 10-year anniversary, LA’s ever-expanding restaurant scene means you’ve got no shortage of spots to celebrate your love over a tasty meal. We’ve put together a lineup of hidden gems and long-time favorites that are sure to set the mood and win you some brownie points -- provided your date’s the type to be impressed by material things. Oh, and if you’re single while reading this, don’t despair: LA’s got plenty of spots where you can kindle a new romance to call your own.
Santa Monica An upscale restaurant from a Michelin-star chef Few chefs in LA can boast about earning two Michelin stars back-to-back and a restaurant that has kept its doors open for 20 years. Chef Josiah Citrin has made his mark in LA, and after more than two decades since opening fine dining establishment Melisse, he knew it was time to revamp the concept to keep up with LA’s evolving food scene. He turned Melisse into a smaller, intimate tasting experience and used the remaining space to open up Citrin -- the eponymous younger and sexier sister restaurant and bar with a menu that turns California’s beautiful produce into a work of art that ends up on your plate. But don’t fret, iconic dishes from Melisse like the lobster bolognese have made their way onto the Citrin menu. Reserve a table at one of the cozy booths along the walls underneath the art curated by Robert Berman and don’t be surprised if you see Chef Citrin making his rounds and greeting tables.
West Hollywood Chic Melrose newcomer highlighting the best of the Mediterranean The bold-colored living room and dining room at Olivetta are buzzing seven nights a week (with a DJ Thursday through Sunday nights), though you can opt for a quieter setting in the Sun Room surrounded by Bougainvillea vines. It’s hard to pick favorites, but some standout dishes from the Mediterranean inspired menu include the grilled branzino, yellowtail tartare and roasted baby carrots. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Fiorelli restaurant without his signature pasta dishes like the lamb bolognese you’ll be dreaming about for days.
Hollywood Hills A rustic Italian eatery off the beaten path This cozy, dimly lit, Italian restaurant is well worth the windy drive up Laurel Canyon; you’ve likely driven past the old brick building a thousand times on your way to the Valley. The menu features classic Italian dishes, ciabatta-crust pizzas and homemade pastas like the can’t-miss tagliatelle. Don’t forget to put your order in for the famous chocolate cake -- it takes an extra 20 minutes!
Silver Lake Eastside wine bar with European vibes Start your evening at Barbrix off with a glass of wine at the bar, paired with a cheese and charcuterie plate accompanied by a homemade jam and other trimmings. Then, request a table outside underneath the twinkling lights and work your way down the European-influenced menu, beginning with the tapas-style appetizers like the burrata, kampachi crudo, and lamb ricotta meatballs. Expect daily changes since Barbrix’s menu is an ode to fresh farmers market finds, and don’t skip over the daily specials or you might miss $1 oysters or a three-course dinner for $18.
West LA A hidden neighborhood gem with an authentic French menu Belle Vie (which means the “good life” in French) is the kind of low-key spot where it’s easy to become a regular. The unpretentious vibe is cultivated by owner/sommelier Vincent’s decor: an extensive collection of his cookbooks lines the walls, alongside French art he’s picked up and photos of his world travels. Reserve one of the red leather booths and enjoy live music offered on select Saturday evenings as you dive into the decadent seasonal menu with favorites including the warm goat cheese salad, scallops on the shell, and smoked octopus.
Toluca Lake An immersive dining experience that utilizes sound to enhance the experience In a city filled with creatives, it’s no surprise that we’d have a restaurant concept that merges food and music together into a dual sensory experience. The eclectic menu led by chef Paul Shoemaker ranges from handmade pasta and wood-fired pizzas to meat and seafood dishes, all of which are backed with music by nine-time Grammy-winning mixer Manny Marroquin, providing the soundtrack to your evening through a state-of-the-art acoustic system.
West Hollywood A vegetable-focused menu from a French Laundry alum Ardor’s lush, green interiors and jungle vibes are an indication of what you can expect to find on the vegetable-forward menu, thoughtfully crafted by chef John Fraser. The menu is Fraser’s love letter to vegetables, although that’s not all you’ll find here. Order the milk bread and Pacific hamachi crudo to start, and then work your way to the copious vegetable options like the shredded brussels sprouts with truffle or maitake mushrooms bathing in sake that is so flavorful you’ll actually want to finish your vegetables. For heartier plates, the Greek orata fish imported from Greece, filet mignon or Alaskan king crab tagliatelle are all great options. Pair your meal with a drink from the inventive, produce-heavy cocktail menu.
Downtown LA Asian cuisine with a modern twist from legendary chef Wolfgang Puck Located inside The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, WP24 offers stunning, panoramic views of the city skyline from 24 floors up. The Asian-fusion restaurant serves an array of popular dishes like broiled Japanese black cod, Maine lobster spring rolls, bao buns, and roasted Peking duck, all of which are amplified by the elegant dining room setting.
Beverly Hills Curtis Stone’s fine dining spot, with a rotating menu influenced by wine regions This intimate, 24-seat, Michelin-starred restaurant in the heart of Beverly Hills is the brainchild of celebrity chef Curtis Stone. Since the menu changes four times a year, it’s got lots of replay value -- important, if you and your date are looking for “your” restaurant. Stone and his team travel to leading wine regions in search of inspiration, crafting unique tasting menus that help guide diners on a culinary journey through that particular region.
Santa Monica Westside Italian-inspired eatery with a whimsical patio and late-night lounge This spacious, 300-seat restaurant features an indoor dining room, as well as a separate lounge area perfect for pre- or post-dinner drinks, but the most coveted seats are in the garden patio where a fireplace and string lights set the scene for a romantic night out. Sit amongst kumquat, pine, and ficus trees while you linger over the California-meets-Amalfi Coast seasonal menu, which features a selection of raw dishes like hamachi soaking in leche de tigre, table-side Italian chopped salad, housemade cavatelli, grilled corn with shaved black truffle, and seven-day beef shank.
Burbank A meat-lover’s paradise with sprawling views of Los Angeles Perched atop a hill in Burbank, Castaway provides stunning views of the city that make it well worth the drive. The lively, 12,500-square-foot, multi-level restaurant uses seasonal ingredients with meat as the central focus, offering special cuts like Mishima Wagyu as well as a build-it-yourself charcuterie board. The restaurant reopened in 2018 after a major makeover, and the new design offers a spectacle in every corner, giving couples a one-of-a-kind experience no matter where they sit.
West Hollywood Small neighborhood French bistro and wine bar Wine bars are plentiful in Melrose, but Marvin is more than just a wine bar; it’s a charming French bistro with a fantastic wine list sure to impress any Francophile. It wouldn’t look out of place along a Parisian street, serving up classic French fare like cheese and charcuterie plates, oysters, and steak frites in a simple, white-and-blue-walled dining room. Grab two stools at the mirror-backed, marble-topped bar, and get ready to act like you know the first thing about wines -- or, just ask the bartenders for tips.
Santa Monica A classic steakhouse situated off PCH The ambiance at this intimate, 50-seat steakhouse resembles that of an old supper club, with low lighting, tufted red leather booths, and black-and-white vintage portraits of icons from the past adorning the walls. The menu features elevated versions of old American favorites like crab cakes, pigs in a blanket, burgers, and a 30-day dry-aged steak. While the reservations-only restaurant is located just steps away from the ocean, it’s still a classy steakhouse, so you and your date will want to dress the part.
Loz Feliz A former theater rehearsal space is now a mid-century modern neighborhood restaurant Tucked away in an alley on Vermont Avenue, Atrium’s brick-walled dining room with high, wood-beamed ceilings, a skylight, and a big olive tree in the center, adds new flavor to a neighborhood otherwise lacking upscale dining options. The menu celebrates the city’s diversity with eclectic dishes like grilled focaccia with kimchi butter, uni cacio e pepe, pork chop katsu, and grilled cauliflower shawarma. There’s an appealing U-shaped bar at the heart of the restaurant, but the plush booths are where you’ll want to cozy up to your date.
West Hollywood Plant-based concept with a romantic string-lit patio Catering to a city that’s often considered the epicenter of plant-based eating, the menu at Nic’s on Beverly is a nod to the city’s iconic dishes and melting pot of cultures, all with a plant-based twist. Look out for items like the avocado crispy rice, the Chinois on Beverly salad (paying tribute to the Chinese chicken salad), the tempura maitake mushrooms, and of course, an Impossible burger.
West Hollywood An enchanting oasis on the Sunset Strip with an outdoor terrace This Sunset Strip stunner is one of West Hollywood’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away in the Sunset Marquis hotel, the indoor-outdoor restaurant features a beautifully lush garden, koi pond, and twinkling string lights wrapped around the trees to set the mood. The restaurant concept, originally created by James Beard-winning Chef Michael Schlow, has a menu that emphasizes local ingredients and changes with the seasons, but you can expect dishes like West Coast oysters, roasted poblano guacamole, homemade pappardelle, and branzino.
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Leila Najafi is a freelance food and travel writer in LA so on any given day she’s either stuffing her face or getting lost in a foreign country. Follow her adventures on Instagram @LeilasList.