LA’s Best Date-Night Restaurants for the Audacious Eaters
If it’s a first date, 5th date, or just going out with a loved one because you’re sick of eating the baked chicken for the fourth time in a row, chances are you’re fancying for something that’s a step above the corner store takeout or avoiding the service fees on UberEats. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, a meal for two will set the tone for your potential (or existing) relationship.
With over 7,500 restaurants burrowed in LA county, there is something for everybody. The cultural landscape spans across dozens of ethnic neighborhoods from the edges of the San Gabriel Valley to Long Beach. And if you’re worried about your budget for two, you’re bound to find something tasty, unknown, and fitting to the cash you’re willing to drop. The list we’ve compiled isn’t the typical low-lit, jazz band, prix-fix restaurants where the ambiance is the selling point to swoon your date. These are the spots that will have your company leaving in disbelief on how they haven’t tried this particular spot tucked in some dainty strip mall. We’re basing this solely on one thing: the food. Forget the napkin on the lap, the sommelier recommendation, michelin rated spots. Some of these locations encourage you to use your hands and slurp as loud as you can. Hey, if someone isn’t comfortable with going in on some of the best chicken wings on the first date, are you willing to stick around? We’ve compiled our list of some of the best, lowkey grinds that range across all spectrums; geographically, price range, diversity, and flavor.
The masterminds behind Sqirl and Contramar in CDMX has opened their doors to Santa Monica to serve the people some of the most unique and sourced Mexican-Californian inspired cuisine. This one’s an “actual” date night spot with an extensive cocktail list, a handful of vegetarian options and raw fish dishes. The flavors are distinct, familiar, and will leave you to wanting more. You’ll definitely be spending a little more than the rest of our list, but trust us. It’s totally worth it.
Our recommendations: Koji-Marinated Sweet Potatoes, Heart of Palm Ceviche, Banana Leaf Steamed Red Snapper, Inside Out Turkey Turkey Quesadilla, Fish Hiding in Kelp
Cha Cha Chicken
Santa Monica isn’t exactly known for an impressive selection of fried chicken, but there’s one place you can bring your boo for some island flavors with the character to match. Located on Ocean Avenue, Cha Cha Chicken is close enough for a to-go box and a stroll down to the beach – but you’re just as well served by eating “in”. A colorful, slightly ramshackle setup provides a cozy backdrop for the outdoor-only seating, and we’d be amiss if we failed to mention their BYOB policy. Bring a bottle of your favorite rum, some champagne to pour into their homemade agua frescas, or a couple of beers to go with their delectable coconut fried chicken. And don’t forget the plantains.
Our Reccomendations: Coconut Fried Chicken, Jerk Chicken Plate, Chicken Empanadas, Plantains & Dirty Rice are a must.
Located on a quiet corner of Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake, Mh Zh’s Mediterranean menu is extends to only about 10 dishes, along with their daily specials. But each one will carry the team in it’s tried and true way. There really isn’t a bad dish here. This is an ideal first date spot notably to assist your spending and laid back atmosphere. Their hummus bling is also no joke. Where conventional spots top their hummus with olive oil, Mh Zh generously blankets the already silky hummus with brown butter. The space is almost entirely outdoors, which will want to have you coming back for the third or fourth date. It’s got the sidewalk-cafe vibe that you can take your dates, friends, bosses, and even a complete stranger and you’ll still enjoy the food. The only downfall at the moment is that there’s no alcohol menu, but who needs that when the food plays the frontrunner.
Our recommendations: Hummus Bling (Get extra bread, you’ll thank us later), Roasted Cauliflower, Spicy Greens, Branzino, Potatoes with Roasted Lemon
Hangari Bajirak Kalguksu
Hangari is a Korean restaurant that specializes in kalguksu, an umami-rich soup with hand cut noodles that will comfort the soul on any brisk evening. The noodles are thick, chewy, and cooked to al dente, even while they sit in the hot and spicy seafood broth. Portions come in a bowl big enough to bathe a baby, so plan to share. Your date will also be equally impressed with their version of Bossam, a shared plate of pork belly that’s beautifully displayed to a shingling pattern, served with kimchi, peppers, garlic, and slightly pickled cabbage leaves. You’ll have to use your hands for this one, as it’s a dish where it’s a DIY situation in making your own little pork belly cabbage wraps. If you’ve got room for dessert, Oakobing is just a stroll away for some of the best Korean shaved ice.
Our Recommendations: Chicken Kalguksu, Spicy Seafood Kalguksu, Bossam, Busan Milmyeon for the warmer days.
The Szechuan craze has taken over LA, and is a true testament for the spice lovers that sprawl under the City of Angels. It’s definitely an acquired taste and feeling, as the notorious szechuan peppercorn is known to literally numb your mouth as you indulge in the oddly addicting dishes. The menu opens up to you like the Jumanji board game, with pictures of the house specials and favorites. Trust their recommendations, this is where you’ll want to steer your meal towards. An evening here will get both you and your date’s blood boiling and will have your sinuses cleared for the next week. With the original on the edges of Alhambra, they’ve opened a second location in Santa Monica, so no need to drive across town for some of the best heat-inducing Chinese food.
Our Recommendations: Toothpick Lamb, Tea Smoked Ribs, Mapo Tofu, Boiled Fish, Garlic Noodles,
Ok, this is the spot that you might possibly fall in love at. LA’s mexican cuisine is overly hyped and it deserves to be so. With an abundance of the lowkey street vendors, taco trucks, cevicherias, and hole-in-the-walls, Guelaguetza stands out like a temple amongst others. The traditional Oaxacan menu that sits on your table is their bible, and the abundance of items are sure enough to cater to any diet. Even if you’re feeling to go across the spectrum with your normal palette, the fried chapulines or grasshoppers will surely impress your date. And yes, they are good. Imagine tiny crispy little bites with a slightly earthier tone, served with a handful of shredded Oaxaca cheese, avocado, and salsas. If you’re going the safer route, the moles and grilled meat plates are the hometown heros from their selection. The establishment serves over 6 different varieties of moles, from a deep mole negro that’s oh so chocolatey to a mole verde, which carries a lighter and spicier flavor. If you’re scratching your head on which one you want, the mole sampler will save you some time. They’ve also got live music most evenings and a well versed michelada selection.
Our Recommendations: Especial de Carnes, Mole Negro, Molotes, Chapulines, Horchata con Tuna y Nuez