My husband and I moved to L.A. about 2 years ago for his work. We aren’t sure how long this will be our home, so while we’re here that means making the absolute most of every moment. To us, that means three things: soaking up the sun and scenery on lots of hikes and beach days, taking advantage of all the great weekend trips under two hours away (more to come on that) and eating our way through the best restaurants L.A. has to offer.
I would say that my absolute favorite activity in the world is a date night dinner. We have a whole ritual in our house. We put on the classic Sinatra station on Pandora, pour some of our favorite red wine and take our time getting ready, with regular interludes of drink refills and spontaneous dancing in between. Once at the restaurant, I’m a big fan of a leisurely dining experience. Taking our time with a cocktail before appetizers, not rushing in between courses. I’d say the perfect time for a dinner out is about 2 hours. Also very important is lighting (no harsh overheads) ambience (a full, but not rowdy vibe is best) and music (plz no Bieber at dinner).
Coming from Chicago we’re natural foodies, and have been delighted in the absolutely killer restaurant scene in L.A. Here’s a list of 10 spots we keep going back to, and what to order at each:
1.) Nobu Malibu
Why we love it: My top pick and an absolute no brainer. If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat outside, the view of the water, especially at sunset is just about heaven. They have the best service around, bar none. You’ll also 100% see a celeb when you’re here, if you’re into that kind of thing.
What to order: Yellowtail Jalapeno, Ahi tuna with crispy rice, Black cod miso, rock shimp tempura with creamy spicy sauce, lobster tacos
Why we love it: It’s an Italian restaurant but with a cool, modern vibe. The cocktails are INSANE (P.S. there’s a speak easy in the back that you must try called Old Lightning. It’s literally like walking into Don Draper’s living room).
What to order: Squid Ink Calamari, Arancini Ball, Vodka pasta, Branzino
Why we love it: We don’t go downtown too often (insert L.A. traffic stereotype here) but when we do, we go to Redbird. The main dining room opens up like an atrium and is truly stunning. Plus they serve a fun aperitif and to die for cheese bread.
What to order: Hamachi crudo, Avocado Salad, Scallops, Roasted potatoes with chorizo
Why we love it: The whole Abbott Kinney strip is super fun and one of my favorite places in L.A. There’s loads of fantastic restaurant choices here (Gjelina, The Butcher’s Daughter) but if I had to pick just one it would be the Tasting Kitchen, cause the bartenders rock and the dining experience is super fun. Plus there’s a big tree in the middle of the restaurant.
What to order: You don’t get to pick, which is fun if you can relax a little (they serve wine at the correct temperature here so you should be able to). You tell them what do you do and don’t like in general and they craft a custom 5 course meal for you. Kunbi and I loved it!
Why we love it: I wouldn’t call this super romantic, but it’s fun as hell. This place is always busy and I’ve never waited less than 1.5 hours, so come ready to enjoy a long cocktail hour (it’s worth it). If you’ve had Korean BBQ before, you know the drill. If not, you pick out your meats and they cook them right at your table at a grill. There’s lots of sides and dipping sauces. V fun.
What to order: Beef tongue (not kidding), the highest quality beef, shrimp, chicken. Idk do it all girl.
Neighborhood: Korea town
Why we love it: The ultimate romantic Italian restaurant. We go here every Valentine’s Day. It’s a two story yellow house that they turned into a restaurant, lit only by candles. The staff are all actually Italian and the chef is Michelin star rated. Best seat, in our opinion, is on the upper terrace outside.
What to order: The aged prosciutto and burrata, ahi tuna ceviche, red beet tagliatelle and halibut.
Neighborhood: Venice (yea, we live on the westside. I know there’s a theme here).
Why we love it: “You basic bitch, how did Sugarfish get on this list?” I know some people might call me out for including this, but to hell with it I love Sugarfish. It’s consistent, delicious and super fresh sushi. No surprises.
What to order: The Trust Me and a glass of Chardonnay. They only serve white wine here (b/c red doesn’t go with fish) and I love that kind of aggression on a menu.
Neighborhood: Honestly, they’re all over L.A.
Why we love it: There’s a cheese wheel that they roll all the hand made pasta in. Do you need to know anything else? Okay fine. It’s Italian, but the interior is more land back. People wear jeans everywhere in L.A. anyway, but you definitely don’t need to be overly dressed here.
What to order: Beef tartare, literally any pasta and roll it through the cheese wheel.
Neighborhood: Santa Monica
Why we love it: This is another celeb hotspot and Kardashian fave. I usually wouldn’t be turned on to such a thing, but a friend convinced me to give it a go and I really do recommend it. It’s got the classic round leather booth seating situation that feels like a chic 1960’s supper club. The food and service were both excellent.
What to order: Pigs in a blanket, ahi tuna, Meldmon’s honey truffle chicken
Neighborhood: West Hollywood
10.) Malibu Seafood
Why we love it: Rounding out my list is a very affordable and very sentimental favorite of mine. Locals will all recommend Malibu Seafood, so you know it’s legit. Located smack dab on the PCH, you line up (always) outside a little hut/house and order some of the freshest fish you’ll ever have, cooked to order. Best of all? It’s BYOB. We usually spend a day hiking and then head over to Malibu Seafood and enjoy some fresh fish and rosé watching the sun set over the ocean. It really doesn’t get much better than this.
What to order: Fish and Chips (the best), Scallop ceviche, Red snapper