It’s an exciting time - you’re back in the dating game. But that also means you have to do that thing where you meet a stranger and attempt to convince them that you are a stable person (a.k.a. the first date).
To pull that off, it helps to have alcohol, preferably at a bar that’s not so fancy it’s uncomfortable, not so loud you have to shout, or so quiet you can hear the other person regretting this decision. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if that bar also had great drinks and a decent menu, either. It’s a tall order, but we’ve got it covered. From cocktail spots to wine bars to dives with jukeboxes you’ll use to prove your superior taste in music, these are our go-to spots for first dates. Don’t screw this up.
You bonded over strong opinions on bad vintages (looking at you, 2008 Napas), and now it’s time to take the next step. Head to Augustine Wine Bar - it’s an intimate space in Sherman Oaks that serves great food like filet mignon and scallop crudo, with a wine list that even your date will be impressed by - not that they’d let you know that.
If you put a lot of effort into your brand of effortless cool, head to 1642. There’s minimal signage out front, and the crowd inside seems like they genuinely read for pleasure. There’s a live band playing most nights, as well as a great beer and wine selection. So sit down, grab a glass, and put those thousands of dollars you spent on improv classes to use by listening.
Located on Sunset Blvd., Electric Owl in West Hollywood is positioned as the perfect first stop on a doubleheader date night. It’s close to the Chinese Theater, the Magic Castle, The Abbey, and the Hollywood Improv, all of which are great options for a second location if they meet your meticulous criteria (a.k.a. are actually taller than 6 feet). You can do dinner or drinks here, but we like it better during Happy Hour, which starts every day at 4:20 (nice) and features one of the best drink deals in town - a very strong and excellent $6 Tequila Tang.
For the record, we do not advise having a first date at your house (you’ll inevitably have to explain the framed photo of Steve Buscemi). So if you want all the comfort of meeting someone in your own home without actually being there, Melody is your best choice. Located in a converted bungalow in Virgil Village, it has a dimly lit main room, as well as a gorgeous outside patio where the lighting is so romantic, you both might just think, “Oh, maybe I am ready for something serious.”
Sometimes, you want more than a dark room and sparkling conversation - you want to destroy and humiliate your date in a competition. If that’s what you’re looking for, then Walt’s Bar is the perfect place for you and your date/opponent. A retro dive bar in Eagle Rock, Walt’s has a row of pinball machines in the back, plus a food and drink menu that’s simple and unpretentious, so you don’t have to worry about mispronouncing bouillabaisse or having a favorite merlot.
Whatever time of day you choose to come to this Downtown LA spot, it will be great (during the day it’s the very good Cento Pasta Bar), but if you really want to get the sparks flying, come at night, when it’s Mignon. Their wine list is solid, but short, which means you’ll have more time to focus on making the recommended amount of eye contact (7-10 seconds). All of the French food here is good, but definitely get the jamon serrano and butter sandwich, and their $15 charcuterie plate.
The Black Cat in Silver Lake is the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure date spot. You can either sit in the back and enjoy a full ricotta gnocchi dinner while enthralled in a conversation about human neoevolution, or quickly escape from the bar after one drink when they say that their favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard. Either way, it’ll be a good time, and you’ll obviously be going next door to Pine and Crane after.
Akbar is perfect for any kind of date - if you want to get sweaty and dance all night to Whitney Houston, go on the weekend. But if you just want to grab a quick drink and discuss hypothetical dinner guests (living status withstanding) on a random Tuesday, it should still be one of your top choices. That’s because it’s the perfect recipe for a first date - strong drinks, laid-back atmosphere, and a disco ball the size of the feelings you’re quickly developing.
Dinner at Triple Beam was a huge success, and after inhaling four slices of pizza and splitting a bottle of wine, both of you have no intention of calling it quits. Walk a few blocks down Figueroa to Checker Hall, a massive bar inside an old Masonic Lodge. The crowd is low-key but looking to have a good time, there’s a great outdoor balcony, and if you’re a spicy tequila drinker, their Carmen #Six cocktail is excellent.
Roger Room is one of our favorite places to grab a cockail, but it works especially well for a first date. It’s on La Cienega, right next to Largo (as well as a bunch of good restaurants), so you’re well-positioned for pre-show drinks or a post-dinner nightcap. From the outside, this place is just a maroon door next to a tattoo parlor, but inside, you’ll find a dimly lit interior that feels like a fancy train car from the 1920s. All aboard.
When it comes to first dates, finding a bar with other things to do besides just drink is always a good strategy. That way, when conversation inevitably dries up, or you overshare an awkward detail about your parents’ relationship, you have something to stare at until the energy shifts. The San Fernando is a cocktail bar on the outskirts of Glendale, and the best thing about this place is the little stage in the back, where they have nightly acts ranging from jazz bands to stand-up comedy to a banjo player who just threw a flower into the audience.
You realized pretty early on that wine was a common ground for you and this person, so you’re going to lean into it. While LA now has plenty of not-boring wine bars, our favorite for a first date is Oriel. Located in Chinatown next to the raised Metro tracks, this place kind of makes you feel like the central character in a sexually charged film noir. They have a great wine list with tons of unusual stuff, and if you get hungry, their French food menu is also very solid.
If the idea of sitting in a quiet bar sipping chardonnay and nodding along to conversations about how hot it is outside sounds like a nightmare to you, go to The Dresden. The Los Feliz classic is weird, wild, and unlike anything else in LA. There’s a full restaurant section off to the left, but skip that and head right to the bar area where the iconic jazz duo, Marty and Elayne, have been performing every week since the 1980s. Drinks are strong and affordable, and if Marty and Elayne can’t get sparks flying, nothing can.
If you’re both really into fancy garnishes and oversized ice cubes, go to Accomplice. The tiny bar in West LA serves the best cocktails west of the 405, in a calm-yet-cool environment that never ends up being boring. If things go well, you can order in food from the Taiwanese spot next door.
While the claustrophobic chaos of the original Father’s Office on Montana is part of its charm, you should avoid it at all costs for a first date. At the Culver City location, however, you can actually sit and talk and not have a drunk dude elbow you in the spine all night. The burger is the reason most people come here, but Father’s Office is also an underrated place to grab a pint of craft beer or a glass of wine and actually see if you’re into this person. Obviously, you’re still ordering the burger either way.
We don’t need to tell you that wine will always set the mood. But a lot of wine bars have a tendency to kill it. Not Tabula Rasa. This wine and beer spot along Hollywood Blvd. in Thai Town keeps things cool and unpretentious. That snack menu is not to be ignored, either (split the Cuban sandwich), and as you can see, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll play Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, which is guaranteed to be a better mood-setter than your bar banter.
Know Where Bar in Hollywood is always getting overlooked, especially when it comes to first dates. But this casual spot right on the edge of Thai Town is a great place to go when you’re sick of long lines, $15 cocktails, and bartenders who only care about taking your money. Come here for a midweek date, get some house-made sangria or beer tumblers, throw a record on the jukebox, and see if this relationship has any legs to it.
Seven Grand is one of the best-known spots to grab a cocktail Downtown. A slightly lesser-known spot? Bar Jackalope, the tiny whiskey specialty bar in the back of Seven Grand. Its small space keeps things pretty intimate, the cocktails are great (even for non-whiskey drinkers), and there’s a patio for you when you need to get some air.
You thought about suggesting Cassia, but then you thought better. It’s not time for a full sit-down dinner just yet. Instead, go next door to Esters - the adjoining wine bar with the same great atmosphere, but only half the commitment. Get involved with some cheese and charcuterie, the long wine list, and even the attached bottle shop. If things go well, you’ll need more wine for later.
An ever-changing selection of more than 30 beers, no crazy crowds or waits, and Kogi BBQ tacos. These are three pillars to a great first date - and Alibi Room has them all. The Culver City standby has been around for years now, and remains that cool, dependable spot you always know will deliver. It’s also dimly lit, with hidden tables in the corners for late-night... snuggling.
If you’re looking to keep it simple, but still make it interesting, The Bar at The Culver Hotel is a great option. The historical hotel in downtown Culver has an old-Hollywood feel without the crowds or scene of actual Hollywood. The cocktail list is full of classics like sidecars and mules, but if you notice a Wizard of Oz theme too, you aren’t imagining it. This is where the actors stayed during the film’s production, and you don’t even have to credit us when you tell your date that.