Hollywood, CA is known for many things – its nightlife, the entertainment industry, and sometimes as a tourist trap. But Hollywood also has some of the best date destinations in the L.A. area, as long as you know how to avoid some of the insane traffic that can happen on weekend nights. Here are my picks for the best date ideas in Hollywood, and I’m also including Los Feliz since it’s adjacent.
1. Yamashiro Hollywood
If you read my site, you know that I believe Yamashiro is one of the best date restaurants in Los Angeles. The ambiance is amazing, whether you’re dining inside or in the inner courtyard.
But what really sets Yamashiro apart, though, is the view from the gardens in front of the restaurant. Walking the pathways in front of the restaurant is a MUST after dinner. At 600 years old, the red pagoda is the oldest structure in Los Angeles (it was shipped in from Japan). There is much more history to this great landmark!
I think the Cal/Asian food at Yamashiro is great, but it’s not Michelin-star level. If you want to impress a foodie, go elsewhere (i.e., Providence or Mother Wolf). But for everyone else, I can almost guarantee a magical time at Yamashiro.
2. The Hollywood Bowl
If you’re looking for a longer date idea, then the Hollywood Bowl is pretty awesome. Pack a meal, picnic on the grounds, then enjoy live music under the stars at this legendary outdoor concert venue.
I have a whole guide with tips on how to enjoy the Hollywood Bowl. I’ll say this now though: bring a jacket!! Even if it’s eighty degrees during the day, it can get really cold up in the Hollywood Hills at night!
With two aforementioned Michelin stars, and numerous awards and accolades (i.e., one of the top 50 restaurants in the United States by Gourmet magazine), Providence is the Hollywood restaurant to take a foodie to on a date.
Needless to say, it’s expensive, and some of the serving sizes may be small. I would only bring a true foodie to this restaurant, i.e., someone who recognizes the name of chef Michael Cimarusti, for example. they won’t be disappointed.
4. Show at the Pantages Theatre
If you want to really impress, take a date to a show at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. It almost doesn’t matter what is playing there; it’s often a big-time Broadway production like Hamilton. The interior of this vintage theatre is exquisite. You pretty much can’t go wrong if you bring a date to a show at the Pantages in Hollywood.
5. Mama Shelter / Desert 5 Spot / Tao / Beauty & Essex
There’s a concentration of ultra-trendy restaurants (including two rooftop ones) around the Dream Hotel on Selma and Cahuenga. These are prime high-end date restaurants with amazing interiors and/or views. The big caveat here is that as the night goes on, this area becomes pretty rowdy with young clubbers: women in skimpy tight dresses and douchey-looking guys. So, while this area has some great date restaurants, especially for younger folks, be sure to avoid the late-night crowd starting at, say, 9 PM on weekends (weekdays may be okay).
Mama Shelter has a ground-floor dining area serving American entrees as well as a rooftop restaurant serving bar menu type of food. Hands down, go for the rooftop for the amazing views and ambiance.
Time Out describes Desert 5 Spot as “the least douchey new rooftop in Hollywood”. With its upscale Western theme, it’s kind of a unique animal, well worth visiting. They don’t serve food, just drinks, and occasional live bands.
The Dream Hotel has its own rooftop restaurant, The Highlight Room, serving California Cuisine. Like Mama Shelter, the menu isn’t huge, but the food is good and the ambiance is super romantic as long as you avoid the later hours, as I mentioned. Needless to say, you need to make reservations.
Tao Los Angeles is adjacent to the Dream Hotel and has an epic Asian-themed dining room with a statue of a multi-armed Hindu goddess overlooking it. It reminds me of the opening scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and its “Anything Goes” number. Despite the over-the-top interior, the food is actually good too, with a solid four stars on Yelp! This would be a fun date destination!
Beauty & Essex has its own unique ambiance, both inside and in its charming patio. You enter through a pawn shop with a huge illuminated sign! The cuisine is American with international influences (Asian, Mexican, Italian). A great formal date restaurant!
6. Mother Wolf
Probably the buzziest restaurant in Hollywood right now is Mother Wolf. If you can score a reservation, you’ll be treated to an upscale ambiance and some of the best Roman-style pasta in town from chef Evan Funke. We also loved the prawns and fried artichoke.
The only problem with Mother Wolf (and so many other restaurants in L.A.) is the noise level. All of the surfaces are hardwood or tile with no sound dampening, so you almost have to shout to talk to your dinner companion as the night goes on. If you don’t mind this caveat, Mother Wolf will impress anyone who wants to be at the hippest restaurant in Hollywood with award-winning fine cuisine and potential celebrity sightings.
7. Griffith Park
Griffith Park is not in Hollywood, but it’s right next door, and there are so many amazing things to do there that I must include it! During the daytime, it has some awesome hiking trails with great views of the Hollywood sign. Or, go for an evening horseback ride (no experience necessary). At night, there’s the famous Griffith Park Observatory, concerts at the Greek Theater, and Shakespeare in the Park.
The one HUGE caveat with Griffith park (and so many other destinations on this list) is to avoid peak periods!! Once, I made the mistake of trying to go to the Griffith Observatory after dinner on a weekend and was stuck in a huge traffic jam. It was just a second date and it really put a damper on things (I didn’t get a third date). Oh, and check the schedule for the Greek theater to make sure there isn’t a concert starting or ending right when you want to go.
Griffith park can be hellishly crowded during the day as well. If you want to hike there, go during the week or very early in the morning! One holiday weekend we tried to drive through the park and had to turn around due to the traffic!
I don’t want to scare you away from Griffith Park, because it truly is an amazing part of Los Angeles and you SHOULD go there. Just be smart and avoid the peak periods.
If you want to impress a date, but not make it look like you’re trying to impress them, bring them to the newly-opened Saffy’s. Tucked in a nondescript area of East Hollywood, Saffy’s seems like a casual neighborhood Mediterranean eatery. But, it’s brought to you by the people behind Bestia and Bavel, two of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Every single dish we tried at Saffy’s was simply amazing.
As with most new trendy restaurants in L.A., the food is served family-style. The grilled lobster skewer is a “must-order”. Our server suggested the grilled onion & endive salad, which doesn’t sound like a particularly flavorful combination, but it was excellent as well. So were the tomatoes on pureed eggplant. You’ll want to get shish kabobs or Shawarma as your main dish since these are their specialties. We tried the latter and it was probably the best Shawarma we’ve had in L.A. The marinated Castelvetranos olives were great, but I would skip those on a first date because they have pits that you have to spit out; not a good look. Anyone you bring here will be blown away by the food (if not, they might have lost their sense of taste due to COVID).
The only downside to Saffy’s is the noise level inside. Like so many L.A. restaurants, seemingly no thought was given to acoustic dampening and you have to shout to talk to your date. So, I recommend sitting outside on a summer evening! Background music was KCRW-type of modern electronic music.
Afterward, watch the sunset at Barnsdall Art Park just a few blocks away (see below), or cruise down Sunset Boulevard towards the West.
9. Themed Bars: Sassafras Saloon, La Descarga, Scum and Villany Cantina, The Spare Room
Of course, Hollywood is famous for its bars and nightlife. If you want to impress a date with a drink, check out some of these truly unique bars!
If Disneyland had a bar in New Orleans Square, it might look like Sassafras Saloon, which describes itself as “a charming piece of the South”. I love the exterior facade located INSIDE the bar! Walk inside that to find yourself in a living room with a fireplace. Or, check out the stuffed bear in the back corner. This is a super cool bar that won’t disappoint! There are occasional Burlesque shows as well.
Another amazing bar seemingly created by Disney Imagineers (but not), is La Descarga. You enter on the second floor through a closet and seemingly step back in time to 1930s Havana. Note, there is a dress code – upscale attire only (check the website). After 10 PM it turns into more of a nightclub with a band or DJ, sometimes with Burlesque dancers or Salsa, and it can get extremely crowded, perhaps too much so for a date. Reservations are recommended.
Any Star Wars fan will already know about the Scum and Villany Cantina, which started as a temporary pop-up and is now a permanent (hopefully) attraction on Hollywood Boulevard. They serve a bar food menu (with creatively-named items of course). Costumes are encouraged! They don’t take reservations and there is no cover. So, if you are dating a sci-fi fan, get ready to chug some blue milk at Scum and Villany! Check their calendar for karaoke, trivia, and game nights.
The Spare Room, within the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, describes itself as “a gaming parlor and cocktail lounge”, which is a great description. More plainly, this is probably the nicest two-lane bowling alley (at $100/hour) you’ll ever go to. But just enjoying the gorgeous vintage vibe of this place is enough to impress.
10. Cafes and Restaurants in Los Feliz
Also adjacent to Hollywood, and right below Griffith Park is the community of Los Feliz. There are lots of great restaurants and coffee houses on Hillhurst Boulevard. For a casual brunch, lunch, dinner, or drinks, I love the ambiance of The Guest House, which is in an actual Craftsman house. Dine inside or on the charming porch or side patio. For a slightly more upscale dining experience, check out Farfalla Trattoria. It’s got a charming interior, good food, and very reasonable prices! If you want hipster drinks, check out Maru Coffee for your matcha with oat milk.
For Italian food, I love Palermo, with its classic old-school decor. It’s casual and unpretentious, and the food is wonderfully satisfying.
And let’s not forget the retro, somewhat kitschy Dresden, either the lounge (made famous by the movie, Swingers), or the dining room for old-school American classics like filet mignon and prime rib.
There are many other charming cafes in Los Feliz, it’s impossible to list them all here. Try one of my favorites or explore and find your own!
11. The Hollywood Farmers Market
One of the best farmers’ markets in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Farmers Market, happening every Sunday from 8 AM to 1 PM. Of course, it has a great selection of standard farmers’ market stuff like produce, vegetables, and crafts, but what sets it apart is its hot food selection. So, buy your fruits and veggies, but plan to stay for breakfast. Our favorite item there is the Kanom Krok, a kind of Thai coconut dessert/snack.
You also might run into your favorite chef pulling a wagon full of veggies for the upcoming week.
12. Barnsdall Art Park
You wouldn’t think there’s a safe park in Hollywood with nice green grass where couples enjoy the sunset, but that’s exactly what happens at Barnsdall Art Park around dusk!
It’s a great way to continue an early dinner date. Note, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House is in the center of the park at the top of the hill but closed during the pandemic and has yet to re-open.
13. Cinespia Movies at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
In most cases, I believe that seeing a movie is not a great date idea. But seeing a Cinespia movie screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is an exception. First of all, I love the wide-open spaces and palm trees on the grounds; I feel like I’m in India or Southeast Asia when I’m there. Second, it’s outside and you’re on a blanket. If you love movies, then this might be a great way to enjoy one with a date. Just be warned, it gets crowded, so go early to grab a good spot.
14. Goth/Industrial Dance Clubs
I would not bring a date to most Hollywood dance clubs unless you’re both into douchey guys, judgemental doormen, and deafening music. But, I would take a date to go dancing at a goth/industrial club! Everyone keeps to themselves – no slimy guys hitting on you or your date. No pretentious dress code either – just wear black! And finally, you’ll dance to awesome music from the 80s and 90s, i.e., Bauhaus, The Cure, KMFDM, Depeche Mode, Siouxie and the Banshees, and Nine Inch Nails. And, you won’t feel out of place no matter how old you are at these clubs.
Bar Sinister is probably the most famous and one of the longest-running goth clubs; if you do go there be prepared possibly for a bondage show. Other goth/industrial clubs come and go frequently so Google for the latest info.
15. Hollywood Boulevard
Last but not least, is Hollywood Boulevard, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hollywood and Highland. Yes, this area is touristy as hell, but if you or your date have never been there, it’s well worth going to see ONCE to find the stars in the sidewalk of your favorite actors. Go to the Mann Chinese Theater and see the footprints in the cement. Visit the Kodak Theater where the Academy Awards are held.
Note, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is in the area, so you can easily pop into The Spare Room for a drink while you’re here.
You’re probably tired of me saying this, but more than anywhere else on this list, this is somewhere you should avoid during weekend evenings due to insane traffic.
This article took a lot of time and research to pick the very best date ideas that Hollywood has to offer but I’m really happy with the results, as there are some really great date ideas here! Let me know what you think! – Brian