The mid-city area of Los Angeles offers some of the best restaurants and coolest attractions around, making it a prime date destination. By “mid city”, I’m referring to the area roughly between La Cienaga Blvd on the West and Western on the East, north of Pico and south of Melrose (although some of the venues I list are slightly outside of these boundaries).
Here are my favorite date spots in L.A.’s mid city area!
1. LACMA / La Brea Tar Pits
My number one date destination in mid city is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It has a world-class collection of art from ancient to modern, from Europe to Asia. If you love art, it’s a “must see” in LA.
But even if you don’t care much about art, it’s worth going because the grounds are very pleasant and park-like with many interesting sculptures (you can’t miss the famous City Lights array of streetlights).
Plus, next door are the La Brea tar pits, a geological oddity worth seeing. But it’s not just for show. Paleontologists are actively unearthing fossils at the tar pits and you can see their work in progress. The grounds for both LACMA and the Tar Pits are free.
Admission to the museum is usually not free. But, there are many free museum days and times. For example, LA County residents receive free general admission after 3PM every weekday. See how to get into LACMA for free.
During the summer, there is free outdoor Jazz in the courtyard on Friday evenings at 6PM which I highly recommend.
These draw big crowds, and some people even bring picnic baskets or even small tables! The museum doesn’t seem to mind. Parking can be tough on these days too so arrive early or take an Uber.
There is paid parking in the underground parking garage accessible from 6th Street behind the museum, or in the small open across the street from the front of the museum. On those occasions when the museum is free all day, beware, because the parking lots and nearby streets get packed. Parking can be such a fiasco that I actually recommend avoiding these free days unless you’re really on a budget and you and your date don’t mind walking a lot. Or, take an Uber or public transportation to get there.
But overall, LACMA is an amazing date destination, offering plenty of interesting things to see to spur quality conversation without necessarily costing an arm and a leg! And, as you will see in a bit, there are some awesome restaurants nearby.
2. The Grove / Fairfax Farmers Market
The Grove is a well-known date destination featuring dancing fountains, lots of shops, good restaurants, a working vintage trolley car, a movie theater, and an overall charming ambiance. Sure, getting there in rush-hour traffic is a chore, and the parking garage is a pain, but it’s still one of the nicest outdoor malls in Los Angeles.
But, in my opinion, the best part of the Grove is actually its neighbor, the Original Farmers Market, a historic semi-covered market that includes tons of great dining options and stores. I like the bustling energy here, but I also find the vintage ambiance quite charming. The restaurants here are informal: you simply walk up to the counter, place your order, and take your food on a tray to one of the tables nearby. It’s definitely not a high-end date place, but it is fun, and I love the ambiance. One of the most popular places (and my favorite) is Pampas Grill, a Brazillian churrascaria featuring awesome BBQ’d meats cut before your eyes. You know it’s good because there’s always a line.
You didn’t hear this from me, but for a great panoramic view of the city, go to the top floor of the parking garage. The view is amazing. So many people do it that they had to put up “no loitering” signs there, but no one has hassled me there yet!
3. 3rd Street Restaurants
The section of 3rd Street between La Cienega and Fairfax (not to be confused with Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica) has an amazing number of really trendy, bustling, restaurants. Here are some of my favorites:
- The Little Door (dinner)
The Little Door features French cuisine and is one of the most romantic restaurants on Third. It is rather pricey, but if you want to take someone out for a special evening, it’s hard to beat this place. Get a table in the outdoor garden section if you can.
- Toca Madera (dinner or drinks at the bar)
Also on 3rd Street is the ultra-trendy Toca Madera. This is a mid-city hot spot where attractive people go to see and be seen. Surprisingly, the Mexican food is very reasonably priced, and is very good!! You can have a nice dinner here early in the night, but later on they turn up the music and it gets pretty loud, turning into more of a singles bar. On weekends there’s a DJ and it can get absolutely packed at 10PM. This is definitely a “dress-up”, “night-on-the-town” type of place (if you’re not comfortable being around lots of good-looking people, don’t go here). Because it’s such a hot spot, you MUST make a reservation at least a week in advance if you want to have any chance of getting in on a weekend.
- Gusto (dinner)
For a quieter, more sublime dining experience on 3rd Street, check out Gusto. You’ll find great Italian dishes in an intimate setting, good for conversation (i.e., there won’t be a DJ playing later in the night here). It’s perfect for a romantic date night.
- Magnolia Bakery (dessert)
After dinner on 3rd Street, walk on over to the Magnolia Bakery for dessert. They’re known for their famous banana pudding, which is more like a banana creme pie. But, you can’t go wrong no matter what you order.
- The Phoenix (drinks)
If you want to have a drink after dinner on 3rd Street, walk on over to the Phoenix, a trendy lounge featuring dozens of whiskeys and a charming back patio. The crowd is young and the place starts playing music at about 9PM. It can get somewhat crowded but not insanely so. They also serve food here, but I’ve only been there for the drinks.
- Doughboys (breakfast, brunch)
My last 3rd Street restaurant on this list is a casual breakfast date destination, Doughboys Cafe & Bakery. I had the eggs Benedict which were great. Of course they’ve got all the breakfast food that you’d expect: pancakes (try their famous red velvet pancakes), omelets, waffles, French toast, smoked salmon, and much more. Highly recommended for a hearty breakfast!
There are many other great restaurants on this street which I’ve not tried yet. If you have a favorite, let me know in the comments below!
For all the restaurants on 3rd, parking is valet, or you can sometimes find a metered spot on Third or the intersecting streets.
If you run out of things to do on 3rd, you can always walk to the Grove across Fairfax and see a movie or window-shop!
4. Larchmont Village
“Larchmont Village” is a charming section of Larchmont Blvd. between Beverly Blvd on the north and 1st Street on the south which features quaint restaurants and shops. This is the exact opposite of trendy 3rd Street. Part of the appeal is that this is one of the oldest parts of Los Angeles, so the stores and buildings have vintage appeal.
Browse in one of the few remaining book stores, Chevalier’s Books. For dessert, stand in what can be an insanely long line on weekends for amazing ice cream Jeni’s Ice Cream or Salt and Straw, both of which are open late. Jeni’s has a charming back patio with bistro lights.
Or, check out the farmers’ market every Sunday from 10AM to 2PM.
This is a quiet low-key, low-stress, date destination for sure, but has a rare charm that you might just be looking for.
5. EP & LP Restaurant
EP & LP is a super trendy hot spot on La Cienega north of the Beverly Center. It is actually two venues in one: E.P., the Asian restaurant on the second floor, and L.P. the rooftop bar.
L.P. has a great view of the surrounding area and is a nice place to hang out with a date. It’s best to avoid Fridays and weekends and go on a quieter weekday instead. Otherwise, there will be a long line to get in and it might be unpleasantly crowded. That’s fine if you’re single and trying to meet people, but it’s not ideal for a date.
I went to E.P., the restaurant, with a group of friends on a Saturday night once. In spite of having a reservation, we weren’t seated until an hour and a half past our reservation time. This was probably because our reservation was during the peak period (9PM on Saturday). Food was good though. And, dining at the restaurant means you get access to the rooftop bar without having to wait in line, which actually is a pretty big bonus. The big take away is go here on less-busy weekdays and avoid weekends. If you do, the date experience here can be quite good.
6. AOC Wine Bar and Locanda Veneta
Much has been said about AOC Wine Bar, and it’s been reviewed to death on Yelp. But the food here has enough fervent fans to warrant serious consideration as a date destination for even the most discriminating foodie. Although it’s called a “wine bar”, it’s known for its small plates, making it ideal for sharing on a date. The ambiance is nice too.
Just a few doors down from AOC is Locanda Veneta, featuring high-end Italian cuisine in a classy setting.
7. Melrose Avenue
Everyone needs to buy clothes at some point, even people who hate to shop like me. So why not do it on a date and get instant feedback? Melrose Avenue (roughly between Fairfax and Highland) has some of the trendiest new and used clothing stores around.
Hands down, this is the best area in L.A. to get hip “club wear”. There are also some good used/vintage stores here.
At night, most of the clothing stores close, but there are some good restaurants including Osteria Mozza (some call this one of the best Italian restaurants in LA, so make reservations early), and Lala’s Argentine Grill for a more casual dinner or lunch.
10. The Petersen Automotive Museum
I know what you might be thinking – “I’m not into cars”, or “my date isn’t into cars”. Well, I’m not that into cars, and neither was the friend who I met up with at the Petersen Automotive Museum, but we both had a great time there.
The collection of cars is diverse, spanning the time since the first motorized vehicles were made up to modern times. I especially enjoyed the historical nature of the exhibits; this is not just a bunch of expensive cars. It’s a showcase of the history of car design.
I was also worried that the museum would be small, but the it has three floors of exhibits and took us two hours to get through. It was plenty big. Any more would have been overwhelming.
The staff recommends starting on the third floor and working your way down, which I agree with. The third floor exhibits were my favorite.
So, even if you’re not that into cars, the Petersen Automotive Museum is still a fun place to go on a date, and it will probably spur some interesting conversation. Parking is $12 in their garage and admission is $15. There is a car vault with more exhibits for extra charge, but my recommendation is to leave that for another time, as the regular exhibits are more than enough before you need a break.
Housed in at the former location of Campanile, Republique offers modern French cuisine in a unique communal dining space resembling the Hogwarts dining hall (although they also have regular table seating in a back room and upstairs). We theorized that the castle-like stone interior was a turn-of-the-century fire house, but it was actually built in 1928 by Charlie Chaplin as a mixed-use space.
Even though much of the seating is communal, the place is very pricey, easily running over $100 per person (and they add a 4% “health care charge” on top of everything else). But, the meticulously-prepared food is worth it. All of our dishes down to the dessert were amazing, and the wine pairings were right on. So, reserve this one for a special occasion, but do go, it’s worth it! Be sure to request a private table if you want that though. They also have a bakery and bar, and a killer weekend brunch that is very popular.
For your after-meal stroll, there are some interesting stores nearby on La Brea, but most are closed at night. Still, you can go window shopping for a few blocks.
Fine cuisine and a quiet ambiance make Lucques an ideal date restaurant for foodies. Often listed on “best restaurants in LA” lists, Lucques features California cuisine by award-winning chefs. If you or your date is a serious foodie, this is the place to go.
11. Pour Vous
The exterior of Pour Vous is deceptively plain, but inside you’ll be transported back to early 1900’s Paris with vintage drinks and entertainment. The ambiance here is really amazing.
There’s even a real vintage trolley in the back patio (usually populated by smokers, but if you find a break, it’s pretty cool).
Pour Vous has a an assortment of carefully prepared themed drinks are the main attraction. Some nights feature live music or performers.
On most Wednesday nights, Swingtronic features live vintage Jazz and electro-Swing bands with swing dancing. There’s usually no cover but there is a dress code (guys must wear collared dress shirt). They have freshly made crepes on the patio on those nights.
I usually find street parking on N. Gower Street or Melrose.
12. Little Ethiopia
For a unique dining experience, check out one of the Ethiopian restaurants on Fairfax avenue just south of Olympic, an area known as “Little Ethiopia“. Many of the Ethiopian dishes offered here are thick vegetable or meat stews, which you scoop up with “injeera”, a thin flat bread. You’ll be eating with your hands and possibly sitting on the floor, but that is part of the novelty and fun!
13. The Roger Room
Pop into this secret speakeasy hidden in plain sight on La Cienega Blvd behind an unmarked door. You’ll score serious points just for finding this cool hipster hangout. The Roger Room features cocktails, rum, Tequila, whiskey, and gin in a cool vintage ambiance.
14. 3rd Street Dance
OK, here’s something for the truly adventurous. Take a partner dance lesson (or class series) at 3rd Street Dance! 3rd Street Dance has been offering classes in Salsa, Swing, Tango, and other partner dances seemingly forever. Class prices are reasonable, and timed so that you can go after work.
That’s my list for the best date ideas in L.A.’s mid-city, but I’m sure there are more attractions that I’ve missed. Please tell me about your favorites below! – Brian