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. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is a signature attraction in Los Angeles. If you’re even remotely into movies, this is a “must-see”. Housed in a former May Company department store, the museum features its distinctive “Death Star” globe in the back.
I personally loved the permanent attractions from Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey. But there are tons of other things to see like exhibits on Disney animation, the history of the Oscars, and temporary exhibits. Don’t miss the view from the observation deck of the “Death Star”! It is spectacular.
Tickets are reservation-only (of course) and are $25 each.
For most people, the idea of eating at a “museum restaurant” conjures up memories of bad food in a cafeteria environment. That is not the case in modern-day Los Angeles. The Academy Museum’s in-house restaurant, Fanny’s, is already being praised for its American cuisine and ambiance! Ideal for brunch or dinner with someone special, even if you’re not attending the museum that day!
2. The Grove / Fairfax Farmers Market
The Grove is a very popular date destination featuring dancing fountains, lots of shops, good restaurants, a working vintage trolley car, a movie theater, and an overall super 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. So many people do it that they had to put up “no loitering” signs there, but no one has hassled me there yet!
3. The Petersen Automotive Museum
The Petersen Automotive Museum is a great date destination whether you are into cars or not!
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.
Also popular are the movie cars from its permanent collection. I never get tired of seeing the DeLorean from Back to the Future.
It has three floors of exhibits, which can take around two hours to get through.
Along with car nerds and some families, I saw plenty of couples there.
Parking is $17 in their garage and admission is $25 for their regular exhibits. 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.
4. LACMA / La Brea Tar Pits
When the new buildings open in late 2024, LACMA will regain its title as one of the top date destinations in Los Angeles. For now, it still has its modern art collection on display as well as outdoor attractions like the popular City Lights.
Plus, next door is 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 3 PM 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 6 PM 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.
At the very least, LACMA is still a great place to walk around after visiting the Petersen Automotive Museum or the Academy Museum. When the construction is done, it will be an awesome date destination again.
5. 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:
- Son of a Gun
From the folks who brought you Animal, Son of a Gun features seafood as well as their famous chicken sandwich. It’s probably my favorite restaurant on 3rd, although it is rather cramped and quite loud during peak periods. The atmosphere is casual but every item on the menu is sure to delight. Be sure to get the lobster roll appetizer – it’s just about four bites but it is amazing
- The Little Door
For a more formal dinner date, 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.
Right next to The Little Door is Oste, specializing in Pinsa (Roman-style pizza). It gets five stars on Yelp! so it’s well worth trying!
- C.O.D. Seafood House and Raw Bar
Hip indoor and outdoor vibe combined with trendy but good seafood menu. I went here for a family event, but this place is a great date spot as well!
Another classy date restaurant, this time, Italian food. Great ambiance and food!
- Toca Madera
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 10 PM. 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.
- The Phoenix
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 9 PM. It can get somewhat crowded but not insanely so. They also serve food here, but I’ve only been there for the drinks.
- Joan’s on Third
For breakfast, brunch, or lunch check out Joan’s on Third. Try their famous Chinese chicken salad or the mac and cheese!
For dessert, there are some great options within walking distance:
- Magnolia Bakery
One of my favorite dessert spots in Los Angeles is Magnolia Bakery. 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.
- Winston Pies
The “pie-smiths” at Winston Pies create some of our favorite handmade artisan pies. They also have locations in Santa Monica and Venice.
- Ginger’s Ice Cream and Pops
Ginger is the name of the chef and namesake behind Ginger’s Ice Cream, named the number one ice cream store in Los Angeles by USA Today (and there is a LOT of competition!) We tried their tangerine flavor and it was amazing!
- ecco un poco Natural Italian Gelato
People who love real Italian gelato swear by ecco un poco. One Yelp reviewer said “this must be how the garden of Eden tasted like”. ‘Nuff said!
There are many other 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, it’s a short drive to the Grove across Fairfax.
6. Melrose Avenue / Melrose Trading Post
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 some instant advice? 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 “clubwear”. There are also some good used/vintage stores here.
The Melrose Trading Post is a huge flea market that happens every Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM at Fairfax High School. There’s a $5 entry fee, but it’s worth it if you enjoy browsing hipster clothing, unique art, used records, and other crafts. Fun place for a low-cost casual date in a very youthful environment. There’s free valet parking.
Also on Sunday mornings, there’s the Melrose Farmer’s Market from 8 AM to 2 PM located on Melrose Place between La Cienega Blvd and Melrose Avenue. When you’re done, grab coffee at Alfred Coffee, but there will be a line.
7. Crossroads Kitchen
If you want to impress your vegan date, or if you are vegan and want to take a carnivore to a vegan restaurant where they’ll actually love the food, go to Crossroads Kitchen on Melrose. Yes, it’s totally vegan. But, I guarantee that the food will be amazing there.
My personal favorite is the fried “calamari” (actually mushrooms). Their cheese plate has some of the best vegan cheeses I’ve ever tasted.
Oh, and the ambiance is great too. Soft lighting and not too loud! Make a reservation today!
Chef Suzanne Goin’s a.o.c. should be on the shortlist of 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 atmosphere is super romantic and the service is top-notch but of course, this place is not cheap!
a.o.c.’s desserts are amazing, but if you want a change, walk next door to Lady M Cake Boutique for some unique desserts like their Truffle Mille Crepe cake!
Just a few doors down from AOC is Locanda Veneta, featuring high-end Italian cuisine in a classy white-tablecloth setting.
9. 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 a vintage appeal.
Browse in one of the few remaining bookstores, 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 overhead.
Housed 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 firehouse, 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.
I love the bustling vintage atmosphere at this charming corner Italian restaurant on Beverly. Terroni is an ideal date spot, with great pasta and a great ambiance at reasonable prices. It can get a tad noisy, but not nearly as bad as other restaurants around town.
We loved our appetizers: Involtini di Melanzane (eggplant rolls stuffed with buffalo mozzarella in a tomato sauce with aged ricotta) and Funghi Assoluti (baked oyster mushrooms with Parmigiano, balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, & garlic, served on arugula) as well as our main pasta courses and Tiramisu for dessert.
And unlike so many other restaurants, the food is not over-salted, yet still flavorful, allowing the taste of the pasta to shine through. I saw some detractors on Yelp! complaining about the food not being salty enough. Those people should stick to the Cheesecake Factory. This pasta is done right here, perfectly al dente.
Some people on Yelp! also complained about the small serving sizes. Yes, the sizes are not huge because the pasta is hand-made. If you want huge vats of pasta, there’s always Bucca di Beppo.
For the rest of us who appreciate fine pasta in an awesome setting that will transport you to early 20th-century Europe, Terroni won’t disappoint.
12. Osteria Mozza / Pizzeria Mozza / Chi Spacca
At night, most of the clothing stores on Melrose close, but there are some great restaurants on Melrose including Osteria Mozza (some call this the best Italian restaurant in LA), Pizzeria Mozza (the casual pizza restaurant), and Chi Spacca (an “Italian steakhouse on steroids, according to its website”), all from chef Nancy Silverton, and all at the corner of Melrose and Highland.
We had an amazing dinner at Pizzeria Mozza, pictured below. Standouts included the Caprese, the calamari, the pano Bianco bread, and the strawberry rhubarb crostata dessert! Like so many L.A. restaurants, it’s a noisy space, just be forewarned.
For a higher-end (and quieter) dining experience, make a reservation (far in advance) for dinner at Osteria Mozza. Prepare to be “wowed” by the salads and pasta and by the overall dining ambiance at this Michelin-star restaurant. We love this restaurant as well.
For dessert, check out Better than Sex – A Dessert Restaurant, on Melrose. The sumptuous red interior complete with privacy curtains is tailor-made for date nights. In fact, large parties and small children are discouraged!
If you want to impress a Japanese food foodie, look no further than Nobu Los Angeles on La Cienega just south of Santa Monica Boulevard. You’ll find chef-owner Nobu Matsuhisa’s acclaimed signature dishes including Black Cod Miso and Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, on the menu. The atmosphere is elegant and modern, sure to impress any date who loves sushi.
14. Nic’s on Beverly
If you’re looking to go on a date at a vegan restaurant, check out Nic’s on Beverly, serving its take on American vegan cuisine. The ambiance of the interior and outdoor patio make this a romantic date spot.
15. Jordan Kahn’s Meteora
We had the privilege of being invited to a pre-opening meal at Chef Jordan Kahn’s Meteora restaurant on Melrose. Kahn is also the chef behind Vespertine, the Culver City restaurant with two Michelin stars and number one on Jonathan Gold’s list of best restaurants in Los Angeles. So naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to dine at his new restaurant even though we didn’t even know what type of cuisine it was.
If you’ve heard anything about Vespertine, you’ll know to expect something off the beaten path with Kahn’s restaurants. Many have joked about the cult-like spaceship feel of that place, including this hilarious Yelp reviewer. I’d say the folks at Meteora are more like the Ba’ku race in Star Trek Insurrection: friendly, eternally youthful humans who eschew technology and embrace nature.
The decor at Meteora has been planned to the tiniest details, from the hand-made macrame lights from Tulum to the wooden tables from Russia to the stone-age plates and pre-historic cutlery. There’s definitely a ’70s nature vibe going on, with the exception of the modern electronic beats playing in the background.
I can’t really nail down the ethnicity of the food, but the common themes are fire grilling, smoked and charred flavors, sweet fruit in almost every dish, and of course fresh farm-to-table ingredients. The presentation definitely exudes a return to primitive life and nature.
Our favorite dishes were the Leaves and Stones salad (“stones” meaning stone fruit like peaches), the Caramelized Lobster Rice, the Hazelnut-Fed Pork (they give so much you must take some home), and the Sweet Corn dessert, which tasted like vanilla ice cream with wonderfully crispy quinoa sprinkled on top.
Overall, we really enjoyed our experience at Meteora. The food was great and the service was some of the friendliest I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant. Dinner will set you back about $400 after tip. The food comes out quickly but in waves so allocate about two and a half hours for dinner.
The restaurant is unmarked so be sure to have the address on your phone. After parking, your next task will be to figure out how to open the front door, which has no visible door knob and is simply covered in branches.
Meteora is an ideal dinner date destination if you want a little adventure or if you’re a foodie… and you have the means to afford it!
16. Sycamore Avenue / Gigi’s
There is a hidden one-block section of Sycamore avenue that has been rebuilt from abandoned industrial warehouses and now contains some charming restaurants as well as a record store.
With its expansive general store, Sightglass Coffee is a delight to visit for a pastry or breakfast sandwich. Next door is Tartine, the famous bakery from the Bay Area serving breakfast and brunch.
For dinner, the highlight of this area is Gigi’s, a trendy upscale French restaurant that is always full when we pass by. The menu looks wonderful and the ratings on Yelp are good but are weighed down by an apparently rude hostess which multiple reviewers cite. Hopefully, they’ll solve the issue (check Yelp) and this will become as great a date destination as it looks.
17. Restaurants on Fairfax
There’s a section of Fairfax north of Beverly that has a mix of great retro and new restaurants. At the top of the retro category is the historic Canter’s Deli, open 24 hours a day. Some people have Canter’s on their L.A. bucket list when they visit. If you’re into NY-style deli food, this is a “must”.
Our favorite restaurant in this area, and probably our favorite Indian restaurant in all of Los Angeles, is Badmaash, serving its take on modern Indian cuisine. Whatever you order, I highly recommend getting the pickled vegetables on the side!
We also like Jon & Vinny’s, serving pasta and hand-tossed pizza.
For dessert, walk across the street to Danny’s Cream Pies.
All of these places are very informal and the area can be a tad sketchy, but there’s definitely some good food to be had here.
18. All Season Brewing Company
Located in a former Firestone repair shop, the All Season Brewing Company on La Brea has a festive outdoor “Octoberfest” vibe that I love. The food gets good ratings on Yelp as well. This is a great informal place to grab a beer before or after your main event.
19. The Henry / The Ivy
On Robertson just south of Beverly there are two charming restaurants to consider.
The Henry features American cuisine and has a classy, slightly vintage feel that I really like. It has a huge outdoor space which is ideal for brunch or lunch on a beautiful Southern California day. They also serve breakfast and dinner.
The Ivy is one of those super charming “restaurants-in-a-residence”, adorned with roses and other flowers both inside and outside. Really nice date atmosphere although the seating can be tight during peak periods. Probably best to avoid during busy weekends. The Ivy serves American fare.
20. 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 on some nights (usually populated by smokers, but if you find a break, it’s pretty cool).
Pour Vous has an assortment of carefully prepared themed drinks. Some nights feature live music or performers.
I usually find street parking on N. Gower Street or Melrose. Note, there is a pretty strict dress code, so please consult their website before going.
21. 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, great if you’re up for a little adventure.
22. 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.
23. 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