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
The brand new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is currently one of the hottest attractions 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.
Tickets are reservation-only (of course) and are $25 each. If you want to get a weekend, you’ll have to wait over a month, but I think it will be worth it!
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. LACMA / La Brea Tar Pits
Even after the demolition of several buildings and the current construction going on, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is still a great date destination. 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 to 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 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.
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.
3. 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!
4. 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
7. 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 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 overhead.
8. 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 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. 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.
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 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.
10. The Hollywood Farmers’ Market
The Hollywood Farmers Market is one of the biggest and best farmers’ markets in Los Angeles. It’s really fun, even just to browse. It happens on Saturday mornings from 8 AM to 1 PM.
You’ll see local chefs purchasing wagonloads of produce for their high-end restaurants.
The hot food stands have returned! Our favorite item there is the Kanom Krok, kind of a Thai coconut dessert/snack. So good!
11. Melrose Avenue / Mozza
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.
At night, most of the clothing stores close, but there are some great restaurants on Melrose including Osteria Mozza (some call this the best Italian restaurant in LA), Pizzaria Mozza, 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 Pizzaria 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.
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!
On Sunday mornings, check out 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.
I love the vibe of this charming corner Italian restaurant on Beverly. Terroni is an ideal place to go for a meal if you want to avoid the crowds of the Grove. The Southern Italian fare gets is really good and gets high marks on Yelp as well.
13. 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 their 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.
14. 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.
15. Melrose Trading Post
Every Sunday, there’s a huge flea market on the campus at Fairfax High School two blocks north of the Grove called the Melrose Trading Post. It goes from 9 AM to 5 PM and features crafts, antiques, vintage clothing, and live music! Admission is only $5 at the gate. It can be a fun Sunday date idea in the heart of mid-city if you’re into flea markets.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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!
19. 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.
20. 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