Dating in L.A. can be rough. Taking the leap from Tinder swipe to IRL meeting is a modern-day feat worth drinking to, but finding just the right bar can be a whole other challenge.
A date-worthy bar is like a well-crafted cocktail: it requires a thoughtful balance of several elements. For a first date in particular, you’re looking for a place that shows you’re cool, but won’t come off as pretentious; has great music playing, but not so loudly you can’t comfortably converse; offers decent parking so you won’t end up running late because you’re circling the block forever; and has a tasty mix of drinks to enjoy.
Finding one reliable spot that meets all those criteria is hard enough, but what if you find out your potential flame lives in some other sector of this sprawling metropolis and you don’t know where to begin? That’s where we come in. We’ve hand-selected the best first date bars in neighborhoods from Venice to the Valley. As for getting a second date, well, that part is up to you.
Culver City: Alibi Room
Alibi Room is a perfect option for a low-key intro on the Westside. It’s not likely to be slammed, there are plenty of places to sit, there’s a fireplace for ambiance, and we’ve had decent luck with street parking in the neighborhood. The drink speciality here is beer, with several dozen, mostly Cali-made, brews to pick from and discuss, though if you prefer cocktails, wine, or a fancy artisan soda, they’ve got all those, too. Alibi Room’s secret weapon is the food: a greatest-hits assortment from Roy Choi’s Kogi and Chego concepts, so even if the date’s a dud, at least you can get a kimchi quesadilla out of it. 12236 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City
It may not be the highest or hippest rooftop bar in DTLA, but with live jazz, classy decor, and Parisian-inspired cocktails, this 16th floor bar offers a classically romantic setting. Seating is first come, first served, so get there early if you’re hoping to watch the sunset or claim a couch with the best skyline view. There’s valet parking available after 7 p.m., or you’re right next to Pershing Square if you want to go Metro. 448 S. Hill Street, downtown
Echo Park: El Prado
You probably won’t be the only first-date pair at this snug wine bar that somehow, after nearly a decade in operation, still feels cool. They keep the list of beers and wines tightly edited—meaning you won’t spend more time chatting with the somm than your date—and the soundtrack comes via a collection of vinyl records behind the bar, which makes for a great conversation prompt should you need a topic. 1805 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park
El Segundo: El Segundo Brewing Company
Keep it super casual with a visit to El Segundo Brewing Company’s tap room. You’ll get to taste freshly brewed or barrel-aged beers from their assortment of 20 options on tap, in an upbeat atmosphere. Order a tasting flight and you two can compare notes on Beach Day Orange Wheat versus Hyperion Vanilla Stout. Does our taste in beer offer a window to our soul? 140 Main St., El Segundo
Highland Park: Highland Park Bowl
A cavernous converted historic bowling alley (L.A.’s oldest—there, we just gave you some trivia to talk about!), there is almost always a spot available somewhere inside Highland Park Bowl. Grab a cocktail from the rotating list of creations, and order a pizza from the kitchen. If you’re actually planning to bowl, lanes can be rented by the hour for $25 to $70 depending on day and time. 5621 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park
Koreatown: The Normandie Club
Park in the lot across the street and slip into one of the velvety two-tops at this excellent cocktail den. The space is classy but still casual, and servers bring drinks to your table, meaning there won’t be any weird lulls in the night when someone has to go stand around the bar for 15 minutes trying to flag down a bartender. For those who want to up the ante, there’s the speakeasy-style Walker Inn accessed through a back door of Normandie Club, with different drinks and a fancier vibe. 3612 W. 6th St., Koreatown
Pasadena: Magnolia House
Magnolia House is Instagram-level cute, from the sunny interior, to the colorful drinks with all manners of sprigs and garnishes, to the large patio (which happens to be dog-friendly if meeting your pooch is a first-date matter for you). There are full food menus available for dinner and weekend brunch should you get peckish. The cocktail list is creative and includes some chic “mocktails” for when you’re not trying to guzzle one too many with this stranger you’re meeting for the first time. 492 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena
Sherman Oaks: Augustine
We’ve got to hand it to the French—there’s something special about getting to know someone over a glass (or two) of wine, and Augustine Wine Bar in Sherman Oaks might be the perfect setting. It’s trendy but timeless, with tasteful decorations like a piano that hails from the early 1900s. Wine starts at $10 by the glass, and a bottle of 2011 French Pinot Blanc will set you back $40. Augustine doesn’t take reservations, but seats are available at the bar, inside tables, or on the patio. 13456 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
West Hollywood: Petite Taqueria
There’s no shortage of bars that would make solid date spots around West Hollywood, so we’re going a little off the beaten track with this pick. Petite Taqueria is stylish and new enough to show your date you’re “with it” without there being too much of a scene. The food menu has plenty of tasty modern-Mexican bites (with options to cover any surprise vegans or gluten-frees you may have fallen in with) and the bar is stocked with a great tequila and mescal program. Stop by at happy hour for $10 cocktails, $4 beer, and discount bar bites. 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood
Neighbor is right on Abbot Kinney, so it’s convenient and easy to find (though you might want to plan ahead for parking) and you can go for a fun stroll if the date is going well. Enjoy tasty cocktails and a full food menu in your choice of a plush indoor space or a large, lovely outdoor area, perfect for lounging amongst the potted plants and assessing your date in natural light. 1031 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice