This is the Best Casual Date Restaurant in L.A.

It’s a chill date spot you can put on repeat
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There are nights at Lala’s Argentine Grill on Melrose when it feels like everyone on the patio is on a date. Not the third date—that all-important “Will we reveal in intimate detail how often we go to the gym?” date. Lala’s is the perfect place for 37th dates. Casual dates.

We don’t talk much about casual dates, which is strange because over the course of relationships we go on more casual dates than formal (formal dates defined as those for which a man will wash his car). But an argument can be made that casual dates are more important to romance, relationships, procreation, and therefore the very survival of our species than some fancy restaurant we go to maybe twice. You start a relationship in fancy restaurants. You keep it in casual ones. And everything that keeps you going back to your favorite chill date spot also reveals all the reasons you have someone to go back with. Because…

You have learned you can live with the flaws

At Lala’s it’s the parking. Melrose is a nightmare. The side streets offer no relief. The alternative is to pay a valet to park your car literally 15 feet away in the lot, which, for the record, they won’t let you do yourself. It’s maddening, but it’s not a deal-breaker, because…

It has that special thing you love


For us it’s the provoleta, which is melted provolone cheese topped with salsa and oregano, served in a million-degree skillet while sizzling. The chimichurri (above) is perfection. Speaking of which…

You will always like how it looks 

The patio at Lala’s is dark yet dazzling, both romantic and festive. It’s a setting that practically begs you to order a carafe of sangria and sit for hours. Speaking of time…

There are many shared memories

It’s your usual date place, but it’s also a place that holds memories. For us, it’s where we went the night before we welcomed our kids into the world, where we toasted our new lives—with water. Speaking of drinks…

Even on a bad day, it makes you feel like you have a two-beer buzz

A photo posted by LINA KOTTUTZ (@linakottutz) on


Even when you’re sober. Takes you out of a bad mood. You just feel looser. More relaxed. Because you’re there.

Eating at a 37th date restaurant doesn’t sound romantic. Third date you is perfect, because you barely know each other. But 37th date you have done everything forgivably wrong one can do in a relationship. Yet there the two of you are, talking easy, laughing together, and you’re holding each other’s glances and smiling, because even after showing this other person the depths of your awfulness—and experiencing all of theirs—you’re still in love. Casual date restaurants aren’t the least-romantic places to eat. They’re the most romantic.

Lala’s is the best casual date restaurant in the city.

Yours is, too.

Joe Donatelli is the Senior Writer at Los Angeles magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @joedonatelli and Facebook. He wrote: Is This the Worst Coffee Shop in L.A.?

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