In theory, birthdays should be fun and easy. You’ve done the hard work of staying alive for another trip around the sun, and in turn, your friends and family are supposed to treat you like the little prince that you are. So why does planning your birthday dinner always end up being so stressful? You don’t know where to go, your friends are incapable of committing to anything more than two days in advance, and you inevitably wind up completely exhausted.
While we can’t sort out your entire life (or your friends’ lives, for that matter), we can at least provide some options for your celebratory dinner. These are places with enough space to accommodate a group, enough ambiance to feel like a party, and enough drinks to make your forget about the inexorable march of time. It sounds like a simple formula, but trust us, it’s one that’s not always easy to crack. So rifle through your closet, grab your b-day crown, and pat yourself on the back for surviving another year - here is our newly updated guide to the best birthday dinners in Los Angeles.
In an ideal world, you’d be spending your birthday on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world - we live in the one where your friends can’t even get their sh*t together for an out-of-town trip. Save your passport for another day and head to Dama. With its massive patio and open-air dining room, you’ll feel like you’re vacationing in the Caribbean (even though you’re in the middle of the Fashion District), and its highly shareable menu (never skip the white bean dip) and very strong cocktails make it the ideal spot for a big group birthday. Oh, and always leave room for the banana soft serve - with a candle on top, of course.
Rosaliné feels like it should be the place to go when you want to see a Kardashian - it’s on Melrose, its sign is neon, and it’s full of beautiful people wearing flowing things. Except Rosaliné also happens to have excellent Peruvian food. And while it’s not going to be a real-life E! News segment, eating here still feels like an event - especially if you get a table in the greenhouse-ish back room. Bring a lot of people so you can try every ceviche and paella on the menu.
Located on the southern edge of Koreatown, Guelaguetza is a legendary Oaxacan restaurant and one of the biggest parties in the neighborhood. Everything on the menu is phenomenal - from the giant plates of meat to the excellent tlayudas - but it’s not an official celebration without getting their signature moles (just go big and order them all on the Festival De Moles platter). With a massive space, live mariachi music most nights of the week, and more than 150 different kinds of tequila and mezcal, it’s almost like Guelaguetza was designed to be a foolproof birthday spot.
If you’re looking for all of the charm and hospitality of a birthday dinner in the South, but don’t particularly feel like leaving the Pacific Time Zone, head to Alta Adams. Their versions of Southern classics are simple, yet great - specifically the black-eyed pea fritters and the shrimp and grits - and the staff is very friendly and attentive. So book a table on one of the best backyard patios in LA and make sure to some of their signature cocktails. They’re that perfect mix of sweet and refreshing, not to mention strong enough to make you forget about that white hair you found this morning.
You’re inviting 15 people to your birthday, and you don’t want to only be able to talk to the two sitting next to you. If you’re looking for something a little more mingle-y, head to Highland Park Bowl. This is the most attractive bowling alley in LA - it’s kept the same look it’s had since the 1930s, complete with couches and vintage bowling league posters. The setup makes this feel less like the birthday party you had when you were 14, and more like a grown-up night out. Plus, their food and cocktails are actually good.
Your friends are reminiscing about Benihana, but you’re a hard no on the onion volcano. Instead, book a table at Parks, the best Korean BBQ place in LA. You still get to play with your food, but everything tastes way better, and you don’t have to politely watch anyone throw a knife. The service is fast, the giant plates of meat are good across the board, and you will leave fuller than you’ve ever been in your life. And because this place is a little pricier, you won’t be surrounded by drunk teenagers.
It’s your former East Coast friend’s first birthday in LA, and she’s been missing NYC. The best plan of action? Buy her a big ol’ bag of bagels, jump on the Metro, and head to Majordomo. From the people behind all things Momofuku, not only is Majordomo one of the best restaurants in LA, it’s also one that’s tailor-made for big groups. The industrial space is massive, and the best dishes made to be shared. Focus on the sausage-stuffed peppers, bing (Chinese flatbread), and, since you’re celebrating, the giant plate of bone-in short ribs (just make sure to order that one at least 24 hours in advance).
One could argue that this entirely outdoor Mexican BBQ restaurant in Frogtown was created solely with birthday dinners in mind. Long communal tables, a family-style shared menu, and excellent cocktails guarantee that no matter what sized group you roll in with, you’re in for a good time. Plus, the fact that it’s all outdoors also guarantees that you won’t be stuck in some sweaty booth of death all night. Order everything that comes with housemade tortillas.
Casita del Campo is much more than just a bar. It’s a classic Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake that has been a gay nightlife institution since the 1960s. While you don’t need to cross town for the food, when the time comes to soak up those lethal margaritas, you’re not going to be mad at Casita’s large menu of enchiladas, burritos, and big plates of meat. The place has two super-fun patios, an indoor dining room with a giant rubber tree in the middle, and a theater in the basement with nightly drag shows. And if you don’t want to end your birthday celebration next to that giant rubber tree (though we don’t know why you wouldn’t), you’re in walking/extremely short Uber distance from great Eastside bars like The Friend, Tenants of the Trees, and the Silver Lake Gelson’s (did you know their wine bar has live music?)
Cassia is the perfect venue for when your birthday party got kind of big, but you still want to keep things a little fancy. Everything at this modern Vietnamese/Southeast Asian menu is great, but the experience is even better with a large group, because you’ll be able to split the cost of the excellent $76 lobster. Definitely reserve a table ahead of time, make sure you ask to be outside, and show up early. That way, you have an excuse to get a glass of wine at Esters next door beforehand.
Don’t be fooled by DeSano’s order-at-the-counter setup. Around back, they have one of the best dining halls in Hollywood - a massive space with vaulted ceilings, a row of gigantic wood-burning ovens, and TVs on the wall playing Champions League games. The whole thing feels like some sort of back-kitchen rec room, and you want all of it for that casual birthday shindig you have in mind. As for the pizza, go for the namesake DeSano or Bianca pies, and definitely order a few calzones for the table as well.
BYOB is pretty ideal for a birthday dinner. And at this neighborhood taqueria in Beverly Grove, you can pretty much roll in with whatever you want and they’ll happily put it on ice. Escuela isn’t big, but there’s a big circular table in the corner that fits up to 13 people if you feel like going all King Arthur (you do). The menu is essentially just a la carte tacos, which works well for all your friends who still can’t grasp the concept of sharing food and splitting the bill evenly.
This chaotic Italian spot is one of the loudest and most popular restaurants on the Westside. The cocktails are good - there’s one that looks like an Italian flag icee - and there’s always a rowdy crowd of people eating one of their baseball-sized arancini. Even your pickiest b-day guests (who you forgive because they actually showed up) will be happy with the accessible Italian menu, and you’ll be happy because there’s a private dining room in the back - because when it comes to being sung to by 10-plus people, the more private, the better. Bonus birthday points: Make a second reservation for the speakeasy in the back, Old Lightning, if you’re looking to celebrate with some extravagant cocktails.
Osteria La Buca is one of those places you tend to forget about from time to time, and then remember how perfect it is - especially for a birthday dinner. Too many times large groups of people and bowls of pasta lead to a total snoozefest, but the atmosphere inside this casual Italian spot is legitimately fun. We promise. There’s a great upstairs for large groups, Tom Petty is probably playing on the speakers, and the bucatini carbonara just sent you into birthday nirvana.
Badmaash is probably the smallest place on this list. But if your idea of a perfect birthday dinner consists of you and your four closest friends eating great food without enduring a two-week-long email thread planning the whole thing, make Badmaash your move. The modern Indian DTLA restaurant is cool, affordable, casual, and delicious. Everything from the butter chicken samosas to the ghost chili lamb vindaloo is great, but if you don’t order the chicken tikka poutine for the table, you probably shouldn’t even come.
If you want to get all your friends together for a meal, but the idea of a planning an official sit-down dinner terrifies you, Button Mash is the answer to your prayers. The Echo Park hotspot is an arcade bar (and an excellent one at that), but the real secret lies in the menu. The bar food is great across the board, and is ideal for the snack-a-little, pinball-a-little setup.
E.R.B. is where you take the birthday crew when drinking is the focus, food is necessary, and bocce ball is welcomed. This Arts District spot is definitely a bar, but reserving a table on the fantastic back patio and eating and drinking the night away is about as strong a birthday move as you can make. Think of the menu as worldly drunk food: pork belly bao, taquitos, buttermilk biscuits. And you want all of it. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed, and there are plenty of great spots (like Guerrilla Tacos) nearby if the party decides to venture elsewhere.
If you’re looking to eat, drink, and dance all in one spot on your birthday, Abigaile is your best bet. But don’t fear – Abigaile is definitely not a club. It’s a well-constructed shrine to birthday needs. The welcoming, first-floor dining room serves fantastic American food and great craft beer, while upstairs things loosen up with a full-fledged rooftop bar and the dance floor debauchery that goes with it.
This Westside institution epitomizes old-school Angeleno Mexican cuisine, and that means crowd-pleasing food for your entire birthday group, like shredded beef quesadillas and burritos big enough for two. La Cabana is also downright fun, with a live mariachi band (ON THE ROOF!) and a raucous back patio for all your drunken birthday desires. The pitchers of margaritas never end and next thing you know you’ll be stumbling out at 3am like a true birthday champ.
Bludso’s is a perfect birthday dinner spot because it’s big, well-priced, and if someone in your group isn’t keen on eating delicious BBQ, it allows you to realize that your friendship was never going to work out anyways. Also, the Bludso’s Tray feeds up to seven meat-hungry adults for $125, and we’re fairly certain you won’t find a better birthday deal than that.
Two words: Beer towers. OK, and Thai food. Really amazing Thai food. Night+Market might be one of the most eternally hyped Thai spots in the city (for good reason), but it’s also a fantastic place to party with your friends. The Weho location is large and lively, with an open-air back patio that has birthday success written all over it.
This lively Mexican restaurant in Hollywood is also one of the best places to celebrate a birthday, an impending divorce, or anything, really. El Compadre is small-ish and usually quite crowded, but all that means is that your party can get as wild as you’d like. Everyone at El Compadre is there to eat great Mexican food, have fun, and to keep slamming those flaming margaritas.