Shout out to national holidays. Also, shout out to birthdays, “sick” days, and the days between one job and the next. These are the days when crossing town for a meal, or spending three hours at a restaurant, or getting to that one place you’ve wanted to eat at forever are possible. And in our opinion, the best way to do any of these things on your day off is to have lunch - it’s just as good as dinner, but you spend a lot less money. Plus, restaurants aren’t as busy in the daytime.
So here’s where you should go the next time your lunch hour is more than an hour. Pick one of these places and have a little vacation in the middle of your day.
That thing we said about restaurants not being as busy in the daytime? It does not apply to Howlin’ Rays. The line for this Nashville hot chicken joint in Chinatown is always pretty extreme (expect at least 45 minutes to an hour), but on your day off, lines don’t matter. Take a friend, maybe grab a bao from Lao Tao to eat while you wait, and consider your work for the day done.
Cento Pasta Bar128 E 6th St
On a work day, eating a giant bowl of pasta at a wine bar probably isn’t going to happen. Going back to work and immediately needing a nap is both unrealistic and will probably get you fired. Which is why Cento Pasta Bar is made for that personal day you’re planning. It’s a pop-up that takes over Mignon Wine Bar during the day on Wednesdays through Saturdays, and while the menu changes constantly, you’ll know you’re lucky if you see uni spaghetti. Cheers to 3pm naps.
It’s Wednesday morning. Your “casual weeknight dinner” turned into a very not casual bar hop. Time for an email to your boss to say that you’re “sick” before rolling over and sleeping until noon. Suddenly, it’s lunchtime, you need an unhealthy amount of food, and you have no one to lunch with. For the ultimate in solo sick day eating, head straight for Petit Trois, order the steak tartare, followed by the omelette, and then the pastry cream-filled Napoleon. This cures any sickness, even the ones that aren’t real.
The number of things worth driving to Manhattan Beach for are pretty limited. Living out your Olympic volleyball dreams is one, and Fishing With Dynamite is the other. This teeny seafood shack is at its best during the day when the space feels bright and like you might actually be in Montauk. Obviously you’re getting oysters, obviously a glass of champagne needs to accompany them, and maybe you should not be driving yourself here.
Given that you get approximately 3½ actual vacation days, a trip to Paris seems like a long shot. Good thing there’s Belle Vie, a casual French bistro in Brentwood that’ll help you pretend you’re actually in France. The menu is all twists on the classics - think beef burgundy tacos and the best gravlax you’ll ever have. The people here will also enable your day drinking with spot-on wine recommendations.
There is possibly no better day-off lunch in the greater Los Angeles area than Nobu. The PCH traffic is non-existent, you’ll get a prime table next to the water (maybe plan ahead and make a reservation, but you can always try your luck on a mid-week walk in), and you’ll still probably see a celebrity (we’re pretty sure there’s a rule that there must be at least 2 C-list stars here at any given time). Nobu isn’t just about the scene though - the food here is so much better than you’d expect, or even than it needs to be. Go here and remember, this is why you live in LA.
Malibu is lovely and everything, but spending a house down payment at Nobu can be less lovely. Malibu Farm Cafe, at the end of the Malibu pier, has almost the exact same view for about one-sixteenth of the price. The food is simple, crowd-pleasing kind of stuff - salads, a burger, salmon - but it’s all good. Eat here and you might actually be able to afford a house in Malibu one day. Although probably not.
Maybe you want to bring some meaning to your day off, as opposed to watching back-to-back Curbed episodes that you’ve already seen four times. Well, let that meaning be eating the best sushi in all of Los Angeles. Located in a West Hollywood strip mall, this place is omakase only and completely no-frills - but that just means you can worship at the altar of mind-blowing sushi in peace.
A midweek day off is the perfect time to cruise down to Lawndale for an Indian feast. Al-Noor is our favorite Indian restaurant in the city, and while we have been known to endure the 405 South on a Wednesday at 6:30pm for their garlic naan, such dedication isn’t for everyone. The lamb palak tastes just as good at lunch, and as a bonus you’ll probably be eating the leftovers for dinner on your couch later.
Destroyer is only open Monday to Friday, 8am to 3:30pm, meaning that unless you work nearby or have the kind of job (or lack of a job) where you can disappear for an hour and a half lunch, you probably haven’t made it here. The next holiday you have, you’re coming here. Ideally at 10:30am so you can start with breakfast and have a second course of lunch. And yes, we’ve done that. Multiple times.
There are a lot of ways to have a perfect day off in LA, and this is one of them: Wake up at 6:30am as usual. Realize you don’t have to work today and celebrate by sleeping until 1pm. Go for a hike because this is LA. Resolve to cancel out the hike. Head straight for Pizzeria Mozza, sit at the bar, order the goat cheese and bacon pizza and a glass of red. If you died now, you’d be very happy.
As much as we love the food at Gjusta, we also get it: it is a complete and utter sh*tshow. Come here on a weekend and you’ll be waiting 30 minutes just to order and god forbid you brought your dog, because then you end up sitting in the parking lot on milk crates. But at 11am on a Tuesday? Gjusta is a glorious place to be. You’ll stroll up to the counter, order the tuna conserva sandwich, choose at least one of the daily changing salads, head to the patio, and sit in an actual chair with a back. It’s entirely possible you’ve now found the meaning of life.
Who are all these Los Feliz people who can have a leisurely lunch at Little Dom’s twice a week? Probably people who once sold a semi-ok script idea to Universal, and also, at least for today, you. This Italian spot feels like it’s been serving rice balls since the rat pack days, but it’s actually only 10 years old. It’s an ideal spot for a long boozy lunch, and you don’t even have to bring your Sinatra-style fedora if you don’t want to.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - the best time to be at Jon & Vinny’s is for a late lunch, preferably one with plenty of wine. You will not have to throw any elbows to secure a table, but you will be able to eat all the linguine and clams and not have to shout at your table mate to pass the meatballs. If you spot some bombolone (filled Italian donuts) on the counter as you walk in, you’ll probably want to reserve space for a couple of those too.