If you’re planning on a big night out, your weekday routine of heating up a Trader Joe’s pizza and finishing off the bottle of wine you opened last Sunday just won’t cut it. You need a dinner spot that’s going to put something in your stomach and get the party started before you get to the bar.
So you have a few requirements - first, a restaurant with good drinks so that you’re sufficiently buzzed when you get the bar. This place should also be close to bars, so that you don’t spend 40 minutes in an Uber after eating two plates of carbonara and a bottle of wine. And most importantly, this place should have good food, and enough of an atmosphere to set the tone so that even dinner feels like a part of your night out. These are all the best places in LA to eat before you go out.
You have friends in town who insist that every drink they have comes with a view. Instead of bars filled with tourist and/or minors, go to Margot in Culver City. This rooftop restaurant at Platform is a good place to start your evening partly because it has a great view of West LA and the sunset beyond, and mostly because it has fantastic cocktails. Each one looks like it was personally crafted by a florist. You’re not going to be blown away by the food, but everyone will find something they’ll like, especially if you stick with the pastas.
You just quit your sh*tty agency job to make pottery instead, and you want to take a drunk vacation to celebrate not spending 90% of your day answering phones for someone you hate. You can’t afford a trip to the Caribbean, but you can go to Dama before you go out drinking Downtown. This upscale Latin spot in the Fashion District looks and feels like a Cuban mansion, with rum cocktails, oxtail tacos, and not much in the way of walls. Close your eyes, drink your daiquiri, and pretend that the breeze is coming off the ocean and not a ceiling fan.
Thanks to the sheer volume of walkable places, Koreatown is the best neighborhood in LA to bar hop. If you need something to prepare your stomach for all the alcohol mixing you’re about to do, go to Mister Bossam. They specialize in grilled cheese pork ribs - a huge platter of spicy ribs tossed in mozzarella with a side of steamed egg. One $40 plate is enough to feed three people, and after you’re done with the ribs, they take the pan and make fried rice with the drippings. As long as you don’t fall asleep at the table, you’ll be fully ready for six hours of drinking your way down Wilshire.
Pasta and cheese are an ideal combination before a night that will inevitably involve tequila shots. But there are a lot of other reasons to have dinner here before a night out. When Scopa opened in 2013, it immediately became a go-to spot Venice party stop, where you could find Kate Beckinsale in flip-flops chugging martinis - and it hasn’t slowed down much since then. The cocktails are good - there’s one that looks like an Italian flag icee - and there’s always a rowdy crowd of people eating baseball-sized arancini.
For the first time, you and your co-workers are following through on that “we need to go out together sometime” lunch conversation. Before a night out in North Hollywood or The Valley, Fat Dog is the place to kill some time/get sufficiently buzzed so that you’re at least visibly excited about spending extra time with the people you spend all of your time with. Head straight to the back patio, order some Swedish meatballs, and pick something you like from the excellent craft beer list. You’re officially ready to listen to Tammy complain about how much work she has for the next three hours.
Your friend is having his birthday at the Bungalow, and he knows you well enough to call bullsh*t on your sick dog excuse. And since you’re about to spend $100 on overpriced sangria, you’re not trying to spend too much at dinner. That’s where HiHo comes in. This place has one of the best burgers in town - they’re not too greasy, but still have a ton of flavor. Even accounting for a beer, you’ll still manage to be in and out for around $15.
You won’t find thoughtfully constructed risotto at the Bottle Inn, but this red sauce Italian spot in Hermosa Beach is a great place to drink wine and eat pasta before your night out in the South Bay. The great patio is close enough to the water so that you can watch surfers fall over while you eat your fried calamari and lobster with angel hair. There’s a long list of wines by the glass, but you should stop kidding yourself and just order a bottle of whatever looks good.
The last time you went out on the Strip, you drunk-texted your handyman between shots of Jager. But after a years-long break from this stretch of Sunset, start your night on the right foot at Night + Market. Unlike some other party restaurants in this part of town, Night + Market has fantastic food that you’re eating because it’s good, and not because you need to put something in your stomach besides vodka. You’ll find a crowd of people inside racing to see which side of the table will finish their beer tower faster, and there’s an excellent patio in the back if you’re with a big group. Order the wings, the crispy rice salad, and whichever curry looks best to you, and after you’re done eating, delete your handyman’s number from your phone.
A full-on party in itself, the patio at La Cabaña is also a fantastic place to start a night out by the beach. Their salsa verde-doused El Verde burrito is a full-on monstrosity in the best way possible, and is easily shared between two people. It also goes well with the $30 margarita pitchers and the tableside guacamole service. Don’t be alarmed when the mariachi band appears on the roof.
Planning ahead and making sure you get some pasta in you is a good way to prepare for your post-cat funeral bar crawl in Weho. Start the night off at Jones with one of LA’s best martinis, and choose from a solid list of Italian-American classics, like spaghetti and meatballs and fettuccine pomodoro. You can’t go wrong with anything you order, as long as you finish off with the apple pie, served in a cast iron skillet. Felix would have wanted you to have it.
Ma’am Sir’s Filipino food is exactly what you want before a night of drinking - it’s spicy, full of protein, and absolutely fantastic. The whole menu reads like it was specifically designed to prevent hangovers with a longganisa burger, pork sisig, and garlic crab noodles - so you really can’t go wrong here. The vines hanging from the ceiling are surprisingly not-tacky, and make you feel like you’re in a grown-up Rainforest Cafe (although there aren’t any rainstorms). It always feels like a party in here, between friends having celebration dinners over cocktails and couples who seem to be genuinely enjoying their date night, so you’ll be fully prepared for your night out in Silver Lake.