You’re sitting at work, minding your own business, and then it happens - an unsolicited email suddenly appears in your inbox with the subject line, “Hey! Let’s get lunch.” Upon further investigation, it appears to be from someone you barely know, and clearly they want something - advice, a job, a favor, or, in most cases, your job. Regardless, they want to connect over a meal and, for whatever reason, you agree. In these situations, you need restaurants that have a few specific elements - efficient service, convenient locations, and plenty of exits in case the other person thought it was a date or hands you a copy of their Christian rock album. Here are 11 places that fit the criteria.
After three years of taking your boss’s coffee orders, you finally got that promotion and suddenly everyone wants to be your friend - including the 23-year-old who’s replacing you. To be fair, she just wants to know how to survive the company, so instead of enduring months of timid Slacks and emails, just take her to Osteria La Buca and show her the ropes. This casual Italian restaurant across the street from Paramount Studios has great Italian food (get the bucatini and guanciale pizza), a bright space that’s never stuffy, and plenty of wine for when she mentions that Snapchat is the quickest way to reach her in the event of an emergency.
Trevor from LinkedIn just won’t quit, and after four months of private messaging, he broke your will and you finally agreed to lunch. Go to Food Lab. The order-at-the-counter cafe in West Hollywood has solid salads, sandwiches, and other things you can eat quickly, plus a nice patio to dull the pain of his endless questions about your “process.” There’s a convenient parking lot in the back, but our advice is to snag one of the meters on Santa Monica Blvd. That way, you’ll have a solid excuse when your meter runs out.
“Amy!! It’s Alyssa. What’s up? Let’s get margs.” You never really cared for your toxic old co-worker, but she won’t stop DMing you and honestly, you could use a margarita. Go to Petty Cash and get it over with. This modern Mexican spot by the Grove is central to just about everything and has the kind of lively space that’s fun even when you’re with people you don’t necessarily like. Concentrate on the ceviches, the cauliflower nachos, and the hibiscus margaritas.
You’ve officially been in LA for six months, which means that your mom’s childhood best friend who lives in Santa Monica wants to see you. You’ve met this woman exactly once (at your 14th birthday party at a water park), but whatever, you could use a free meal. Head to Huckleberry, the excellent order-at-the-counter brunch spot in the heart of Santa Monica. We recommend either the turkey burger or the green eggs and ham, followed by as many pastries as you can handle.
This casual beer and burger spot in Studio City has reasonable prices (especially during their daily Happy Hour from 3-6pm), and one of our favorite burgers in the city. The crowd here is probably doing the exact same thing you are - meeting a distant colleague for some light industry gossip until traffic dies down on Laurel Canyon.
Your college roommate’s younger brother just moved to LA and he says he wants to grab lunch. What he really wants is an over-paying job at your tech company, but for now, you’re meeting him at Destroyer. The order-at-the-counter, all-day cafe in Culver City feels like you’re inside a NASA testing kitchen, and the futuristic menu backs up the hyper-minimalist aesthetic. You’ll eat things like beef tartare in smoked egg cream and raw oatmeal with a vanilla crisp on top, but everything tastes fantastic and, perhaps most surprisingly, falls under $15.
Someone who graduated from the same acting program as you did just emailed as if you’re long lost friends. You don’t know who this person is or how they got your email, but one or two “my dad owns some shares at FOX” later and you’re meeting up for lunch. Make moves to Mustard Seed. The low-key sidewalk cafe in Los Feliz has good food across-the-board, efficient service, and plenty of fun celebrities to point out when you realize neither one of you can get each other a job.
There are a lot of national chains and indistinguishable froyo shops in downtown Santa Monica, but low-key spots to drink some wine and eat really good charcuterie? Not so much. So thank god for Esters. The casual wine bar on 7th St. feels a world away from the screaming hordes on The Promenade, which is ideal when you’re meeting up with a girl who you took a storytelling workshop with in 2011. The wine list isn’t the biggest in town, but it has a great variety that caters to any price point. Also, you’re definitely getting the grilled cheese.
Mizlala is a bright Mediterranean restaurant in Sherman Oaks that’s ideal for catching up with people. That includes your old pilates teacher who you ran into at a swingers camping retreat felt too awkward to ever go back to the studio. But now it's been two years, and you’re ready to turn a new leaf. Our favorite dishes are the hummus with fried artichokes, Moroccan chicken, and eggplant moussaka. Parking can be tricky, but there’s a metered lot in the back that always has a few open spaces.
Greg was one of those people who was always around at parties in your 20s and then vanished the second he landed his first serious girlfriend. Update: Greg is single and according to his email signature, he’s still “Living the dream and taking numbers.” He reached out, and you don’t want to blow him off, but you’re going to need to make this meal as fast as possible. Go to Lupetti. The order-at-the-counter pizzeria in the Arts District makes classic New York-style slices and whole pies in an industrial space that feels more like a coffee shop than a pizzeria. If you’re really hungry, get the chicken parm sandwich - it’s the best thing on the menu.
Most days you wake up to the same email blasts that you immediately delete, and other days your old landlord emails you an original screenplay about his sexual awakening in Kathmandu with the message “let’s talk.” You’re obviously not reading one page of that script, but you always liked Verne and this seems as good of an excuse as any to eat some corned beef and cabbage at Nate ’N Al’s. The classic Beverly Hills deli is still cranking out fantastic food thanks to grouchy servers who openly flirt with Verne. Maybe you’ll read that screenplay after all.