Birthdays are hard (the planning, the venue, the getting older). And when that time of year rolls around, you'll want to know where to dine. So we've put together a list of our favorite places to fete another year. From a garden hideaway to a rustic wine loft, these nine restaurants are your best bets for a happy birthday, indeed.
① A.O.C., Mid-City
Every good party starts with wine, n'est-ce pas? And this Mid-City wine bar has lots of it, all organic and biodynamic. So it's only fitting that the boozy fete is in the wine room, one of the city's prettiest private spaces. The theme is rustic throughout: exposed brick, wood-paneled ceiling and floors, French doors that open above a terra-cotta roof and a laurel tree-decked patio, with wood-fired plates to share. Gather up to 32 people around the farmhouse table for seasonal Cal-Med courses, or mingle with 50 people for cocktails and buffet-style bites like charcuterie boards, Spanish fried chicken and pizzette-like focaccia.
② The Tasting Kitchen, Venice
Walk to the back of this neighborhood favorite and up the stairs to a tucked-away second-floor dining room. The open-air loft is perched atop the views (and the din) of Abbot Kinney, feeling more like someone's living room than a dining room. And this being Venice, the decor is California cool: Books are stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves and a wrought iron-orbited chandelier hangs over leather banquettes and vintage-looking chairs. Your seven-plus dinner guests can cozy up to a prix fixe family style meal ($60 per person) including handmade pastas, fennel-steamed mussels, salt-roasted branzino, insalata and contorni and more.
③ Petty Cash, Mid-City
Who doesn't love a fiesta? At this elevated taquería, the food is as fun as the vibe: graffitied walls, old-school rap, uni- and chicharrón-topped guacamole, tequila flights and tacos. (Bonus: The private back room has shuffleboard!) Please a crowd (up to 20 people) with $35- or $45-per-person menus. The first gets you two appetizers—we love the soft-boiled egg-topped pig ear nachos—followed by a trio of tacos and dessert. (Vegetarians, go for the potato-rolled dorados; carnivores, try the pork carnitas.) The latter gets you an extra appetizer, ceviche, and an additional taco. Throw cocktails in the mix—creative concoctions from Julian Cox, all served with striped paper straws—for a foolproof party.
④ République, Mid-City
Feeling French-y? Named after Paris's 11th arrondissement, Walter Manzke's latest boasts nouvelle bistro cooking and a long Old World wine list. Start with house-baked bread with Normandy butter or wood-oven pan drippings, then continue with tartes a l'Alsacienne, and, of course, steak frites. Finish with warm croissant bread pudding or the addictive salted caramel chocolate cake. Seat up to 30 in the stunning Spanish-style space, replete with wooden beams, stone arches and M.C. Escher-esque tiled floors.
⑤ Bestia, Downtown
Get in like a VIP at this always-packed Downtown warehouse-turned-restaurant by posting up at the intimate chef's table—behind-the-scenes seats where you and up to four friends will get a bird's-eye view of all the action. Watch as chefs plate pasta mixed with bottarga and sea urchin, house-made lamb sausage pizza from the wood-burning oven and grilled whole orata. And may we suggest not skimping on dessert? You'll want to save room for the olive oil and salted caramel chocolate budino tart and spiced "coffee & donuts." It can get loud in the industrial space, but we say it adds to the revelry.
⑥ Yamakase, Culver City
This one's for whales. Start with a cozy party of eight around a sushi bar. Add 20 omakase courses, including jamón Iberico and caviar, black truffle-topped wagyu beef and uni chawanmushi. Sprinkle in five hours of dining and BYOB tippling. The total: $300 a head. And, yes, it's worth every penny. Get your table well in advance with an "invite-only" reservation (i.e., online form).
⑦ Cliff's Edge, Silver Lake
If an alfresco patio is what you crave, set a table for 12 at this Silver Lake date spot. Candles and lush greenery set the scene for the dreamy patio, where the top terrace feels like your own secret garden. The menu is heavy on seasonal California ingredients, with plenty of meatless options for your veg friends. Try the red beet "tartare" mixed with gold beet "yolk," or, for a more carnivorous celebration, chef Vartan Abgaryan can also prepare whole roast pig and lamb.
⑧ Chosun Galbee, Koreatown
We can't think of anything that says "good times" better than Korean BBQ. Gather a group over a hot grill for DIY barbecue meats (or let the kitchen cook it for you, 'cause turning a year older is hard enough already). Our go-to order: the soy sauce-tinged seng galbi (short ribs), plus Berkshire pork belly. Grill, wrap in lettuce and share alongside a slew of banchan. Other group-friendly dishes to share: haemool jungol, a.k.a seafood hot pot. Add generous pours of Hite and soju, and you're in for a good night.
⑨ Hinoki & the Bird, Century City
The power set convenes at this salvage-meets-sultry dining room outfitted in brass and burnt cedar. The private dining room fits up to 32, while the candlelit outdoor patio can be set up for 120. The prix fixe menu from chef Kuniko Yagi fuses Asian flavors in dishes like the green curry lobster roll, sambal skate wing and pumpkin and miso toast. Keep the night going with fun but grown-up cocktails: bourbon and tequila swizzles or mocktails with yuzu, cucumber and jalapeño.
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