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In theory, birthdays should be fun and easy. You’ve done the hard work of staying sane and likable for another trip around the sun, and in turn, your friends and family are supposed to treat you like the angel that you are. So why does planning your birthday dinner always end up 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 exhausted.
While we can’t sort out your entire life (or your friends’ lives, for that matter), we can 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 you forget about the inexorable march of time. It sounds like a simple formula, but it’s one that’s not always easy to crack. So rifle through your closet, grab your crown, and pat yourself on the back for being amazing—here is our updated guide to the best birthday dinners in Los Angeles.
If your idea of a birthday party is sitting around a big table with friends drinking BYOB wine and eating tapas, stake out Cobras & Matadors immediately. The quaint Spanish spot in Beverly Grove closed in 2012, but is now officially back and better than ever. You’ll eat simple, well-executed dishes like grilled asparagus topped with manchego, buttery gambas al ajillo, and one of the best roast chickens we’ve eaten in years. You’ll drink all those bottles of wine people brought as gifts (there’s a $20 flat fee for BYOB) and make friends with every table around you. There’s a certain lawlessness at Cobras & Matadors that’s only possible at a place that intentionally keeps a low profile—no website, no telephone, no reservations. Don’t worry though, all the details can be found on their Instagram.
photo credit: Emra Visuals
At a certain age, planning your birthday dinner at a sports bar can feel a bit embarrassing. Pijja Palace erases the stigma. Located on Sunset Blvd. in Silver Lake, this Indian pizza parlor has a little bit of everything going on: a sleek interior that looks like a Nordic thermal spa, a tremendous menu with everything from dosa onion rings to rigatoni with masala, and flat screen TVs covering nearly every inch of wall space. Yes, it’s an ideal spot to catch the game, but in the event some of your friends aren’t even sure what an inning is, they won’t feel stranded all night. They’ll be too busy talking about all the great food.
A birthday in Ktown is a birthday guaranteed to be a success—as long as you nail the dinner spot. While there’s no shortage of rowdy BBQ spots and smoky drinking taverns to choose from, one place we recommend to mix things up is Tokki. Located in Chapman Plaza, this self-described Korean tapas bar has a fairly basic dining room (green vines hanging from the ceiling, etc), but it’s also a space that’ll accommodate any sized group and a nice warm-up to the messy chaos that’s sure to ensue as the night continues elsewhere. Also the food is very good—and shareable. Get the rosé tteokbokki, scallops in brown butter, and truffle kimchi fried rice for the table.
Unlike most restaurants that sit a block from the beach, the low-lit and intimate Ryla falls into the Dark and Sexy category—the kind of place that’ll make everyone at your birthday dinner feel hot just by walking through the door. The menu at this Taiwanese/Japanese spot in Hermosa Beach is packed with delicious dishes that will spark conversation: Hokkaido milk bread smeared with a tobiko nori dip, ox tongue curry rice, black bass in a lime coconut broth, and brown butter mochi cake. Everything is very shareable, which is ideal considering you need to leave some stomach room for all bar-hopping on the pier you’re doing afterwards.
From the thatched tunnel entrance and the ethereal club music to constant reminders that it’s “Tulum-themed,” Ka’Teen has a lot going on. But if you’re looking to get dressed up and have a messy, over-the-top birthday in Hollywood, Ka’Teen is where to be. The sprawling, mostly-outdoor space is great for big groups, there’s a $495 bottle of Dom Perignon on the menu (if that’s your energy), and as for the food, the Yucatan-style menu has several bright spots. The ceviches and aguachiles are fresh and citrusy, the mushrooms in mole verde have a rich, spicy kick, and the lamb barbacoa is the perfect thing to put on the table, because everyone can build their own taco. Sure, this place is loud, crowded, and clubby, but it’s also filled with people who want it that way. Make sure you’re one of them before going.
Cobi’s is a Southeast Asian restaurant in Santa Monica that toes the line between quirky hangout spot and all-out party restaurant. A meal here is certainly loud (soul and reggae music will be blasting all night) and you might not be able to hear the person across from you, but who cares? The food is excellent and the kitschy, floral decor makes it feel like you’re throwing a birthday inside a 20th-century parlor room. If you want to keep things outside though, Cobi’s has one of the best back patios in the neighborhood.
Located on top of The Hoxton Downtown, the sprawling space has all the requisite rooftop amenities—great skyline views, a semi-rowdy crowd full of questionable hat choices, and a pool that someone’s absolutely going to fall into—but what sets Cabra apart from the pack is the food. Run by the chef from nearby Girl & The Goat, Cabra’s Peruvian-leaning menu is filled with light, shareable small plates that are great for big group birthdays and won’t fill you up to the point where you can’t go out afterwards. There are definitely some bigger dishes, such as the excellent pork shank with tangerine salad and crispy potatoes, but we recommend sticking mostly to the “Cold Stuff.” Here’s where you’ll find everything from salmon ceviche with pistachio to tuna tiradito topped with passionfruit and jicama.
Located on the second floor of an old masonic lodge in Highland Park, Checker Hall is equal parts bar and restaurant, meaning if you’re with people who want to chill in a booth all night and reminiscence, and others who are still in the business of flirting at the bar, everyone will be happy at this birthday party. The cocktails are well-made (we love the perfectly spicy Carmen #6), the music curation is always right, and if you get hungry, the there’s always some exciting pop-up running the menu.
If you want to do something low-key and unexpected, have your birthday get-together at Johnny’s. This iconic late-night pastrami spot has a huge patio where you can gather all your friends around a spread of thick pastrami sandwiches, deeply smoked brisket, and sides that range from tacos to matzo ball soup. But Johnny’s does more than just showcase updated deli classics. There’s a bar next door (which is run by the same people) hosting live music on Fridays, dance parties on weekends, and the occasional surprise DJ set from Kaytranada. We can’t promise that you’ll run into an icon spinning unreleased tracks on your big night, but we can guarantee a fun scene and a spacious dance floor.
Opened by the legendary American trumpet player, Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill is anything but low-key. A birthday dinner here isn’t one of those sort-of-celebrations you throw yourself at the last minute because, suddenly, the thought of not having something feels unbearable. No, a birthday dinner at this Bel-Air restaurant is a full-blown event. As soon as you enter (from the parking lot filled with Aston Martins and Porsches), you’ll be greeted by a glittering ballroom and the live jazz band upfront. People are wearing suits, jackets, and dresses they found in the “evening wear” section at a department store, and everything, from the steak to the calamari to the complimentary ice cream scoop they’ll give if they know it’s your birthday, tastes perfectly acceptable, sometimes even good. Be prepared to spend money and have fun.
Mother Wolf isn’t just the biggest party in town right now, it might be the biggest party we’ve seen inside an LA restaurant ever. Reservations for this Italian restaurant on Wilcox are next to impossible to get, but keep trying, because a birthday at Mother Wolf is one you won’t forget. The massive, all-pink dining room feels part Las Vegas, part Carbone, and part Roman banquet hall wedding—all crammed inside the Madonna Inn. It’s gaudy, over-the-top, and filled with more famous faces than a Grammy’s afterparty. And yet, the energy is intoxicating. It’s a place that’ll still be at capacity at 11:15pm on a Wednesday with people still streaming up to the bar in hopes of getting in on the action. Considering the perfectly made pasta (the cacio e pepe and rigatoni all’amatriciana are standouts) coming out of the kitchen and Italian wine being poured with ease, it’s hard not to blame them.
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This gorgeous Baldwin Hills restaurant has everything you want for a birthday: an idyllic patio next to an herb garden, comfort food like shrimp and grits and pecan pie, plus bottomless mimosas on the weekend. Oh, and there’s also homemade cornbread topped with whipped honey butter, a warm, decadent dish that’s definitely way better than the $25 Target gift card your aunt sent you.
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Between the spinning salads, meat and potato martinis, and decor that looks straight out of a deleted scene from Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire, Lawry’s The Prime Rib is your one-stop-shop for feeling like royalty on your big day. In the palatial dining rooms, glorious golden carts of prime rib, bread pudding, mashed potatoes, and creamed vegetables come right to your table—because dinner at Lawry’s is a show from start to finish. Reservations are definitely a must.
It’s only natural to want to feel like a celebrity on your birthday, and at Cha Cha Cha, you will. The Mexican rooftop restaurant in the Arts District has a massive patio with lush vegetation and panoramic views of Downtown. It kind of feels like a garden party for the rich and famous, but a cool one where Lena Waithe might show up. The tuna tostada and steak pa’taquear are both standouts, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything on the menu that won’t appease the varying tastes of your friend group.
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Little Ethiopia is lined with restaurants catering to big groups, but one of our favorites is Messob. This family-run operation hits that sweet spot of being fun and casual, but still fancy enough that you feel special on your birthday. If you know the night will just be easier if everything is ordered a la carte, that’s an option, but the best way to enjoy a meal here is to get a few Super Messob Exclusives for the table. For $33, it’s a massive plate filled with nine dishes from all sections of the menu, ranging from collards to spicy lamb stew. There’s also a semi-private dining area if you’re b-day group gets above six people.
If your version of a great birthday dinner is something a bit more subdued, yet still exciting, snag a table at Kensho. This tiny wine bar behind Yamashiro is smack in the middle of all the Hollywood action, but still feels like a total secret. The views of the hills and the Hollywood Sign at sunset are unmatched and the friendly waitstaff will make sure everyone’s glass is filled with funky biodynamic wines or sake all night long. As far as the food, Kensho’s menu changes pretty often, but is always filled with delicious snacks ranging from salmon tartare to inari to perilla bowls—perfect when a full multi-course birthday dinner sounds entirely cumbersome.
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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 with the Festival De Moles platter). With a massive space including a new parking lot patio 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 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 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.
If you’ve missed Casita’s warm, neighborhood atmosphere and strong margaritas as much as we have, the historic Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake is still going strong, now with an additional patio in their parking lot. There are string lights hanging everywhere, tons of foliage, and even a fountain where you can drunkenly flip coins and make wishes. In other words, it’s the ideal place for one too many birthday margaritas with your friends.
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We’ve been fans of this Filipino spot since its very first iteration as Lasa—a BYOB pop-up in 2017. While the interior, the management, and the menu have all changed a little over the years, many of the same bright and spicy flavors (the electric orange spicy salsita is a non-negotiable) and friendly faces are still there in its current iteration to welcome you for a fun, family-style meal. For birthday dinners (especially if it’s going to be 8-10 people), our move is to do the “Pamilya Style” Set Menu. For $40 per person, you get table snacks, veggie sides, a whole chicken inasal and pork lechon, pancit, chicken fat rice, ice cream, and tons of different sides for dipping.
This is the gold standard of Korean BBQ in LA. While it might not have the party-like atmosphere of other nearby spots, and you’re definitely going to spend some money here, the quality of meat and sides at Parks BBQ cannot be topped. Make sure to concentrate on the combo platters (listed as P1-P3), so you’ll get a meaty parade of all the bulgogi, short rib, ribeye, and banchan your heart could possibly desire.
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It’s your former East Coast friend’s first birthday in LA, and they’ve been missing NYC. The best plan of action? Buy them a big ol’ bag of bagels, jump on the Metro, and head to Majordomo. From the people behind all things Momofuku, Majordomo 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 place your order for that one at least 24 hours in advance).
El Compadre, another classic spot right in Hollywood with a second location in Echo Park, is where you go for massive enchilada platters and margaritas that arrive at the table literally on fire. The expanded back patio is still somewhat limited on seats and given that it’s walk-ins only right now, definitely plan to wait a bit on the weekends. That said, you can always order a few rounds of flaming margaritas while you wait for your name to be called.