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Heart-shaped box of tacos from Gogo's tacos.
Gogo’s Tacos
(Gogo’s Tacos)

The best restaurants for date night

There are infinite ways to define a romantic meal. You might opt for white tablecloths, tuxedoed servers and plated perfection, but you’d do just as well to hit the streets for a food crawl, order a heart-shaped box of street tacos or avoid the crowds with a weekday brunch or an afternoon wine tasting. The guide that follows is a hodgepodge of date ideas that ranges from messy handheld meals to limited multicourse engagements. While a few of these dinners are specific to Valentine’s Day, all of the options featured are worth visiting year-round.

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An overhead photo of a Margherita pizza topped with burrata, atop which is caviar.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)


Fairfax Italian Pizza $$$
Family-owned pizza kitchen Ronan is bringing back caviar specials for Valentine’s Day, available exclusively for takeout via ChowNow. In the name of romance and decadence, you can add caviar to anything your heart desires, but the suggestion is to add it to the Margherita and burrata pizza. The full regular menu will be available in addition to specials like steak tartare laced with arugula, shallots and caviar and a kingfish crudo zested with citrus, chive and caviar.
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Crawfish, shrimp, corn and sausage from the Boiling Crab.
(The Boiling Crab)

The Boiling Crab

Westwood Seafood $$
The Boiling Crab may test your relationship more than any other restaurant in the city — in a good way. First, there’s the wait. Regardless of the Boiling Crab location (Orange County, Burbank, Koreatown, Rosemead, Westwood, etc.), you’re looking at a good hour, maybe 90 minutes. Once you get a table, you’ll need to put on a bib. When the food comes, you’ll be presented with plastic bags full of crab, shrimp, sausage and whatever else you decided to throw in there, all in a spicy red sauce with plenty of garlic, if you order the Whole Shebang. (Order the Whole Shebang — it’s a mix of the restaurant’s Cajun sauce, lemon pepper sauce and garlic sauce.) The sauce will be on your chin, in your hair and your eyes and on your hands. You will use at least half a pack of napkins in an attempt to look presentable. And when you leave, you will both reek of garlic. The entire ordeal, including the wait, will be exhausting. But it will be delicious and you will confirm that your love for each other is real. (If you’re in Koreatown, the only question is whether to get HoneyMee next door for dessert.) And yes, they offer takeout. So you can do all of the above in the comfort of your home.
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Four bottles of wine on a wood-topped table
(Joy Limanon)

Wine tasting

Santa Monica Coffeehouse Wine Bars $
Goodboybob coffee roaster is getting boozy for Valentine’s Day with a “Wine for Lovers” event at its Santa Monica location on Saturday, Feb. 11, from noon to 5 p.m. The tasting will be led by Goodboybob’s sommelier, Rosemary Walker, who will pour wines highlighting four different industry duos. At $25 per person (with a presale discount of $5 with the code “boozy5”), it’s an affordable option for those who prefer to avoid evening dinner crowds.
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Hands with manicured fingernails hold a lobster roll.


Santa Monica Korean American $$
Miraculously, this label-defying restaurant from husband-and-wife team Angie and Daniel Kim still has plenty of seatings available for its prix fixe Valentine’s Day-themed dinner on Saturday, Feb. 11. The coffee house, sake bar and day-to-night restaurant is featuring some of its most beloved dishes for the one-night dinner, including caviar toast; the lobster roll; a filet mignon with celery root puree; and honey butter toast made with Ginza Nishikawa milk bread.
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The No. 1 Banh Xeo with pork, shrimp, mushroom, bean sprouts, egg and onion.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Banh Xeo Quan

Rosemead Vietnamese $
The best date food (gleaned from years of experience as a serial first dater) should be eaten with your hands. My go-to dish? Banh xeo. And my favorite spot? A tiny restaurant in Rosemead called Banh Xeo Quan. Order the No. 1, or what I like to call the comes-with-everything crepe. The pale yellow, half-moon-shaped crepe is jammed with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, sliced mushrooms and onion. The crepe itself, made with rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric, is delicate but sturdy, with a slightly chewy middle. Served alongside is a mound of lettuce, fresh herbs (mint and purple basil among them) and a cup of seasoned fish sauce. Tear off pieces of the banh xeo and use the lettuce leaves and fresh herbs to wrap the shards of crepe and bits of filling. Then dunk your wraps into the fish sauce. The surreal crunch of the hot crepe juxtaposed with the shrimp, the bean sprouts and the cool fresh herbs is nothing short of sublime. Having a good time is effortless when something tastes this good. Things will get messy as you spill the sauce and fling bean sprouts on every inch of the table, but that’s the point.
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Dessert buffet by pastry chef JR Ryall
(Cliodhna Prendergast/Cliodhna Prendergast)

Caldo Verde

Downtown L.A. Portuguese Spanish $$$
The convivial lobby-floor restaurant from Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne at the downtown L.A. Proper Hotel is celebrating Valentine’s Day with a four-course prix fixe dinner, including a dessert buffet from guest pastry chef JR Ryall of Ireland’s iconic Ballymaloe House. Ryall published “Ballymaloe Desserts” last fall and will have copies of the cookbook available for purchase through Now Serving. The dinner menu includes blinis with caviar, Schaner Farms’ citrus and avocado with beet puree and an entree platter for two, with options like a spiced vegetable tagine and grilled Wagyu coulotte. Some of the desserts featured in the buffet include lemon meringue tartlets, moss pudding, Irish apple cake and chocolate eclairs. The Valentine’s Day dinner is $145 per person with seatings between 5 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
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Pouring tea from a glass beaker into two white ceramic cups on a wooden board.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Chinatown food crawl

Chinatown Chinese Teahouse $
Walking through the Chinatown Central Plaza, under the soft lights of hanging lanterns above, always feels romantic. Chinatown offers a multitude of options for a great date night. Start with afternoon tea at Steep, where you can get cozy over a warm pot of Cloud Mist tea. Then walk down Broadway and peruse the various shops and markets. Make your way to Yang Chow restaurant for a big bowl of spicy wonton soup, then over to Kim Chuy at Far East Plaza for some crispy pan-fried leek cakes. End the night across the plaza with an ice cream cone, or two, at Scoops.
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Scallop crudo and a bottle of Tamano Hikari Junmai Daiginjo sake at Good Clean Fun.
(Sofia Nilsson)

Good Clean Fun

Downtown L.A. Wine Shop Italian American $$
The all-natural wine bar in downtown’s South Park neighborhood is switching things up with seafood and sake pairings throughout the month of February. See how scallop crudo pairs with the dry Tamano Hikari Junmai Daiginjo or celebrate Valentine’s Day a day late and partake in Wine Wednesday, with five-wine flights offered for just $25 from 6 to 9 p.m. You can also go the more traditional route and try to snag reservations for the shared Valentine’s Day menu that begins with an amuse bouche of bubbles and mini caviar pizzas.
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Buttermilk fried chicken and waffle
(Poppy + Rose)

Poppy + Rose

Downtown L.A. Breakfast/Brunch Southern $$
Maybe it’s the wafting scents from the Original Los Angeles Flower Market across the street, but there’s something about Poppy + Rose’s light-dappled dining room that infuses a sense of optimism. The restaurant is offering Valentine’s Day brunch from Friday, Feb. 10, through Thursday, Feb. 16, which is especially convenient if the only time you can sneak away to celebrate is during your lunch break. The regular menu of Southern-inspired favorites will be available, like buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits and biscuits and gravy, plus themed drinks like a pink rose latte and a red raspberry cocktail with tequila, raspberry, citrus and rose foam. The flower market likely will be closed by the time you’ve finished brunch, but you can score extra points by heading there early to grab a bouquet or plant for your date.
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The Cupid Dog, with mustard, onion and chili from Cupid's Hot Dogs
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Cupid’s Hot Dogs

Northridge American $
With a name like that, this shouldn’t be a hard sell. When Richard and Bernice Walsh opened the stand in the late 1940s, it was called Walsh’s Hot Dogs. Shortly after, they changed the name to include Bernice’s nickname, Cupid. Now, the Walshes’ granddaughters Kelly and Morgan run the business. It’s a cute backstory to share with your date. But the most compelling reason to visit is the Cupid dog. This is the chili dog you envision when you’re craving a chili dog. Cupid’s uses Vienna dogs with a casing that snaps, nestled in a steamed, chewy bun with a squirt of mustard and a sprinkle of raw onion. Then comes the chili, a rich, thick, tawny goop that clings to and stains anything it touches, artfully applied so that it doesn’t spill over the bun. For an extra 50 cents, you can have a handful of shredded cheddar. Add the cheese. If you’re vegetarians, there is a plant-based sausage option as well. The chili, like the golden memory you’re bound to create toasting Cupid Dogs, is the kind that will stick with you for a while after dinner.
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A heart-shaped box of tacos
(Gogo’s Tacos)

Heart-shaped box of tacos

Koreatown Mexican $
Nab the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner and gift in one with heart-shaped taco and buñuelo boxes from Gogo’s Tacos. Buñuelos are $10 a box, and tacos are eight for $25 or $75 for 25 tacos, with salsa, a handful of limes and chopped onions and cilantro nestled in the center of the heart.

Popular Sunday Smorgasburg vendor Evil Cooks is also offering a heart-shaped box of tacos for Valentine’s Day. Each box comes with 10 tacos and your choice of up to two proteins, including signature off-kilter fillings like black pastor, carnitas, black asada and black vegetarian pastor for $50 plus tax. You can upgrade to octopus tacos, but the price will jump to reflect the market. A dessert box includes your choice of two flan or churro cheesecake tacos for $15 plus tax — or treat yourself (and your partner) to both for $60 plus tax. Orders can be placed via Instagram DM.
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Pupusas from Vchos Pupuseria Moderna at BLVD Market in Montebello.
(Jenn Harris)


Montebello Cajun cuisine Mexican Italian $$
For those who want a little variety on Valentine’s Day, head to one of the many food halls in and around Los Angeles or Orange County. BLVD MKT in Montebello offers a variety of cuisines in an intimate setting with a cute courtyard patio. Start the evening with pupusas from Vchos Pupuseria Moderna. You can take turns making each other bites of cheese and loroco pupusa, curtido and salsa roja. Then maybe grab a meat-strewn Godfather pizza from La Crosta. And for dessert, there are churros and ice cream at Pez Cantina. Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. is also a favorite, as is the Anaheim Packing House and Rodeo 39 in Stanton.
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A tea tower with chef-curated pastries, a tea pot and cup of tea at Lovers' Lane High Tea & Highballs at Lilly Rose.
(Eddie Sanchez)

High tea and highballs

Downtown L.A. Teahouse Cocktails $$
Slip down the rabbit hole to the underground speakeasy at the Wayfarer hotel, where you’ll be treated to a playful spin on high tea. Lilly Rose is hosting Lovers’ Lane High Tea & Highball every Wednesday through Sunday in February from 2 to 6 p.m, including one-of-a-kind teas, tea-infused cocktails and chef-prepared towers with pastries and bites.
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Lydia Clarke pours a glass of Champagne Fleury with a serving of Langres cheese at Kippered Bar
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)


Downtown L.A. American $$
This is the place to go if you want to feel fancy: There are no white tablecloths or set menus, but what Kippered does have is cheese served with a whole lot of Champagne. The Langres, a cow’s-milk cheese from the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, is served with Champagne poured directly onto the small round of cheese. You cut away slices of the cheese and spread them onto crackers, using a knife to lap up some of the pooled Champagne onto each bite. And when you’re finished, you drink the excess Champagne from the plate.
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A variety of picnic items from Altadena Beverage and Market and Armen Market in Pasadena.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Picnic date

Altadena American Italian $$
There are plenty of places that sell the perfect provisions for a picnic date. Altadena Beverage Market, located in North Pasadena, is a favorite. The fridge is stocked with everything you’ll need to make a charcuterie board, plus crackers, olives and nuts. There’s always fresh bread and a good selection of tinned fish, chips and popcorn. Tuesday also happens to be flower day at the shop, with plenty of blooms for a special bouquet.

Just across the street is Armen Market, where you’ll find fresh pita, hummus and a variety of other dips along with baklava and other sweets from the local bakeries in the area. Pack a basket and a blanket and drive about five minutes southeast over to Victory Park for a romantic picnic.
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A double cheeseburger from Heavy Handed in Santa Monica.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Heavy Handed

Santa Monica American $
The Heavy Handed double cheeseburger is a messy burger. There will be “heavy sauce” (a Thousand Island-inspired pink sauce) on the corners of your mouth and on your fingers and probably a little grease from the patty and the American cheese. It is not a dish you can eat gracefully, and you do it with your hands. This is a place you should go with someone you’re comfortable getting messy with. And after burgers there are cones filled with soft serve dipped in a thin shell of chocolate, butterscotch or funfetti (I’m very into the chocolate). You can eat the cones staring up at the stars on the patio or take them along for a stroll on the beach nearby.

If you’re plant-based, head to Burgerlords in Highland Park or Chinatown. The patties are made in-house with dozens of vegetables, nuts, grains and spices (this is not an imitation meat situation), and there are crispy tofu nuggets too.
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People dip chopsticks into Hot Pot
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Hai Di Lao

Irvine Chinese $$
The couple that hot pots together stays together. Like most hot pot restaurants, this chain lets you choose multiple broths and custom-build your own dipping sauce from a sauce bar. I repeat, a sauce bar. No more romantic words were ever written. There’s plenty of chile, sesame, soy and everything in between. You can get to know each other while dipping mushrooms, wafer-thin slices of rib-eye and dumplings into a bubbling, red-tinted broth spiked with Sichuan peppercorns. And for the ultimate compatibility test, take turns creating the perfect bite for each other. Multiple locations in Los Angeles and Orange County.
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The Macau-style pork chop at Pearl River Deli.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

Pearl River Deli

Chinatown Cantonese $
Sadly, Johnny Lee’s Pearl River Deli will be closing on Sunday, Feb. 26, to reevaluate the business model and hopefully reopen sometime in March with a more sustainable version. That means you can order a takeout meal of mapo tofu, shrimp and pork wontons, a Macau pork chop bun or whatever other limited dishes Lee decides to feature in the final weeks before the short-term closure. Have a “Lady and the Tramp” moment with soy-seasoned egg noodles or test your true love by asking for the last bite of char siu.
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Two cups of ice cream sit on a shelf
(Ja Tecson)

Ice cream for dinner

Alhambra Ice cream $
Why not eat ice cream for dinner? This can be accomplished at any number of scoop shops around town: McConnell’s, Salt & Straw, Carmela. Or visit Zen Ong’s Awan ice cream window in West Hollywood, where he’s whipping up cloud-like plant-based ice creams made with kishu mandarins, yuzu and Indonesian coffee. If you’re going to go old-school, head to Fosselman’s in Alhambra. There are more than four dozen flavors to choose from, so take your time and choose wisely. Get three scoops so you can each pick your favorite, then compromise on the third. Order an extra swirl of whipped cream, get two cherries on top and head to one of the cafe tables to dig in. For an after-dinner activity, maybe you can each pick out a bag of candy for the other. Because nothing says “I love you” like a pound of lemon drops or caramel mocha taffy.
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Boneless short rib on the grill at Jeong Yuk Jeom in Koreatown
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Korean BBQ

Koreatown Korean $$$
You should have a favorite Korean BBQ restaurant. We live in a city with the best Koreatown. Know a good place and take your date there. If you need a recommendation, here are a few: Jeong Yuk Jeom is the Korean equivalent of a swanky American steakhouse. The meats are prime, in some cases dry-aged, and the restaurant has multiple “butcher’s pride” sets you can order for two. You can add your name to the waitlist via Yelp before you arrive and use our restaurant critic Bill Addison’s review as a guide. For something more casual, I’m partial to Soowon Galbi, which specializes in its namesake marinated short ribs. Park’s BBQ, with its top-notch meat and excellent banchan, is also a favorite. But this is your night. Visit your favorite and end the night in a heart-shaped cloud of meat-scented smoke.
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Carmen's nachos from El Cholo restaurant.
(Wales Communications)


Mid-City Mexican $
Create a memorable night tucked into a booth at the original El Cholo on Western Avenue. You may each have your favorites on the menu. Go ahead and order that enchilada, but make sure you share a plate of Carmen’s nachos and a round of margaritas. An unfussy plate of nicely fried tortilla chips covered in melted cheese is inherently comforting. The chips are not piled high on the platter but arranged as a relatively flat layer, making it possible to almost completely cover each one with cheese. The structure of the nachos is key, and you can have your own “Lady and the Tramp” moment with a cheesy chip. If queso is more your thing, head over to HomeState (there are five locations to choose from), where the hot liquid cheese is plentiful. Multiple locations for each at and
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Thai Boat Noodle soup with pork broth and white rice noodles from Pa Ord.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Pa Ord Noodle

East Hollywood Thai $
There is something deeply pleasurable about a bowl of noodles so spicy that it makes your eyes water. This is true romance, with a side of Kleenex and chile. So head to one of the Pa Ord Noodle locations in Thai Town and order a big bowl of Thai boat noodle soup to share. When the server asks, “How spicy?” you’ll need to make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Mild comes with a small scoop of chile flakes; medium comes with more. And spicy is lashed with enough chile to have you both crying, but in a good way. The rich, dark pork broth is served with fish balls, slices of pork and pork liver, your choice of noodles, sprigs of cilantro and a handful of crumbled chicharrones. If you order spicy, the heat will start at the back of your throat, then creep along your tongue and eventually engulf the lower half of your face. Just breathe, hold hands across the table, embrace the pain and cry some chile tears together.
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Heart-shaped Neapolitan pizza on a cutting board, a glass of red wine and a glass of rose from La Pizza & La Pasta.
(Eataly LA)

Eataly L.A.

Century City Italian $$
Traipsing aimlessly through the multistory Eataly location at Westfield Century City — with its aisles overflowing with dried pasta shapes, fresh-baked breads and charcuterie — is about as close as we can get to replicating the feeling of running through a toy store as a child. While the Italian marketplace may not be offering that specific experience, you can dig into a heart-shaped Neapolitan pizza or a seafood pasta paired with a Valentine’s Day-themed Cupid’s Dust cocktail at La Pizza & La Pasta. Eataly’s newest dining concept, Capri, will feature a special menu with local seafood and produce, while Terra offers a prix fixe menu on the rooftop. All Valentine’s Day menu specials are available for lunch and dinner from Saturday, Feb. 11, through Tuesday, Feb. 14.
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