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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman EightyTwo

The best bars in Los Angeles for a first date

Planning a killer first date? You'll want to swipe right for one of these swoon-worthy bars.

By Kate Wertheimer and Erin Kuschner

It's tough enough being single in LA, but when you finally score a first date, the challenge becomes finding the perfect place to meet. While we can't promise fireworks between you and your new fling, these cocktail bars, breweries and other date-worthy spots will at least help kick-start a conversation. Avoid the whole "no, no, you choose the spot," take matters into your own hands and meet your next match at one of these prime first date bars.

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Bars Downtown Arts District

If ever there was a bar to geek out (and flirt) in, this one is it. LA's first barcade (that's bar + arcade for you noobs) boasts more than 40 classic consoles, from Centipede to Ms. Pac-Man—all fixed with cup holders for endless booze-fueled sessions. If you can see the latest high score projected on a wall toward the back, then you've found the only bar in the joint, where you and your date can choose from cocktails with names like Princess Peach, Zangief and Power Up. Those less inclined to spend all of their hard-earned quarters can head to the tree-filled courtyard outside to nosh on food truck bites or steal some kisses under the stars.

The Misfit

Bars Gastropubs Santa Monica

With its high, tinned ceilings, vintage tiled floors and columns, and ambient globe lighting, you could almost mistake the Misfit’s interior for 20th century Paris—you know, the city of love, aka the perfect place to begin a potential romance. To be honest, it's their fantastic happy hour that usually makes us gush about this Santa Monica bar and restaurant—noon-7pm, every day of the week. There aren't multiple TVs to distract you, and every visit ends with one of The Misfit's sea salt, chocolate chip cookies, which will most definitely merit a return visit—date or no date. Bonus: If all goes well, you can head down to the beach for a long walk and some smooching.


Sunset Beer Company

Bars Beer bars Echo Park

This beer store and bar offers a gigantic selection of brewskies, from West Coast microbrews to rare Belgian ales and small production specialty bottles. You and your date could spend half an hour (or more) just perusing the refrigerated cases, getting to know each other's taste, before you crack one open at the bar for a small corkage fee. There are also local brews on tap, and the space hosts special events such as a beer and cheese tasting with Stone Brewing's master brewer. The staff are super knowledgeable and friendly—no beer snobs here—and the atmosphere is cozy, with board games galore (challege your date!), comfy plush chairs for getting close and a smoking, dog-friendly area outside. There's also a decent pizza place next door to extend your date and help you soak up all that delicious booze.

Bodega Wine Bar

Bars Wine bars Santa Monica

Does Tinder have a deal with Bodega or something? Walk into this charming Santa Monica wine bar on a weeknight and you'll find people eyeing each other warily before extending a tentative, "Hey, are you...?" Maybe it's the dim lighting, maybe it's the affordable list of vino (stop by on a Monday, when prices are slashed all night long), but this is the spot where potential couples come to canoodle. Low tables with comfortable seating allows for a more relaxed vibe (you can move to the couches later in the night when things heat up), and to keep from getting too sloshed, the menu features bacon-wrapped dates and tomato bruscetta, among other finger foods.


Good Times at Davey Wayne's

Bars Dive bars Hollywood

Good Times at Davey Wayne’s takes us back to the 1970s via an operational garage sale. After browsing records, clothing and other vintage paraphernalia on the street (great conversation starters to break the first date ice), you’ll find the portal to this booze-fueled time machine—an old refrigerator. Step through its door and you’re instantly transported to a house party in the era of hard rock, sideburns and shag carpeting. Vintage beer cans and retro tchotchkes surround the tufted bar, where bartenders whip up craft cocktails with forgotten spirits and draught beer is served in novelty mugs. Outside, snow cones and tiki drinks are doled out from a repurposed trailer in the “backyard,” where, if you’re lucky, you might catch a rooftop roller show. You and your date can sing along to '70s hits (trust us, you both know the words) or flirtatioulsy trash talk over a game of shuffleboard or giant jenga. Dig it.

Bigfoot West

Bars Lounges Palms

Fellas, this is the place to throw on some flannel, order a whiskey (they have over 100 varieties here) and fulfill every woman's lumberjack dream. From the fireplace to the signage, rendered in that quaint '50s National Park font, every log cabin winter experience you've ever endured will come flooding back when you step through the doors of this engaging spot. Dim lighting and a fantastic happy hour (5am-9pm every day of the week) makes this Westside spot both cozy and affordable. Be sure to check the calendar for frequent trivia nights (there's nothing sexier than being able to correctly identify the only metal that's not solid at room temperature) and live music performances.


Spin Standard

Things to do Games and hobbies Downtown Financial District

Susan Sarandon is here to help you engage in a little friendly competition on your first date. Spin Standard, a ping pong club which the actress owns with André Balazs, sits on one of the top floors at the Standard Hotel Downtown, where the after-work crowd and date night couples spread out across the two-roomed space. Eleven ping pong tables are available for prime flirting, but if you're losing to your date and would rather watch from the sidelines, saddle up to one of the three bars for signature cocktails like the Drop Shot (vodka, ginger syrup, lychee puree and lime juice) or the Peppery Paddle Whacker (vodka, lemon bitters, black pepper simple syrup, lemon and cucumber). $20 gets you an hour of play time before 5pm—$30 after 5pm—and you can always end the night by stealing a kiss by the Standard's rooftop pool.

Angel City Brewery

Bars Breweries Downtown Arts District

Unless you're a craft beer fanatic, picking a brewery as a first date spot might not appeal to everyone. But that's the beauty of Angel City Brewing—whether you home brew or haven't graduated beyond Bud Light, an evening spent at this Downtown Arts District brewery is never time lost. Plenty of space—including a more intimate mezzanine area—allows for some quality getting-to-know-you conversation, which can be had over a fierce game of Jenga, Uno, or one of the many other games on hand. Want to show off your smarts? Come for Taco and Trivia Tuesdays. If the date isn't going well, at least you can eat your feelings with Taqueria el Severo's al pastor tacos, served up in the parking lot.


The Daily Pint

Bars Beer bars Santa Monica

At first glance, this might look like your standard dive, but step inside and take a closer look—there are hundreds of bottles of whiskey cluttering the shelves and an impressive, ever-changing line-up of craft brews on tap, from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Cocoa Mole to Firestone Double DBA. Discuss the pros and cons of brews versus booze with your date, taste a few options, get a li'l tipsy. Then grab a bottle or glass and head to the adjoining room for a game of pool or shuffleboard—two table games over which many an eye have been made.

The Spare Room

Bars Cocktail bars Hollywood

Tucked away on the second floor of Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, the Spare Room is like stepping into another era where classic cocktails and punch bowls—served by waitresses in Gatsby-era dresses—pour freely and people make merry all night long. The big draw here is Monday game night, when an exclusive bowling league competes (get on the waitlist to high-five with Hollywood's pretty young things). Groups of up to six—clad in Spare Room's George Esquivel–designed bowling shoes and argyle socks—can reserve one of two lanes for $100 an hour. Or just chill in the lounge and cozy up to your date with a friendly game of dominoes, Monopoly, Connect Four or Battleship.


Steingarten LA

Restaurants Westwood

Near Fox Studios in Rancho Park, Abraham Berookhim planted a "California beer garden," aka "perfect first date spot," with craft beer featured in a communal dining hall with a retractable skylight. The space also incorporates a back patio with a fire pit—a 20-foot wide art piece crafted from 360 tiles, very romantic—and a full bar. Sausages fall into three categories: Old Country (bockwurst), New Country (lamb spicy sausage) and Game ("Alaska grade" elk). They’ve also got burgers, bar bites, and a top-notch craft beer program. For date number two, look out for brewery events, pairing dinners and special beer tastings scheduled by the bar’s hop-fueled beer maven David Watrous.

Cheese and charcuterie board at Luna Vine
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Luna Vine Wine Bar

Bars Wine bars San Fernando Valley

Between the top-notch vino and engaging staff, this Magnolia Park gem is just the spot to woo your 85% match with excellent wine and a well-crafted cheese plate. Sure, a wine bar may sound a little daunting for a first date, but Luna Vine has more of a neighborhood feel, with comfortable, casual seating and regulars that are happy to offer their own suggestions as well. Choose from a well-curated selection of wines that range from a Santa Barbara calm, cool and collected 2010 White Hawk Cordon Syrah to Coto de Hayas' brazenly bold 2011 "Garnacha Centenaria." The atmosphere is pure merriment, without even an ounce of pretension—not like that Tinder dude that keeps sending you pics of his package.

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