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good places for "Meet & Greet" dates -- Brentwood/Westwood/WLA/Santa Monica

sablouwho Jul 14, 2011 05:04 PM

I'm doing a lot of online dating and meeting my dates at Starbucks for the obligatory "meet and greet" first date is getting kind of old. I'm looking for two main types of places in WLA that are comfortable places for a casual date that can last as little as 30-45-60 minutes, but if things go well, can last a long time :

-- Coffee/Tea and or Dessert places (besides Literati and Coral Tree Cafe in Brentwood)
-- Drinks, appetizers, small plates, wine bar, lounge that has food or happy hour (not Palamino in Westwood!) -- it can be attached to a full-on restaurant but doesn't NEED to be an actual restaurant

The areas that I am looking for include:

Brentwood (especially near 405/Sunset as this is close to home), Westwood, Century City, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, Marina del Rey

Thank you -- whomever suggests a place where I meet my future husband is invited to the wedding! :-)

  1. h
    HaroldandMaude Jul 20, 2011 10:27 AM

    Sweet Rose Creamery

    Sweet Rose Creamery
    225 26th St #51, Los Angeles, CA 90049

    1. Emme Jul 19, 2011 06:22 PM

      i'm in the same (slow-sailing) boat. i won't commit to a meal for first meets either... a practice established for good reason.

      in Beverly Hills, i love to go to Bouchon Bistro or Bar Bouchon outside. it's great people watching. small bites if desired, alcohol if wanted... needed.

      also in BH, the Crescent Hotel has a lovely patio out front, esp in the summer.

      one last BH rec, Honor Bar. jazz, booze, walkability after...

      second Cafe Luxxe, Wilshire... really don't like the Brentwood (feels like Dirty Mistress club all the time).

      i wish you luck... too bad we can't all team up and mass shop and distribute the right suitors to the right partners... where is ChowDate.com anyway?

      Bouchon Bistro
      235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

      4 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
        Emme Jul 21, 2011 07:14 PM

        ...and somewhere in there (for me), a tolerance for others' tastes and willing to prepare/cook/bake things i don't like.

        to keep this on topic, i have used Mariscos Chente as a litmus test... if you don't like the idea of me ordering raw shrimp with the heads still on... well...

        when a recent date told me he liked all sorts of ethnic fare, and wanted to go to Mako (recommended by one of his co-workers), i was happy. then i ordered something raw, and he said, "well you won't be kissing me tonight." and i thought about and said, "i'm okay with that."


        Mariscos Chente
        4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

        1. re: Emme
          New Trial Jul 22, 2011 12:05 AM

          There was a Kevin Kline film called "The January Man" in which he played a former detective turned firefighter who would cook dinners for his dates consisting of decidedly non-mainstream dishes in order to determine who was a good match for him. While I have not gone to that extreme, I will admit to being biased in favor of women who are more eclectic (or at least open) when it comes to food. Restaurants like Lukshon, Orris, Picca and, to a lesser degree, Upstairs 2 are good for testing a first date's tolerances...as well as whether they are sharers.

          2006 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025

          Upstairs 2
          2311 Cotner Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90064

          3239 Helms Ave, Culver City, CA 90034

          9575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035

        2. re: goodhealthgourmet
          Emme Jul 21, 2011 10:42 PM

          to add...

          i've learned particular fear when i hear the words, "i want to take you to the best ______ restaurant." this is also generally followed by some permutation of "you'll be so glad you know me, and i opened your eyes to this unbelievably, incredibly fabulous place that you never knew about (even as a native who has spent most of my life here)." dates i've been offered (or taken upon): sushi mon, el cholo, barney's beanery....

          on the flip side, i've been happily wined and dined (most recently) at Bouchon, K-Zo, Wilshire, Pane e Vino, Playa, Gjelina, and Mariscos Chente, Huckleberry, Piccolo Paradiso, Kiyokawa, etc. too bad none of these fellows proved long term. they started off well.

          Pane e Vino
          8265 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

          Piccolo Paradiso
          150 South Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212

          Mariscos Chente
          4532 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

          9240 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

          1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

          1. re: Emme
            The Chowhound Team Jul 22, 2011 05:11 PM

            Folks we removed some chatty posts about the ups and downs of dating. We ask that everyone keep discussion focused on where and what you've eaten on your dates, because we are not chowdate.com.

            Thanks for understanding and have fun mingling out there!

          2. m
            maudies5 Jul 15, 2011 08:31 PM

            FWIW: The happiest couple I know had their first meet at The Brentwood ( a drink on a Sunday night). They have now been happily married for 4+ years and have 2 cute kids.. The Brentwood has a good bar menu and a kind of fun atmosphere. Definitely, worth a shot.

            4 Replies
            1. re: maudies5
              sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 11:52 PM

              Will reconsider Brentwood. It's certainly close by and the food was decent--certainly good enough for a drink/appetizer or impromptu meal. I find it gets pretty noisy there and that the bar area is small, but maybe if I'm careful what days of the week (avoiding obviously busy evenings) then it would be ok.

              Let's face it--I'm all for places that are close to home--I'm lazy when it comes to wanting to drive far for a meet-n-greet. I've been lucky that most of the men have been willing to venture out in my direction!

              1. re: TonyC
                sablouwho Jul 19, 2011 08:11 AM

                LOL, Tony! Mon night I went to Bar Toscana in Brentwood -- terrific place for a meet-n-greet--thanks to whomever made that suggestion. Had a bellini, the cheese plate and a lasagna slider. (I don't recommend the lasagna). Nice, attractive man but for reasons I won't go into, I doubt he will ask me out again so I don't think there will be a second date.

                Now, on Sun night, I had a second, late night, impromptu date just steps away from Bar Toscana, at the Coral Tree Cafe. (Our first date had been drinks at the Luxe Hotel). Both dates seem to have gone well and I'm hoping to be asked out for a 3rd...which I am hoping won't be so impromptu, and will be over dinner...I'm at the stage where I would feel comfortable letting him pick me up at home (but certainly not inviting him in, LOL, not near ready for that).

                The Coral Tree guy teaches a good lesson--while location of dates is important, who I am with is even more important! Had I been on a date with a man in whom I was less interested, Coral Tree would have been "meh". But since the chemistry was there, the patio of CTC felt kind of magical! (The nice kiss(es) I got goodnight didn't hurt either :-)

                Coral Tree Cafe
                11645 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                Toscana Restaurant
                11633 San Vicente Blvd Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                1. re: sablouwho
                  BSW6490 Jul 16, 2011 05:51 PM

                  The problem with The Brentwood is you wont be able to see your date. Darkest place in town. Divina accross the way, is quieter and although they dont have a sit down bar they do serve liquor and have a nice wine list. If you want to stay for dinner the food is exceptional and the mood is relaxed.

                  1. re: BSW6490
                    sablouwho Jul 16, 2011 08:39 PM

                    Divina is yum indeed. It isn't suitable for a meet-n-greet precisely because it lacks a bar area--one really only goes there to eat a meal, but for "real" dinner date, it's a PERFECT spot!

                    Totally agree w/you about The Brentwood's being so darned dark. AND noisy for that matter. Not ideal for a meet-n-greet due to these twin factors but do-able because there is a bar area.

              2. l
                la2tokyo Jul 15, 2011 07:14 PM

                Sonoma Wine Bar in Santa Monica Place is beautiful at sunset if the weather is nice.

                1. s
                  sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 09:10 AM

                  I haven't yet been to that new food marketplace thingie at Santa Monica Place -- does anyone know whether it would be good for this kind of thing? I already know I like Rockenwagner and Groundworks...

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: sablouwho
                    TonyC Jul 15, 2011 01:36 PM

                    no one has mentioned Tavern's (Brentwood) bar? Totally surprised. It's got a HH scene packed with well-to-doers, so in case one date doesn't work out, you just turn your body to the left (or right).

                    If it goes depressingly poorly, you can walk over to Compartes and drown yourself in chocolate.

                    1. re: TonyC
                      sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 01:43 PM

                      LOL re: "in case one date doesn't work out, you just turn your body to the left (or right)." As well as the Compartes comment--I really like their chocolate orange slices.

                      Gee--maybe I should just hand out at Tavern's HH to try and meet a nice man!?

                      Never been to Tavern for dinner (only the Larder, and for an iced tea at the bar on an otherwise bad date) but I am about to Google their HH menu momentarily.

                      Still chuckling, thanks for the suggestion!

                      1. re: sablouwho
                        yummyinmytummy Jul 15, 2011 03:01 PM


                        As a fellow internet dater - my one rule is that where ever i go must have valet.

                        Nothing worse than having a bad date (in your opinion) and then have the guy offer to walk you to your car.

                        I like the Avalon. Easy to have coffee, or a drink and IF it turns into a meal....the food is decent enough.

                        1. re: yummyinmytummy
                          sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 03:39 PM

                          EXCELLENT point, yummy! I'm laughing a laugh of recognition, but yeah, sometimes it isn't all that funny!

                          I looked up Avalon--do you mean the hotel in BH?

                          1. re: yummyinmytummy
                            TonyC Jul 15, 2011 03:54 PM

                            OOOO. Love the Avalon HH as well (though OP skipped Beverly Hills). Chef Mirko has finally found a home in Avalon and you can't really go wrong with blue drinks paired with $5 lil pizzas. That said, the eensy bar is crowded with (sometimes nutty) locals, and the lounge seems a LIL too conducive to friskiness. Great if you dude(tte) is hot, not so way if they're still wearing Drakkar Noir.

                            Valet is free for diners.

                            1. re: TonyC
                              sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 05:13 PM

                              Tony--I'm the OP--BH is a-okay w/me :-)

                            2. re: yummyinmytummy
                              westsidegal Jul 15, 2011 04:34 PM

                              i'm of the opposite opinion on this one.
                              once i had a meet-n-greet at the ritz carlton in marina del rey.
                              i ended up having to pay $16 to get my car from their valet even WITH validation.

                              would have preferred to have spent that $16 on a truffle pizza and a drink at cafe del rey happy hour.....

                              1. re: yummyinmytummy
                                goodhealthgourmet Jul 15, 2011 07:45 PM

                                ha! that is an excellent point. i had a couple of pretty bad first dates at Avalon years ago when i lived in BH - i think i have a mental block against recommending it :)

                                other ideas in BH - Nic's on Canon Drive, Bar 210 in the Beverly Hilton...and if the first date goes well, Bar Noir is a great spot for drinks for a second date ;)

                        2. s
                          silence9 Jul 15, 2011 09:01 AM

                          Hello.. I think Lemonade (either in Venice, or the new location actually in Brentwood) would be perfect. Great creative small-plate salads, hearty pannini, and fun desserts and beverages (cucumber lemonade, watermelon lemonade, etc.). Hip yet casual...See you at the wedding! :-)

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: silence9
                            sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 09:18 AM

                            Hi Silence--thanks for speaking up :-) I've seen Lemonade in Venice and on Beverly and have always been curious, and indeed, the new Brentwood location is very convenient for me. You've inspired me to go check it out. Sounds WAY more interesting that the Starbucks that is just a few blocks down. The beverages sound great!

                            The ink is drying on your invitation :-)

                            1. re: silence9
                              westsidegal Jul 15, 2011 11:02 AM

                              having participated in a number of these meet-n-greets,
                              i'd avoid lemonade and all other places that involve taking a tray, standing in line, jockeying for a table, etc.
                              i prefer any decent hotel coffee shop/snack bar/lounge/ lobby-lounge at which there is a waitstaff to bring your food/drink to you and at whcih there is a likelyhood of a nice vacant table being available.
                              i HATE standing around with a paper coffee cup looking for a place to sit, standing there juggling coffee and my purse.
                              also, for any kind of preliminary date, i will always try to avoid being in a cafeteria-type situation.
                              also, during the day, i try to avoid any restaurant/coffee shop that is likely to be inundated with the stroller brigade.

                              1. re: westsidegal
                                maudies5 Jul 15, 2011 11:27 AM

                                All good points, westsidegal. (thumbs up).

                                1. re: westsidegal
                                  sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 12:47 PM

                                  Good points, Westsidegal. Maybe I will just go to Lemonade by myself--I got excited about the menu when I read it, but didn't realize it was "cafeteria style".

                                  Hmmm...I've recently been to the Luxe Hotel on Sunset for a few of these meet and greets (one of them was with a guy who actually WILL get a second date if he asks, which I am sensing he might :-) -- it's close to home, and you get 3 hours free valet w/bar or restaurant validation, so all I have to pay for parking is the tip for the valet--a great deal! If it weren't for the construction/closure of South Church Lane @ Sunset, I could actually walk to the Luxe. (Or to the Angeleno, for that matter). Of course, walking would mean I wouldn't want to wear heels that were too high...

                                  Since you are (or were) doing the same dating thing that I am--if you have any specific locations that you think are particularly great that you can share I'd be most appreciative.

                                  I basically live very close to the 405/Sunset (ground zero for Carmageddon--it will no doubt be a fun weekend--eek!) so if you (or anyone else reading) has a location nearby this area, that would be terrific.

                                  I am liking another poster's suggestion upthread for Bar Toscana, and West at the Angeleno is also another hotel that fits the description of what you suggest, though I don't know about parking validation and again--due to construction right now I cannot safely cross Sunset on foot to get there.

                                  Any thoughts on Bel Air Bar & Grill?

                                  Toscana Restaurant
                                  11633 San Vicente Blvd Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                  1. re: sablouwho
                                    westsidegal Jul 15, 2011 04:24 PM

                                    i have a favorite place near my house, but it's way too far from you.
                                    i absolutely recommend that you stay near your own neighborhood for these meet-n-greets.
                                    sadly, i don't live anywhere near you so can't make any really good recommendations.

                                    that said, even though i'm not a fan of their food, the closest "proper environment" place that i can think of to you is still far: westside tavern on pico. i'd imagine that they'd be OK with having you take up a table to order just coffee and dessert. the restaurant is pretty enough, and, in my experience, their service is so slow that there is virtually no chance that they would rush you.

                                    1. re: sablouwho
                                      maudies5 Jul 15, 2011 06:21 PM

                                      Bel Air Bar & Grill is no longer in business. I agree with others who have recommended Tavern. There is a terrific bar menu and the drinks are good, seating is comfortable and service is friendly. Very nice ambiance. Great desserts if you just want to meet initially, for dessert. The homemade Snickers bar is to die for.

                                      1. re: maudies5
                                        sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 11:48 PM

                                        Thanks for the update re: Bel Air Bar & Grill. I sure hope a new (and yummy) resto opens up in that location as it is very close to home. I only went there a few times in the 10 years I've been living in the neighborhood--it was never the kind of place that drew me in, despite excellent proximity and nice atmosphere.

                                    2. re: westsidegal
                                      sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 02:27 PM

                                      So, it's too late to amend my OP, but I'd like to say that I am really looking for places other than those that are -so- casual that one must stand in line to order/pay at the counter, grabbing a tray, and so on. My bad for not being able to articulate this from the get-go.

                                      I guess I'm just looking for some new places to try that are interesting and non-corporate, perhaps a little sophisticated/interesting/unusual without being stuffy or formal.

                                      The exception to the "no ordering at the counter" preference is not ironclad though, just a guideline, as I'd hate to not hear about neat places such as, say, Balconi Coffee Company...which is the style of place that could work for a meet-n-greet because it's nice, non-corporate, interesting, etc.

                                      1. re: sablouwho
                                        goodhealthgourmet Jul 15, 2011 07:39 PM

                                        how about the bar at West Restaurant & Lounge in the Hotel Angeleno? it's definitely close to home.

                                        and if you ever want to venture down to Venice, the back patio at Primitivo on Abbot Kinney is lovely for small plates & wine. there's also Lilly's French Cafe...or the Novel Cafe in SM...and The Misfit - a new spot in SM - looks promising for a casual first date.

                                        Hotel Angeleno
                                        170 N Church Ln, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                        1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

                                  2. y
                                    yogachik Jul 15, 2011 08:43 AM

                                    Bar Toscana, Bar Food, Arsenal, Upper West, R+D...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: yogachik
                                      maudies5 Jul 15, 2011 09:16 AM

                                      Bar Toscana is a great suggestion!!!!

                                      Toscana Restaurant
                                      11633 San Vicente Blvd Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                      1. re: yogachik
                                        sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 09:35 AM

                                        Bar Toscana looks gorgeous--and it's close to home. Other rec's look good too--THANK YOU!

                                        Toscana Restaurant
                                        11633 San Vicente Blvd Ste 100, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                      2. a
                                        AAQjr Jul 14, 2011 06:49 PM


                                        Cafe Luxxe / Brentwood country mart

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: AAQjr
                                          sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 07:15 AM

                                          Of course, I forgot that Cafe Luxxe has another location there---I've been by this one but never been in. Thank you.

                                          Doesn't hurt that it's right next to Sweet Rose Creamery either :-)

                                          And if the date went REALLY well, Villeta is just across the street!

                                          I always forget about Amandine. I've had some great baked goods there, a not-that-great cuppa tea (I'm a big tea drinker) and some not-that-great food. I think it may have some of the same issues as Huckleberry in terms of atmosphere. Of course, that doesn't stop me from wanting their croissants!

                                          Sweet Rose Creamery
                                          225 26th St #51, Los Angeles, CA 90049

                                          1. re: sablouwho
                                            nosh Jul 21, 2011 12:10 PM

                                            You are right about Amandine's croissants -- best in town, and only $1.95 takeout. While their omelettes and sandwiches are nothing special to me, their quiche and french toast are both excellent -- the foods to get there.

                                        2. a
                                          andytseng Jul 14, 2011 06:14 PM

                                          I would go w/ Huckleberry Cafe

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: andytseng
                                            sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 07:12 AM

                                            Love their food but the atmosphere (loud, long lines for everything, squished in like sardines--no room for private conversation) would, I think, make it a difficult/awkward place for a first date.

                                            HOWEVER -- I am really glad you mentioned them anyway...it makes me realize that going to Rustic Canyon across the street for a glass of wine at the bar, or for dessert, would be very nice!


                                          2. j
                                            Juji Jul 14, 2011 05:13 PM

                                            How about Urth Caffe in Santa Monica? The outdoor area is quaint and the Spanish latte is pretty yummy. Not cheap, though.

                                            Urth Caffe
                                            2327 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Juji
                                              sablouwho Jul 15, 2011 07:16 AM

                                              Juji--thanks, great idea! You've done me much good with BOTH of your replies to each of my recent questions!

                                            2. n
                                              nosh Jul 14, 2011 05:10 PM

                                              Wilshire is a good option. When you enter you are in a nice bar area that has tables surrounding. You can meet there and have a drink, and they serve both a bar menu and food from the restaurant there. They also had a $15 special dinner, at least on weekdays -- I'm not certain that is still going on. If things go great, you can progress to dinner in the restaurant.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: nosh
                                                sablouwho Jul 14, 2011 05:18 PM

                                                I will check into that $15 special dinner, sounds like a great deal, thanks!

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