Travel

Restaurants with Great Communal Tables & Bars

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Valentine’s Day sucks if you don’t have a date. And this year, Valentine’s Day also happens to be on a Saturday. If you want to go out, but don’t want to deal with a cheesy prix fixe or rose-topped tables, a seat at a communal table or a deep bar is generally a sound, reservation-proof choice. In fact, if you’re single, please grab a seat at that communal table and then tell us what happens @goop #goopinlove and we’ll regram our favorites.

Son of a Gun

8370 W. 3rd St., West Hollywood | 323.782.9033

Styled to look like an East Coast clam shack (buoys, taxidermied fish, and life belts line the wood-paneled walls), Son of a Gun is one of those spots that could probably routinely fill a space five times its size. While you might have to wait for a seat, the linguine and clams, peel-and-eat shrimp, insane sashimis, shrimp toast, smoked trout with crackers, and mini lobster rolls fully justify the time spent. Though one of their biggest hits, the fried chicken sandwich, has nothing to do with the sea.

Crossroads

8284 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood | 323.782.9245

Only in LA would the bar inside a vegan restaurant be a major scene (it's kind of the best place to sit for a full meal, too). While vegan food never seems to get the upscale touch, it's not the case at Tal Ronnen’s dimly-lit, luxurious bistro. There’s no mention on the menu of the fact that every dish is plant-based: Hearts of palm masquerade as crab cakes and calamari, and almonds pretend they’re cheese. Without the clever naming conventions, the food would still stand on its own. In short: You won’t miss dairy or meat. There are also lots of workarounds for the gluten-intolerant as well.

République

624 S. La Brea Ave., Hancock Park | 310.362.6115

With long and star-studded resumés (Walter Manzke has worked at El Bulli, for one, while his wife, Margarita, worked at Melisse), nobody expected this ambitious duo’s newest LA venture to be anything less than extraordinary. Occupying the former home of Campanile (i.e., Charlie Chaplin’s film studio back in the ’20s), the focus here is on French-inflected staples, like duck confit, oysters, and tartes flambées. The uni toast is insane, the baguettes are absurd (Margarita is a pastry chef), and the space has been reworked beautifully: The heavy floor tiles and mahogany tables were all imported from The Philippines, where Margarita was born. (Should you ever find yourself in Manila, the Manzkes also have a small chain of successful cafés there called Wildflour.)

Tasting Kitchen

1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice | 310.392.6644

You’d never guess that The Tasting Kitchen sits on one of Venice’s busiest thoroughfares: It’s partly because of the fortress-like entrance, and partly because the loft-y, two-floor space revolves around a small grove of transporting olive trees. The food—modern Italian by Portland transplant Casey Lane—is excellent, made even better by the comfortable, leather wrapped Eames chairs, welcoming bar area, and always kind and attentive service. While it's one of the city's major culinary destinations—and gets really booked—if you walk in at 6, you can generally always get a table, and there are two big communal tables in the bar. If you have at least 20 people, you can book their elegant private space upstairs.

Marvin

8114 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood | 323.655.5553

Steven Arroyo (of Escuela Taqueria and Potato Chip fame) and Max Marder transformed the former House Cafe into Marvin—a French-inflected bistro that’s picked up a few design tricks from Arroyo (aluminum cans line the ceiling, to pretty stunning effect, and simple plates dot the walls). The wine list is great, and the menu is packed with classics, from fried egg topped asparagus to a perfect roast chicken. The best part? It’s open until midnight (a rarity in Los Angeles) and you can usually get a seat at the bar with minimum wait time.

Milo & Olive

2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica | 310.453.6776

Many would argue that Milo & Olive has some of the best pizza on the West Side, if not all of L.A. We have to agree. This is the third restaurant from culinary power couple Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, and much like Huckleberry and Rustic Canyon, the menu is completely ingredient driven. Breakfast and weekend brunch is devoted to classic egg dishes (a totally decadent creamy polenta with poached eggs wins, every Saturday) and baked treats. For dinner, a pizza-salad-pasta combo is the ideal order for two. The restaurant doesn’t accept reservations so come early to snag a spot at the bar, which offers uninterrupted views of the open kitchen, or at one of the marble communal tables. Thankfully, they recently completed a much-needed expansion. They recently opened Cassia, too.

Commissary

3515 Wilshire Blvd., Downtown | 213.381.7411

Chef Roy Choi’s sprawling greenhouse-slash-restaurant sits inside The Line Hotel in Koreatown. It’s obvious a whole lot of thought went into making this place the ideal mix of high and low. The gin and juice (we like ours with pineapple, but you can also mix in watermelon, apple, carrot, or beet juice) is freakishly potent and comes in a plastic cup, while tea is served in fine china. The menu—which, surprisingly, is illustrated—is largely devoted to all forms of veggies (try the carrots…trust) though there are lots of proteins to choose from, like a truly stellar burger and no-frills steak. You’ll also find several seemingly out of place menu items, such as deviled eggs and schnitzel, which make a lot more sense once you actually try them.

Pine & Crane

1521 Griffith Park Blvd., Silver Lake | 323.668.1128

What’s really special about this Taiwanese-Chinese food spot is that for the most part, the ingredients come from Chef Vivian Ku family’s Asian produce farm. The pared-down menu is pretty heavy on the noodles (the wanton noodle soup is hearty and delicious) as well as traditional small plates like potstickers and dumplings. They also make a mean three-cup chicken and serve it in an individual pot with lots of garlic and ginger. The space is small and cheerful, with cement walls, two-tops, and communal tables—these tend to fill up fast, but it’s a quick turnaround, so stick it out. The tea menu is really impressive, too, with several kinds of oolong and milk teas (boba optional).

East Borough Fraiche

9810 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City | 310.596.8266

A collaborative effort between big-time restauranteur Paul Hibler (Suberba Snack Bar) and chefs John Cao and Cloe Tran, East Borough’s relaxed setup—tiled floors, shared tables stocked with industrial-size bottles of hot sauce, old-school booths—gels really well with the Hanoi street food-inflected menu. Here, the house specialty is tweaked Vietnamese/French standbys. The pho baguette, for example, is the sandwich version of the traditional noodle soup dish and comes with beef brisket and hoisin sriracha aioli.And definitely leave room for the dungeness crab and shiitake mushroom Vietnamese crepe. The weekend brunch menu (steamed Bao, grapefruit lemongrass salad) is a nice change of pace from the expected eggs Benedict.

Scopa Italian Roots

2905 Washington Blvd., Venice | 310.821.1100

The first thing to know about Scopa is that it’s massive. In addition to a sea of cafe tables there are shared banquettes, communal tables, and a stretch bar which is home to an extensive spirit offering (there’s a healthy wine list as well). They even have a private room upstairs, with a peek-a-boo window overlooking the main dining room. We suggest starting with one of the expertly curated Italian cold cut and cheeses plates before diving into the more substantial pastas and mains. The menu is packed with classic Italian dishes (lasagne, whole branzino) which Chef Antonia Lofaso (of Top Chef fame) executes flawlessly. This is also one of the few non-Italian bakery spots in town where you can get a decent cannoli. Plus, unlike many L.A. eateries, this one serves food until midnight on most evenings.