10 LA Restaurants For People Who Hate PlanningGreat walk-in restaurants in LA for all your spontaneous dinner needs.
Reservations are a smart move in this city. But sometimes you just forget to book one because you have a life and can't be bothered by the mundanities of scheduling. The next time you find yourself slumped on the couch, poring over Resy pages in pursuit of a same-day table for a place that serves garden-variety burrata, try these restaurants instead.
Some of the restaurants below only take walk-ins, others reserve their bars for casual drop-ins, and a few have enough unreserved patio space for an impromptu outdoor hang. Can we guarantee they’ll all have an open table waiting for you when you arrive? We can’t. But we can tell you that these places will give you a memorable night out when you failed to plan one in the first place.
You had two weeks to book a date night spot, and now you’ve only got two hours. Don’t flip out. Just head to Queen Street, an excellent seafood spot in Eagle Rock that saves all of its bar seats for walk-ins. As oysters chill on ice along the smooth horseshoe bar, you’ll be swirling gamay and pretending like you planned this all along. Swing by on the early side (before 6pm) for Charleston-style dishes like chargrilled oysters, fried flounder, and smothered pork chops. You might have to wait for a bar seat on a busy night, but at least you can people-watch on the patio while a friendly server pours you a glass of orange wine.
Eternally unbooked and consistently fun, Lolo works for any night and any situation. The East Hollywood wine bar has a huge, checker-floored courtyard where you can eat a steak next to a table of self-described content creators without much of a wait. If the main dining space is looking a little full, a host might direct you to the air-conditioned bar area to wait for your table—but this room feels like a cozy VIP nook (where you can also order the full dinner menu), so it’s more of a blessing than a curse.
Dinner by the water usually requires weeks of preparation, especially if you want to eat really good seafood like juicy kanpachi skewers or miso-smoked black cod. But Isla is different—this casual restaurant on Main Street in Santa Monica is our go-to for a last-minute meal within five minutes of the coastline. The California-ish spot stays open all day, and while eating is certainly a recommended activity, the drinks steal the show. Whether it’s chilled pinot noir, a spiced zero-proof cocktail, or a gin and tonic that feels hydrating despite the booze, Isla is the ideal spot for drinking and snacking on the Westside without a reservation.
Mr. T is where you go when you don’t have a reservation but still want to have a fun night on a patio in Hollywood. Servers walk around this French spot setting food on fire, friends head bob to Wu-Tang tracks under string lights, and birthday toasts happen every thirty minutes like clockwork. The short menu melds street food with traditional French cooking. This may sound like an AI-generated restaurant concept. But the results are surprisingly simple and satisfying. There’s a minty-sweet tuna crudo, mushroom croquette monsieur, and creme fraiche dip with shiny trout roe. We’re shocked that a sexy French bistro imported directly from France isn’t packed every night. So get here before the Hollywood crowd catches on.
The morning of an event is a particularly abysmal time to remember that you invited everyone to brunch. In lieu of offering a feast of McMuffins, tell your friends to meet at Pine & Crane in DTLA for Taiwanese egg crepes, beef rolls, and porridge sets. This is the rare order-at-the-counter spot where you can sit around for hours. The same team also runs Joy, a Taiwanese restaurant in Highland Park, with a similar menu and plenty of open tables open all day for walk-ins.
Barra Santos doesn’t accept reservations, so going with the flow is your only option. This small Portuguese spot by the Found Oyster people gets busy after 7pm, which means you should mentally prepare to wait 30 minutes to an hour. That's annoying in most cases but quite enjoyable at this Cypress Park restaurant. The sidewalk doubles as an outdoor wine bar where a server chills your bottle in a bucket stand and you sit on benches as you’re hit with clouds of garlic. Between the drinks and eavesdropping on the date next to you, time flies. And once you’re seated, your patience will be rewarded with piri-piri coated chicken leg confit, a drippy pork sandwich, and a whole grilled branzino looking pretty on a bed of caper-parsley sauce.
For reasons you probably already know about, reservations at Horses are easier to come by than they used to be. But the truth is you never needed one in the first place. Show up to this sceney American restaurant in Hollywood around 9pm, and there's a likely chance you'll snag a seat at the bar. Not only do the bartenders make a fantastic martini, but they double as full-fledged hosts who actually want to hang out with you. There’s no awkwardness or feeling that you’re taking up precious bar space. These bartenders bring the fun chit-chat, ask you if you need a fresh bottle of Heinz with your fries, and keep the drinks coming until they close up at 1am. Forget post-dinner drinks, this is a bar to spend the night at.
We once called Found Oyster the sexiest restaurant in America and clearly lots of people agree. This American seafood spot in East Hollywood is still very popular, and it no longer takes reservations. That means seats are in high demand and you need a game plan. We suggest showing up around 5pm (noon on weekends) if you don't want to wait an hour for a dreamy scallop tostada. On the bright side, you'll eventually find yourself at one of LA's best restaurants, complete with a behemoth of a seafood tower and anchovy-topped chicken schnitzel. So rather than passing on the opportunity to eat that (please don't), head to nearby Akbar or El Cid for drinks until your table is ready.
Quarter Sheets makes the best pizza in Los Angeles and for that reason, this tiny Echo Park pie shop is slammed every night. They don’t take reservations, which means you should aim to get in line about 10 minutes prior to their 5pm opening and try to keep your party under four people, otherwise you’ll be waiting about an hour for a table. That said, even 60 minutes of NYT crosswords on the sidewalk is a fair trade-off for spending the rest of your night eating thick, crunchy pan-style pizza and decadent desserts like slab pie and princess cake.
If you love Bavel as much as we do, you know that this upscale Middle Eastern spot in the Arts District is a little tricky to get into—particularly if you’re with a group. So just walk into the bar area where all the seats are first come, first serve and you can order from the dinner menu. That includes the lamb neck shawarma, decadent oxtail tagine, and our personal favorite, the flaky malawach with dill creme fraiche and strawberry zhoug. This is a particularly great option if you’re by yourself or with a coworker after a long day at the office.