I Spy: The Haute 5 Places to People Watch in Los Angeles

Sometimes being confined to four walls can be very limiting.  Think of all the things you can’t do.  Your clever comment on the weather goes generally unnoticed, people watching is restricted to whomever sits next to you or whoever is on their way to the restroom, and you definitely can’t even think about smoking.  (Although, I think that’s nearly true of the entire county of Los Angeles at this point.)  Dining al fresco is the city-lover’s version of enjoying the great outdoors – service, delicious food, and no dangerous rustling in the nearby bushes.   In a city like LA, we don’t have the sort of outdoor dining experience that other, more walking-centric cities do.  We’ve developed our own version of dining in the elements.  Here’s the list of LA’s haute 5 outdoor seating options – bring your sunscreen.

Little Next Door

The sweet, charming, casual sister to the Little Door, Little Next Door is a Francophile’s dream.  Run by wait staff dressed in what a Parisian sailor might wear on the weekends and with a courtyard of coveted outdoor tables, Little Next Door easily assumed the position of, if I may be so bold, the new Toast.  Claim your street-side table in the morning for Brioche French Toast or a French Ham Eggs Benedict or find a place outside at lunch for a French Onion Soup and a Croque Monsieur – tres chic.  The clientele that frequents this sapphire blue and wrought iron courtyard are just as chic as you’d imagine, making for great people watching.  (Almost everyone here speaks French, though. So watch what you say.)

Little Next Door is located at 8142 W 3rd St in Los Angeles (323) 951-1010

Ford’s Filling Station

On a Thursday night (or a Wednesday, your preference), set your sights on Culver City.  Chef Ben Ford’s cool, industrial, welcoming Ford’s Filling Station is your destination and one of their outdoor tables along the curb has got your name on it.  Perhaps you start with a glass of Prosecco as you and your dining partner comment on the warm breeze passing through.  You’ll start to wonder who invented those damn roofs and why.  Try some of their charcuterie and definitely spring for a Pub Burger if you’ve got an appetite.  Like the ambiance, the menu is a sophisticated version of what you’d expect from a pub or tavern.  Delicious, comforting, and oh, look at that guy walking by.

Ford’s Filing Station is located at 9531 Culver Blvd in Culver City (310) 202-1470

Café Figaro

If people watching on home court for you means doing so in Silver Lake, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the joys of checking out fellow diners and hungry passersby at Café Figaro.  This traditional French bistro has a certain eastside individualism to it.  It’s chic without being stuffy; its in LA’s most concentrated hipster zone yet maintains a regular non-skinny-jean crowd.  The people are beautiful, the décor is distinctly that of an outdoor Parisian café, and the food consistently impresses.  Going for brunch is particularly fun.  Order up an Oeufs Poches served with Asparagus and Parmesan, a Pain Perdu, or simply a Cappuccino, Croissaint, and a side of conversation-starting-outfits that parade in and out of the café.

Café Figaro is located at 1802 N. Vermont Ave in Los Angeles (323) 662-1587

The Foundry on Melrose

The Foundry ambitiously employs both kinds of al fresco dining for the pleasure of all kinds of discerning Angelenos.  Sit in the front, just by the bar and simultaneously the street – listen to the live jazz musicians, order another Debutante (Chambord, champagne, raspberries, and lemonade), and realize that your biggest problem is deciding between taking a run or going to yoga tomorrow.  On the other hand, score yourself a date and chef Eric Greenspan will take very good care of you in the back courtyard.  Under star-like lights strategically placed amongst the olive trees that hang just low enough to make each table feel particularly intimate, order a Duck Breast, the Caramelized Scallops and yes, please to another bottle of that Russian River Valley red.

The Foundry on Melrose is located at 7465 Melrose Ave in Los Angeles (323) 651-0915

Geoffrey’s Malibu

For the rare few who find dining along the ocean, listening to waves, and smelling the salty sea air to be a heavenly prospect, whoever you are, Goeffrey’s Malibu is the classic answer to your quest.  As you sit on the glass terrace with a chilled glass of Rose in your hand, the memory of cursing at traffic on the PCH will quickly fade.  It is Los Angeles’ most sophisticated oceanside dining experience with a menu that includes a Lobster Cobb Salad, a Kobe Burger, and Seafood Paella for lunch or Chilean Sea Bass, Basa Sole, and Filet Mignon for dinner.  Eating here will transport you to another place where dining along the beach is part of the laissez-faire lifestyle – south of France, perhaps? The modern setting and markedly Angeleno crowd remind you that this is indeed Southern California.  With a view that beautiful (and food that good), who cares where you are?

Geoffrey’s Malibu is located at 27400 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu (310) 457-1519