It's rare, but sometimes the planets align and your chakras are glowing (or whatever), and your boss steps out of her office and asks you where you'd like to go eat for lunch. Maybe she really screwed something up and she knows it, so she'd like to make it up to you with a mea culpa and an appetizer. Maybe your boss just got the new corporate card and it's time to give the ol' expense account a whirl. Whatever the reason, you'll need to have a plan. In case of lunchtime emergency, break glass and use this list of the top five places to have your boss take you for lunch.
Yes, these business-casual lunches can sometimes be excruciating -- oh, really Mrs. Wilson, you're not sure you'll be able to afford to refinish the deck on your SECOND house? Why yes, I think I will have another martini -- but you can do yourself a great service by knowing which place you'd like to chow down at. That way, your boss can relive their youth by prodding you for debaucherous weekend details while you scarf down food and drink to your belly's content, all without picking up the tab. Bonus points for looking like a self-starter by suggesting the restaurant yourself.
5. Cafe Gratitude:
Show off your sensitive side at one of the city's two Cafe Gratitude locations. If your boss is the stodgy type, Gratitude will be a great way to watch her squirm while ordering up an I Am Dazzling salad or the organic corn I Am Transformed tacos. And if your boss is already the incense-burning, mantra-repeating type, she'll appreciate the cafe's fresh organic vegan fare. No matter what type of people you both are, you can bond over the positive affirmations that litter everyone's table conversations, or at the very list titter in the corner while sipping on an Eel River Amber ale. 639 Larchmont Blvd., Larchmont; 323-580-6383.
4. Son of a Gun:
Unless your boss is a real prude, she's probably heard of Son of a Gun. The small seafood space on West 3rd Street is a few years old now, and the legacy of owners Shook and Dotolo only continues to grow as they expand their L.A. empire. Still, it's a fair bet that your boss has never been by for lunch. Unless you can snag a reservation, you'll still be looking for a seat at the tight communal table, but the big front windows and approachable staff make the afternoon a bit more enjoyable. Plus, with top notch cocktails and a small plates seafood concept that some may argue translates to "less food for more money", you'll be happy enough just nibbling your way through the menu. Ordering a couple of the lobster rolls and at least one fried chicken sandwich is essential to keeping your boss happy with the money she'll be throwing down. And who knows? Maybe she'll like the food so much you'll get a raise for suggesting it. 8370 W. 3rd St., Mid-City West; 323-782-9033
3. Chaya Downtown:
Yes, there are locations in Beverly Hills and Venice, but if you're working downtown and your boss is offering a free lunch, Chaya is about as perfect as it gets. With the right amount of upscale approachability, Chaya on Flower Street is a great way to eat out of your league and still feel relaxed in their open dining room. One wall opens wide with glass panels, and a run of leafy outdoor booths makes for a downright special lunch hour. The provided lunch specials include a simple grilled daily catch fish with a side salad, or the popular bistro burger with fries and a glass of petite syrah. Of course, you could always swing for the $24 omakase sushi and let the chef take care of you. 525 S. Flower St., Downtown; 213-236-957.
If you're working the phones in Beverly Hills, odds are your boss has enough money to throw down for an old-Hollywood lunch. Make her take you to The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, long a haunt for shifty-eyed celebs and handshaking businessmen. Your lunch reservation comes with a side of light piano and plenty of alfresco seats on their red brick patio. You can smile as you stare down at your $26 quinoa salad, or go straight for the $39 steak frites. Order a cocktail while your boss is in the bathroom to really complete the afternoon, then watch her eyelids peel back when the check comes. Then again, isn't that what corporate cards are for? 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-887-2777.
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1. Tsujita L.A.:
Want to make your boss feel like one of the rest of us, while still eating really well? Get to Tsujita L.A., the popular (read: packed) ramen spot on Sawtelle Boulevard. Since not taking reservations is the great Los Angeles equalizer, you and your boss will just have to suffer through the lunch crush like everyone else. They're also cash only and tend to do a pretty brisk business, so you can laugh inside as your boss trades elbows with the eater next to her at the ramen bar, and then gets hustled out by the waitstaff as soon as she's finished. On the upside, you two will be spending your lunch hour slurping through some of the best ramen this city has to offer. With thick noodles, some seriously porky broth and perfectly portioned slices of chashu pig, your boss might even forgive the inevitable broth stain on her shirt. 2057 Sawtelle Blvd., Little Osaka; 310-231-7373.
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