The Los Angeles Bar Scene
Los Angeles is a hypnotizing haven for the hedonistic. And in California's capital for hedonism, it is only fitting that there is a cornucopia of both chill and corybantic bars to indulge in a drink. There's rooftop gardens masquerading as youthful utopias, moody and atmospheric speakeasies celebrating craft cocktails and beer, brewing companies with spacious and activity laden environments, and outdoor bar/clubs where one can see and be seen. While the sheer volume of bars in L.A. is staggering, here's a list of some of my favorites and some of the trendier bars in the city. So get out for date night, cracking open a cold one with the boys, a ladies night, a pregame before the club, or whatever it is that blows your hair back.
1. Dirty Laundry
Lodged in a former speakeasy, Dirty Laundry is located off Hollywood Boulevard and nestled underneath the bar No Vacancy. Be forewarned, the entrance to this subterranean speakeasy is only granted via password (courtesy of their social media handles) so stay in the millenial's technological loop. Underground you'll find a dimly-lit, intimate, and sexy bar (there's a neon "sex" sign when you head down) with a menu of trendy, offbeat cocktails that are sure to start a fire...in more ways than one (check out the absinthe rinsed drink!). The location is lit, the drinks are fuego, and the atmosphere conjures up nostalgic vibes of a past prohibition era.
2. Ace Hotel
Atop the Ace Hotel is a rooftop escape from reality offering gorgeous venue to enjoy a cocktail with a panoramic view of downtown L.A. There is plenty of space to lounge, sit at the bar, overlook the city, dance, or even a jacuzzi (for those brave enough to enter a bar jacuzzi). It's a microcosm of L.A., a perfect amalgam of concrete lights and jungle + water + views + booze. Not too swanky and not too casual, the Rooftop at Ace Hotel is a skyborne sanctuary from the city where you can see the city. Check in on their site for updates on weekly events for DJs, live bands, pop up shops and collaborative designs displays, and more!
3. Surly Goat
A surly (taxidermy) goat presides over this moody craft beer bar in West Hollywood. With almost 30 beers on draft, plenty of vintage bottles of vino, and cocktails if you're trying to turn the dial up a little bit more. The bartenders are cheery and knowledgeable so ask them for a recommendation if you're not a self-proclaimed craft beer guru. It's an up and coming trendy nightlife destination, so on the weekends it can get pretty packed and attract a funky, posh crowd.
4. The Bungalow
A veritable destination for L.A.'s most handsome and fine bachelors and bachelorettes, The Bungalow in Santa Monica is a stunning setting home for the craziness that is youth dating. Right across Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) from the beach and tucked against the Fairmont Hotel, The Bungalow is a cozy yet spacious bar with plenty of area to lounge both inside and out, strong drinks, and could pass as a beautiful people convention.
While the crowd is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, it goes without saying that some level of L.A. pretentiousness pervades the air so head out with your friends.
5. Angel City Brewery
Near Downtown by the Arts District is Instagram favorite Angel City Brewery (all the basic bitches with their angel wing graffiti photos). In an expansive warehouse space, Angel City Brewery--founded in 1997--has 8 different rotating in house brews on draft. In a city that caters to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, Angel City does not abide and provides some grit and grunge. So make a visit to their warehouse for a dose of dopeness (and authenticity) and take a peek at their website for a list of upcoming events (yoga, beer tastings, etc).
6. Good Times at Davey Wayne's
On the list of speakeasies in L.A., Davey Wayne's arguably tops the list for most hip and trendy. It's definitely a scene...but for good reason. The epic entrance to the bar is through the refrigerator door (pictured right) in the retro 70s style garage, and the bar you'll find on the other side redefines what is funk and retro. With a 70s throwback theme, Davey Wayne's provides good vibes--keyword: vibes--with a multi-room, indoor + outdoor setting. Since time machines don't exist yet, this is as close as you'll get to traveling back to the 70s and getting on your disco and funk at a house party.
P.S. -- they have alcoholic snow cones.
7. Arts District Brewing Company
Known more popularly as "Arcade Bar", the Arts District Brewing Company--another warehouse space over in the Arts District (just a few blocks from Angel City)--brings out the kid in all of us. There's classic and vintage arcade games (like PacMan or Battlestar Galactica), 15 pristine skeeball tables, ping pong, a photo booth, cornhole, and more. Go for a drink and end up getting intoxicated while liberating the inner kid in you.
8. La Descarga
From the same brothers behind Good Times at Davey Wayne's comes another speakeasy. Unlike Davey Wayne's, this Cuban themed nights scene is much swankier (dress code in place), but just as crowded, lively, and entertaining. There's a cigar lounge (so it does get smoky). There's Burlesque shows (so it does get a bit racy). There's plenty of salsa music (so the dancing is dirty). There's a wide array of rums (so it does get wild). This place is pure energy and you'll be utterly enchanted by it all.
P.S. - make a reservation and save yourself from the anxiety of the line
9. Sassafras Saloon
It'd be more than remiss if I didn't include at least one western bar/saloon on my list of watering holes for the west coast hub of hedonism, L.A. Sassafras Saloon boasts an aesthetic and antique Old West themed design (that reminds me of Frontier land in Disneyland), live music, and bartenders who are self-proclaimed mixologist masterminds. So head on down partner and get sassy at Sassafras.
10. Standard DTLA
Another rooftop oasis in L.A. is the Rooftop Restaurant & Bar at the Standard Hotel. While its a rooftop escape from the realities of L.A., many days and nights The Standard hosts deep house dance parties so be on the lookout for their events. On a hot day, its hard to beat swimming around on a roof under the California sun, sipping on a strong cocktail, and enjoying the enchanting eye candy all around (in more ways than one).
11. The Varnish
Tucked away at the back of Cole's Bar is the Varnish, another L.A. speakeasy and hidden gem. In a moody, dimly lit environment, The Varnish conjures flashbacks to the Prohibition Era. It's like a time machine right back to the 1920s and 1930s. The bartenders meticulously construct incredibly craft and chic cocktails--go for the bartender's choice or offer your own twist on their unique and signature drinks--to the tune of some smooth yazz (jazz). It's intimate, romantic, and an altogether standout speakeasy more than worthy of date night.
12. Venice Ale House
Adjacent to the Venice Beach Boardwalk is the Venice Ale House, the perfect pit stop for a brew under the California sun after wandering the wacky and weird Venice Boardwalk. They offer a pretty standard selection of tasty craft beers, a menu of classic--but organic (this is L.A. after all)--gastropub snacks, and an outdoor patio to people watch.
The bar is rather big, so service can lag on the slower side at times, so sit back and relax...it's California man!
A few honorable (or not-so-honorable depending on how you look at them) bars that nearly made the list:
- Sams Hofbrau --
- Greystone Manor Supperclub -- an opulent dinner joint/bar/nightclub
- Saddle ranch -- another Western themed bar complete with a mechanical bull
- The 901 Bar & Grill -- the local USC bar for gameday, included out of nostalgia for my days at university there
- Viper Room / Whiskey A-go-go / The Troubadour -- historic music venues for up and coming L.A. artists (past artists have included The Red hot Chili Peppers, Rolling Stones, Thom Yorke, and more