LA has a lot of drinking spots, from the super chi chi to the diviest of the dives. There are bars with themes, bars with games, and bars with a whole bunch of dark corners. Just a disclaimer before I get to the list: I’m more of a cocktail/hard liquor lady than a beer/wine girl. Um, they’re all good, but I’m not as up on the big beer and wine selection places. You’ll have to look elsewhere for that. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite spots to stop in, put my feet up, and enjoy a beverage.
1. When you need a fancy, fancy cocktail…and a view to match:
The Standard Rooftop Bar
550 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90069 (Downtown LA)
Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it’s kind of snobby. Yes, you’ll probably only come here as a tourist or to impress your tourist friends. But goodness, you need to drink a fancy cocktail on the rooftop of The Standard Hotel in downtown LA at least once. The views, especially at night, are just astounding. Because you’re only 12 stories up, you’re actually amongst all the skyscrapers instead of above them, which makes it feel like you’re part of a big, breathing city. There are also some very cool pools and weird sitting pod/water bed thingies. Pretty crazy. And hey, the drinks aren’t bad either.
Do try to go on a night without a cover. While this place is pretty stellar, I don’t think anywhere is really worth a $20 cover.
2. If you want to go back to a glamorous era that probably never really existed:
108 W. 2nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Downtown LA)
The Edison is a huge, sprawling bar in a century old power plant. They’ve kept all of the industrial equipment, and built a 1920′s style bar around it. It’s kind of like a classy steampunk place. Really.
Photo by Dave Bullock.
There is a strict dress code, so come dressed sharp. Drinks are expensive, but pretty strong and delicious. Also, you can buy absinthe if you really want to from ladies dressed as 1920′s pixies pushing around special absinthe carts. Silent movies are projected on the walls! Sometimes there are burlesque shows! It’s all so fancy! But really, this is just a place to get lost, especially if you come with a date. There’s a whole lot of dark, cozy corners ifyouknowwhatimeanwinkwinknudgenudge.
3. If you want to enter the bar through a “secret” door:
118 E. 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014 (Downtown LA…apparently I only ever went out downtown?)
Photos from their website.
I love any bar that seems hidden, and The Varnish definitely fits the bill. Behind an unmarked door in the back of Cole’s restaurant (which has delicious French dip sandwiches by the way. There’s an ongoing battle over which restaurant had the first French dips, Cole’s or Philippe’s a few miles away. I don’t know, but I do know that they both serve up some bomb sandwiches), this speakeasy type bar is run by some pretty awesome mixologists.
Believe me, these guys know what they’re doing. When I went, I just told them that I wanted some sort of whiskey drink, maybe with some citrus, and bam. There it was. And it was delicious.
Oh, and Mad Men is filmed in Cole’s sometimes. That’s reason enough to come here.
4. When you want to feel like you’ve been transported to someone’s Tiki themed garage…in 1960:
Tiki-Ti Cocktail Lounge
4427 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tiki style stuff used to be all the rage. Most cities let it go after a while, but LA kept a few bars around well into the 2000′s. Tiki-Ti, though, may now be the last tiki bar around, and it’s well worth a visit. Open since 1961, this bar is teeny, teeny tiny. People pile in, which makes for a rowdy atmosphere. Tiki stuff is absolutely everywhere, basically in heaps — it’s Hawaii kitsch mixed with the decor of a crazy neighbor’s garage.
The menu is just astounding. There are 92 tropical drinks…none of which have descriptions. Yep, you’re just ordering blind. But don’t worry. They’re all fruity, colorful and strong.
Also, just a warning, this is one of the few bars where you can smoke inside as it is owner run. The smoke can get thick.
5. When you’re looking for a cozy, Irish bar:
Tom Bergin’s Tavern (Mid-Wilshire/Museum District)
840 S. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Every city has a ton of Irish pubs. Honestly, it takes a lot for me to get excited about one. Tom Bergin’s, though, feels homey and warm. It’s where you go to meet an old friend or to just sit at the bar and have a bar. Opened in 1936, it’s still all dark wood and warm booths. Paper shamrocks with old regulars’ names paper the walls and ceilings. Even if it’s 80 degrees and sunny outside, it feels like you’ve just come in out of the cold to a cozy place.
They also serve Irish food, which always smells amazing. Jonathan Gold even gave it a try!
6. When you need a little video game entertainment with dinner:
369 N. Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90004 (Koreatown)
This dive doesn’t even have a sign outside- just a neon Pacman ghost. Inside, it’s all dark walls, dark floors, one small bar…and a ton of old arcade games. Really, what more could you want for a night out? If you don’t want to get a bit tipsy and then challenge me to a game of Ms. Pacman, I don’t want to know you.
I realize this is the world’s most incomplete list. Heck, I even left off my favorite watering hole…but that’s because I can’t let the whole world know all my secrets! If you promise to buy me a drink, maybe I’ll let you in on that secret. You’ll be disappointed though. It’s the diviest.
Any Los Angelenos out there want to throw in their favorites?