Where to Grab a Drink in Los Angeles Right Now
Cheers, we made it to the yellow tier!
What a difference a year makes! Over the last few months, Angelenos have quickly gone from only being able to imbibe alongside a meal (which had to be served on an outdoor restaurant patio) to now being able to drink indoors at bars that don’t provide meal service (limited to 25% capacity, but still)! And that’s all thanks to us following Dr. Fauci’s guidance and washing our hands, social distancing, and more recently, getting our COVID vaccinations—which 37% of us have already completed, and you should too so California can remain on schedule to fully open by June 15.
But while we trudge toward herd immunity, we’ve still got plenty to celebrate, and as shocking as it may seem, new bars have actually opened in the last year, with others completely revamping their interiors and patio outdoors. And after a year of playing bartender at home, even the city’s oldest haunts are feeling brand new. Here are 20 of the best bars around town to raise a glass in right now:
Landing on the rooftop of Culver City’s newest food hall Citizen Public Market is this vintage-inspired bar that plays off the building’s historic past with exposed brick details, vaulted ceilings, arched windows, and leather bar seats in its interior, plus cascading shade coverings and verdant plant walls on their rooftop patio that overlooks downtown Culver City. Beverage director AC Baker (Simonette and Tao Group) has composed a program of California wines, local beers, and inspired craft cocktails like Moonchild made with Monkey Shoulder scotch, lemon, banana-ginger, orange honey, and walnut bitters. Should you need some food to pad your stomach, there are plenty of options within the market, including Jolly Oyster and Nancy Silverton’s Pizzette.
How to book: Walk-ins welcome.
Wife and the Somm
After a successful run with their farm-to-table, wine pairing dinner catering business Homesomm, husband and wife Chris Lucchese and Christine Lindgren took their concept one step further with a brick-and-mortar wine bar and shop. With climbing ivy across the entryway, the bistro is easy to miss, which only adds to its charm and further establishes it as a much-needed neighborhood shop where you’ll be easily convinced to spend an afternoon nibbling on charcuterie and sipping from a global selection of wines that favors small, family-run producers. The interior sports a cozy, holiday-inspired palette with plush burgundy banquettes against forest green walls and dark wood accents, plus an indoor olive tree that stretches towards a ceiling skylight. The patio is equally charming for those who still prefer open-air drinking and dining. Sommelier-led tastings are expected to begin in May, with limited space available and bookings done through their website.
Better-for-you brews like hard kombucha and hard seltzer have soared in popularity over the past year, with several brands investing in brick-and-mortars across Southern California. JuneShine represents part of this wave, first launching in San Diego before making their way up the coast to sunny Santa Monica. Their newest outpost reflects the surfer culture it comes from, with a bright, bleached wood palette and a raised outdoor deck along Main St. The brews clock in at about 6% ABV and encompass flavors like Chili Mango, Blood Orange Mint, Iced Tea Lemonade, and Kumquat Vanilla, with bites that include a charcuterie board, empanadas, vegan pizza, and caprese.
How to book: Walk-ins welcome.
Yes, the name is cringe-worthy, but we promise it’s worth overlooking for a menu of Tex-Mex favorites, including dishes like Paris, Texas Toast that’s stuffed with Nutella and topped with bacon maple syrup and cream for brunch, and Ringo’s Burger, with a smashed ground beef patty, refried pinto beans, grilled onions, cheddar cheese, jalapeno relish, and Frito Lay chip crumbles between a sweet-toasted bun for dinner. On the beverage side, there’s JQ’s Ranch Water, with Tosco Silver tequila, lime, Topo Chico, and a Tajin salt rim, plus a few margarita options, and plenty of tequila and mezcal-spiked options. Feel like doing it Texas-style and going big? Try one of the Texas Two Steps: JQ Tex Mex Lager with a shot of tequila or mezcal, or for dark liquor fans, get Shiner Bock lager with a shot of Balcones Texas bourbon or Jameson.
This breezy Santa Monica spot—which boasts an agave-forward menu of over 400 mezcal and tequila spirits—has adapted to changing tides by opening outdoor patio areas and debuting an all day, everyday happy hour with $2 tacos and $9 cocktails. Thanks to loosened dining restrictions, you can now choose between the patio or their sky-blue hued dining room with plant and wood accents. They’ve got a great frozen cocktail list for those unseasonably warm LA evenings, and give you the option of making any beer a Michelada for just $2 more. Expand your agave palate with tequila and mezcal flights, which we recommend ordering with their famous lamb-barbacoa quesadillas. For those more comfortable ordering takeout, Lanea offers cocktail packages with canned margaritas, palomas, and Calidad beers sold in 4-, 6-, 12-, and 24-packs.
The Backyard At Chez Jay
They say hindsight is 2020, but historic dive bar Chez Jay had it in 2019 when they decided to celebrate their 60th anniversary by adding The Backyard, a spacious, fairy-lit patio behind the original bar where patrons can enjoy their favorite cocktails alongside salty sea air—and don’t worry, there’s a fire pit to keep you warm if the marine layer proves too chilly. Equally popular among locals, tourists, and even the occasional celebrity, The Backyard spikes classic cocktails with their personal touch, like The Juan Margarita, which adds jalapeno, cucumber, and cilantro for a spicy take on your typical tequila and lime. Or branch out with Chevy to the Levy, a well-balanced Mezcal drink with Ramazzoti rosato, pineapple, and lemon sage. The food menu is a solid mashup of your favorite beachside dishes like Fish & Chips and a Grilled Mahi-Mahi Sandwich.
While our favorite Hollywood hotel bar remains closed on the interior, thanks to hospitality vets Med Abrous and Marc Rose, we can now experience the Hotel Roosevelt’s classic bar through an al-fresco experience called The Spare Room...Somewhere Else, with that somewhere else being nestled behind the hotel’s iconic David Hockney painted pool. The intimate outdoor oasis has traded bowling lanes for the lawn-friendly sport of bocce, plus pencil and paper pads for single-use games like M.A.S.H, Battleship, and Mad Libs. The award-winning bar team are still whipping up incredible cocktails like the Birds Aren’t Real with Appleton Rum, cognac, Campari, pineapple, hazelnut and lime, plus new low- and no-ABV cocktails that are perfect for slow summer sipping. A selection of small plates balances out the menu, with Italian-inspired options like burrata with apricot agrodolce and hamachi crudo with pea salsa verde. Another bonus: the al-fresco lounge is open from 5 pm-12 am Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and from 5pm–2 am (!!) on Fridays and Saturdays. Does this mean weekends are back?!
First debuted in late 2017 as a Cal-fresh wine bistro, Melody’s open-air, bungalow-style patio reopened less than a year later as a standalone wine bar and bottle shop, opting to host restaurant pop-ups rather than have a dedicated kitchen. The natural wine bar specializes in low intervention wines from around the world with special attention given to French, Italian and Spanish grapes. Check their Instagram for their latest rotating restaurant partnerships and weekend popups.
Aptly-named Nueva replaced the now-shuttered Sunny Spot in front of The Little Friend bar last August, adding it to the growing list of successful mid-pandemic openings. Former NoMad bar manager Adam Fournier leads a cocktail program that pays homage to Mexican-based liquors, including the lesser-known sotol, bacanora, and raicilla spirits, in addition to your standard mezcal and tequila options—order their agave flight and get treated to a half-pour of their current favorites served with orange slices and fried chapulines (grasshoppers). Highlights on the modern Mexican food menu include Mediterranean Octopus tacos with pickled red onion, plum, and mint; a Street Cart Salad with mango, pineapple, and jicama; and wood-grilled Branzino with red mole sauce.
Post & Beam
Tucked within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza is Post & Beam, now run by South LA native and longtime Post & Beam chef John Cleveland and his wife Roni Cleveland. They debuted their new chef de cuisine Martin Draluck (formerly of Hatchet Hall) with their relaunched dine-in service at the end of March, who will continue serving the wood-fired, Southern-inspired cuisine that the restaurant is known for. From the bar, whiskey drinkers will love their Old Fashioned menu, which offers five different takes on the classic cocktail. Standouts from their house cocktail menu include the Ginger Mojito with ginger jam and mint from the garden, and The Slow Boat, a rum-based martini. Since COVID, Post & Beam has expanded their already ample patio space by laying down astroturf and adding even more well-spaced tables. Plus, bottomless mimosas are back at their weekend brunch service!
New York’s favorite East Village bar Employees Only took the trip out west in 2018, revamping the almost 4,000-square foot former BBQ joint into a Prohibition-style speakeasy frequented by your favorite CW stars. While those dreams got temporarily dashed with the pandemic, Employees Only bounced back by turning their back patio into an experiential pop-up dubbed the Summer Social Club that features the same heavy-handed cocktails with locally sourced ingredients, plus a rotating list of local chefs to keep the food menu fresh. Try their agave-sweetened “Better Margarita” and see if it lives up to the name.
Situated on the rooftop of the Hoxton hotel, the Pilot’s bar and restaurant extends to the hotel’s pool deck, with sweeping views of the DTLA skyline. The coastal Mediterranean menu pairs perfectly with the rooftop’s beachy palette, offset by a centerpiece display of fresh seafood and vegetables draped over ice. The house cocktails include the adorably Instagrammable Swine Dive, with chicharron-infused mezcal, mango Grenadine, cherry tomato, and lime, presented in a pink glass in the shape of a smiling pig with a straw and herb garnish sticking out its backside. To top it off, Pilot offers a weekday happy hour from 2–5 pm with lemon G&Ts for $10.40, a changing drink of the day for $8.32, well drinks and house wine for $8.32, plus select beers for just $4.16.
Flying Embers Social Club and Brewery
Flying Embers didn’t just brave opening their Arts District taproom during a pandemic, the company itself was born in Ojai during a massive wildfire that threatened the owner’s home and brewery. Bragging better-for-you booze that’s fermented to leave zero sugar and zero carbs, Flying Embers hard seltzers and kombuchas are offered with low and high ABV that ranges from 4.5% up to 8.5% with flavor combinations like Clementine Hibiscus, Pineapple Cayenne, and Mango Hop-Anero. The spacious DTLA taproom has plenty of seating, a huge flatscreen TV that’s often playing live sports, and a food truck that’s usually parked outside should your stomach start rumbling.
How to book: via Resy.
Margot’s open-air 75-seat patio rooftop on Culver City’s Platform shopping center might be the best in LA, and is certainly a top contender for the Westside, with 360-degree views of the city and numerous heat lamps to help you fend off that evening chill. The decor is a very Culver City-appropriate blend of bohemian and industrial, with a huge floral mural, marble surfaces, and raw wood tables, plus huge floor-to-ceiling windows and hanging lanterns in an interior space that offers similar views. Margot is perfect for a date night or celebration, with a house cocktail list that favors herbal and floral infusions—like the Lakers-inspired Black Mamba with mezcal, yellow chartreuse, blackberry, habanero, and lemon— plus regional wines that pair perfectly with the restaurant’s coastal Mediterranean fare. Margot also has the very LA option of requesting separate vegan brunch and vegan dinner menus so your plant-based friends don’t have to screen each item for animal products.
Spirit House Echo Park
Head into Sticky Rice and make a left after passing through the red curtain and you’ll find yourself in Spirit House, Echo Park’s new Thai-inspired beer garden. Spirit House takes a speakeasy approach with its hidden entrance, but the vibe on their back patio is a vibrant chaos that harkens back to Echo Park’s 2019 glory days with multicolored string lights and Thai flags strung throughout. The drink menu plays off the same theme and you’ll see standard negronis, old fashioneds, and martinis swapped out for crafty concoctions like the Thai Tea Gimlet, made with Thai tea-infused gin, lime juice, house-made orgeat, and lime leaf.
How to book: Walk-ins welcome.
Hidden away at the eastern end of York Blvd is Holcomb, the neighborhood’s new favorite natural wine bar, with plenty of $10 glasses and craft beers to choose from for the hops-oriented crowd. Open seven days a week, the wine bar recently reopened their cozy interior with coral walls and sea-green banquette seating, but they also have a small covered patio and sidewalk seating. For food, they’ve got charcuterie options, a mezze plate, tuna and steak tartare, a few side plates, salads, a pork rillette sandwich, and a dessert biscuit.
How to book: Walk-ins welcome.
Silverlake’s favorite hybrid market-cafe-wine bar has reopened its back patio for dinner service, featuring the farm-fresh Mediterranean fare they’re beloved for. While their generous natural wines list is an obvious draw, the house cocktails are worth exploring if you’re into floral, not-too-sweet drinks that pack a punch. Plus the attached market makes it easy to order your favorite bottles, plus plenty of kitchen and home essentials, to go.
Portuguese Bend Distilling
Named after the infamous Portuguese Bend area of Palos Verdes that once served as the hotbed of California’s underground alcohol activity in the Prohibition Era, this Long Beach distillery specializes in grain-to-grass gins, rums, and vodkas, with their pink-hued California-made Donna Rosa gin being the most popular spirit. Sample their creations in craft cocktails that include Eurotrip, with Portuguese Bend Aquavit, Benedictine, and Ficklewood Cider, and Yass Please, with Portuguese Bend Donna Rosa, Campari, Giffard Orgeat, pineapple gum syrup, lemon juice, and grapefruit juice, then topped with IPA. The food menu features hefty, comfort-driven plates, and their weekday happy hour from 3–6 pm is a great opportunity to try their Donna Rosa gin as a mule or Tom Collins cocktail for just $8. While distillery tours are currently on pause, the spacious wraparound patio remains open, as is indoor dining.
NYC’s favorite apothecary-inspired bar made the trip out west in 2018, landing in an unassuming corner of Chinatown adjacent to the LA River, with a lush patio garden that mixologists frequently pick from for their own housemade infusions. And while we’re happy to order their creative concoctions to-go, we’re thrilled that they’ve reopened their patio with a limited capacity Friday–Sunday. Order from their botanically infused menu based on what ails you, with each drink categorized according to its supposed benefit of Health & Beauty, Aphrodisiacs, Stimulants, Pain Killers, and Stress Relievers.
Remember when we used to spend weekend nights anywhere but at home? We can’t either, but we’re eager to refresh our memories now that Thunderbolt has extended their Friday and Saturday hours to close at midnight. Located at the intersection of Historic Filipinotown, Echo Park, and DTLA, Thunderbolt is the perfect in-the-middle-meeting spot. Drink favorites include the Liquid Picnic (we’re already intrigued!) with London Dry Gin, citron, tomato, rosemary, and black pepper, and the Round Trip, with Cocoa Nib Bourbon, Cognac, Bual Madeira, banana, and almond that’s described as “Madeira’s trans-atlantic journey in a glass.” The bar has a patio, sidewalk, and limited indoor seating, and a menu of Southern-inspired favorites like Momma Leah’s soy-glazed lollipop drumettes, and 23-month dry-cured Country Ham with seasonal fruit and buttermilk biscuits.