Food & Drink

The Best Places to Drink in LA Right Now

Updated On 06/26/2019 at 05:17PM EST Updated On 06/26/2019 at 05:17PM EST
The Waterfront Venice
Courtesy of The Waterfront Venice
In Sheeps Clothing hi-fi

In Sheep’s Clothing

Downtown

A bar/listening room designed for exactly that
From some of the same people as No Name and Lupetti’s Pizza, In Sheep’s Clothing is a bar that essentially turns the loud-and-raucous atmosphere of most drinking establishments on its head. Rather than list its menu on the website, In Sheep’s Clothing instead runs down the specs of its sound system, which makes sense -- despite their curated collection of mezcal and high-end cocktails, this is the best-sounding room in LA. Bartenders play their favorite records on the immaculate system, and patrons are greeted with a sign that says, nicely, “Please keep your conversations below the music.” Looking for a party? Not your spot. Wanna get a bit more intimate with a date without having to shout? Bingo.

Hatchet Hall

Old Man Bar

Culver City

A new classic, with an old-classic feel
It seems like it took a few years for Old Man Bar to find its feet, but now the sorta-hidden spot attached to Hatchet Hall is a favorite not just for locals but as a destination, as well. You could credit that to the menu, full of rare bottles and expertly made cocktails, but it’s also the dimly lit, woodsy feel of the whole thing -- in other words, it feels like a place that your old man would drink at, were he someone you actually called your old man.

Madame Siam

Madame Siam

Hollywood

Proof positive: The Houston Brothers can do no wrong
If you’re thinking “yeah, but the Houston Brothers already have a ton of bars on this list, can this one really be that good?”, well, we don’t blame you. That said, the answer is a definitive yes. The unstoppable duo’s most recent local drop is this Asian-themed, anything-goes emporium: the large stage has hosted everyone from a Beatles-cover band supergroup with Muse’s Matt Bellamy and Blur’s Graham Coxon, to adult magician Christopher Wonder, who (spoiler alert) has a tattoo that says “Ta Da” right on his ass. In other words: something for everyone.

Courtesy of The Waterfront Venice

The Waterfront Venice

Venice

A boardwalk classic, upgraded
There’s no doubt that the comment section is going to be full of Venice locals of a certain age, upset that the old, worn-wood Waterfront cafe was replaced recently by this bright, party-vibe barstaurant. They’re not necessarily wrong, but things change -- and in this case, the change was long-needed. The old Waterfront may have been beloved but wasn’t actually, you know, good; this on-the-beach replacement is actually welcoming, actually fun, and actually has good food and drinks. It's a true upgrade, not just an update.

Blue Dog Beer Tavern

Blue Dog Tavern

Sherman Oaks

An under-the-radar beer-nerd favorite
Once upon a time, about 10 years ago, if you wanted to drink in the valley (and didn’t want to hit the bar at the Daily Grill) your choices were dive bars -- or divier bars. Blue Dog was one of the first gastropubs, but it opened before that was really a “thing” and therefore sometimes gets lost in the (somewhat wobbly) dustbin of history. That’s a shame: Not only is their burger one of the best in the city, but they do regular, amazing tap takeovers and hard-to-find rotations.

Scum and Villainy Cantina

Scum And Villany

Hollywood

The geeks are taking over the world… and this bar is proof
Originally a pop-up inspired by the cantina from Star Wars, Scum & Villany has become the cosplay-encouraged center for all sorts of LA geeks who love drinking, from Game Of Thrones geeks (they had an iron throne for photo ops before the finale) to Pokémon geeks (they recently hosted a catch-em-all meetup) to board game geeks, who meet here on the regular for theme-and-play nights. A safe space for geeks to drink? Sign us up -- as soon as we raid our costume bin.

The Wolves DTLA

The Wolves

Downtown

The hottest cocktail bar in LA right now
There’s no shortage of gorgeous cocktail bars in LA serving immaculate drinks, but The Wolves -- Al Almeida and Daniel Salin’s 1910s-themed spot in DTLA -- may be the most gorgeous, and its drinks the most immaculate. If a traditional a la carte bar experience isn’t enough for you, the back lounge of the bar is known as La Neant: an omakase drinking experience with every-single-thing, from bitters to liquors, all made in-house.

Old Lightning

Venice

The best booze collection in the world, right here in Venice
There are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to get into Old Lightning, Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix’s speakeasy-ish, no-phones-allowed, reservations-required bar in Venice. If you’re a booze connoisseur, though, they’re all worth it. The bar has over 1000 bottles of impossible-to-find booze that’s been decommissioned for some reason or another, making it one of the best booze collections in the world. Though it’s not pretentious, the vibe inside is reverent towards those spirits; this is a place that understands that drinking isn’t always about revelry, but contemplation, too.

Conservatory West Hollywood

Conservatory

West Hollywood

A multi-pronged hang spot in the heart of the city
Sometimes you just can’t decide what experience you want: a rowdy dining room bar? An outdoor fireside hang? An intimate cocktail lounge? Conservatory’s got them all covered, which makes this WeHo spot one of the best new mid-city meet-up hangs: You can grab a drink and an app at the inside bar, move outside to the patio for dinner, and then retreat into Society Room, the craft cocktail spot just on the inside. All of this, without having to wait for an Uber.

Jakob Layman

Black Rabbit Rose

Hollywood

Magician bar from the Houston brothers
It wasn’t the runaway hit out of the box that Harvard & Stone or Davey Wayne's was, but the Houston brothers’ Black Rabbit Roses slow-burn is part of its magic. It’s not all of it, though: The bar’s literally attached to a magic theater, with nightly shows from Magic Castle-level magicians and drinks with unique properties -- like infusions with activated charcoal or hickory smoke added at the table. They’ve also got the best bar food in town, with the attached Thai restaurant Blind Tiger providing a noodly base to prevent day-after regret.

Jesús Bañuelos

The Pacific Seas

Downtown

Tiki-themed masterpiece inside Clifton’s 
Let’s be honest. Every bar in Clifton’s -- the multi-story food and drink Disney downtown -- is pretty great. But Pacific Seas, semi-hidden upstairs and behind another unassuming bar, is its masterpiece, not just for its gorgeous decor (which includes a giant ship and dangling pufferfish) but also its majestic drinks, based on recipes from classic tiki lounges like Trader Vic's, all of which are perfectly balanced -- and totally refreshing.
 

Wonho Frank Lee

Broken Shaker

Downtown

Rooftop bar with an appropriately spectacular view
This Miami import’s won James Beard and Tales of The Cocktail awards at its home base, and the LA outpost follows in its large footsteps, with beautiful trees, comfy seats, and a rooftop pool. (OK, the pool is only officially available for hotel guests, but c’mon, we all know that game.) The menu includes Cali-influenced drinks like the Pimm's shrub/vodka/ginger ale Recusal Cup, and fish tostadas and veggie egg rolls if you’ve got the munchies.

Courtesy of Good Times at Davey Wayne's

Good Times at Davey Wayne's

Hollywood

The Houston brothers’ 1970s-themed party spot
In just a few short years, Davey Wayne's has become the bar whose quality all others are compared to (and no others can touch). Everything about this Houston Hospitality spot feels perfectly themed to their '70s-throwback vibe, from the shag carpeting to the yacht rock bands that are often playing Michael McDonald covers on the intimate stage. Though they’ve ditched the rollerskating shows and sno-cone bar that set them apart when they opened, the overall groovy feel has taken Davey Wayne’s from hotspot to institution.

Flickr/Floyd B. Bariscale

Frolic Room

Hollywood

A Hollywood haunt loaded with history
A few years ago, The Powerhouse reimagined itself as a cocktail bar -- and while that may or may not have been a good business move for that Hollywood stalwart, it was definitely a shining moment for The Frolic Room, which now stands alone in the pantheon of great Hollywood dive bars. It’s of an earlier time, when the vibe and the crowd were both dark and mysterious; when the jukebox could change the entire tone of a room; when the guy across the bar could be a major celebrity (or a Mini Mr T). It’s cheap; it’s ancient; it’s glorious.

Blue Palms Brewhouse

Blue Palms Brewhouse

Hollywood

One of LA’s most lauded beer bars
It’s funny to think that this no-frills gastropubish bar was once a nothing establishment that existed mainly to serve the clients of the right-next-door Fonda Theater: These days, it seems on some nights like it’s more of a destination than that club is, with tap takeovers, rare brews, and an intense focus on hop-knowledge that’s made it one of the best beer bars in the city (that burger ain’t bad, either).

JUMBO'S CLOWN ROOM

Jumbo's Clown Room

Los Feliz

Strong drinks and incredibly impressive pole dancing
With the possible exception of the Tiki Ti, there is no more beloved shithole in LA than Jumbo’s Clown Room, and for good reason: This dive-with-a-stage-and-a-pole (don’t call it a strip club -- there’s no nudity, few lapdances, and very little skeeviness) oozes charisma, and thankfully not much else. Unlike other similar establishments (not-not looking at you, Cheetah’s), the women who dance here clearly want to be dancing here, and as such are treated as athletes as much as they are sex symbols: Once you see a tatted punk-rock princess slide down a pole with one toe against all laws of gravity while singing along to “First of the Gang to Die,” you’ll be totally on board -- and if you’re not, we’re not so sure we want to hang out with you, anyways.

The Spare Room

The Spare Room

Hollywood

Fancy-pants lounge with bowling as an added bonus
If you were the betting type, it would've been a safe to bet against The Spare Room when it opened in 2011. It was hard to find, seated on the top floor of a hotel; the crowd it initially appealed to was more red-velvet than loyal-fan; it had a dual bowling alley; and charged to rent games like Jenga. Here’s the thing, though: Once you were in, you realized there were secrets to The Spare Room, from hidden photo booths to occasional band nights, and that bowling here was far more fun than at the tourist-haven Lucky Strike right down the street. And then you had one of the drinks and realized they were among the best in the city. And then you kept coming back for more. And here we are, nearly a decade later.

Courtesy of No Name

No Name

West Hollywood

Exclusive bar with major interior vibe
Everything about No Name should be hateable, from the fedora on the doorman to the you-need-to-know-someone-to-get-in-or-do-you door policy to their no-cameras rule to, uh, the fact that the bar DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A NAME. But here’s the thing: Once you’re inside, it’s one of the most easygoing, comfortable bars in LA, with surprise performances and amazing fried chicken, as well as the friendliest staff in LA. Yes, even that guy in the fedora.

Seven Grand

Seven Grand

Downtown

Whiskey bar flagship for one of LA’s best bar groups
Cedd Moses deserves props for knowing a good thing when he saw it: The barman behind just about all of the bars that made the Downtown scene happen (Golden Gopher! Broadway Bar!) was the first to see the potential in reviving a part of the city many had left for dead. Seven Grand is his masterpiece, a whiskey bar that seems both serious and inviting at once, with game tables and macrobrews for people who just want a good time, and a hundreds-deep menu of the brown stuff for anyone looking to take their drinking to the next level.

Alex's Bar

Alex's Bar

Long Beach

An LBC punk rock institution
In a town known for punk rock, this legendary red box-of-a-bar in an industrial-ish section of town is known for being the punkest bar of them all. That doesn’t just mean Buds and bashing, though. Booker/owner Alex Hernandez, who has been a local legend for the nearly 20+ of the bar, got into craft cocktails a few years ago -- so this dive bar now has great drinks, as well as great music.

Tiki Ti

Tiki-Ti

Los Feliz

The most colorful tiki bar in LA
While LA has plenty of solid Tiki offerings both old and new, Tiki-Ti is the long-reigning champ (with a mug raise to Tonga Hut in NoHo, which is a few years older but doesn’t quite pour on the charm as heavily). The unbelievably tiny, family-run joint packs in the party with tchotchkies galore, a ceiling with names of decades-long regulars, and, of course, a lengthy list of potent Tiki cocktails, many of which were concocted by founder Ray Buhen who previously worked at the original Don the Beachcomber (if you’re here on a Wednesday at 8:30pm, you can join in a toast to Ray). Take a spin on the Wheel of Tiki Drinks if you’re feeling indecisive, and if you order the rum-loaded Uga Booga, prepare for an “uga booga” chant from the whole bar as they pour your drink.

Chez Jay

Chez Jay

Santa Monica

Strong drinks and great steaks, steps from the beach
A nautically themed Westside institution, Chez Jay has been a reliable ocean-adjacent escape from crowds of tourists since 1959. Inside you’ll find heavy pours, big steaks and shrimp cocktails, and plenty of salty characters (some more charming than others). Oh yes, and peanut shells covering the floor. There’s a patio out back, but if you can snag a booth -- or rarer still a stool at the bar -- you’ll begin to understand just why this place can never go away.

Flickr/SGV FILMWORKS

Lucky Baldwin's

Pasadena

Pasadena's beer-nerd paradise
The drinking options in Pasadena have noticeably improved in recent years, but long before The Blind Donkey was pouring craft selections or Der Wolfskopf was filing liters with German pilsners, Lucky Baldwin’s was the destination for beer nerds in the area (and it still holds the torch high). Prepare to examine a lengthy menu heavy on Belgian and SoCal brews, and you’re probably going to want to order their famous fish ‘n' chips or bangers & mash to keep you well-fueled. The two other locations -- in Sierra Madre and on Colorado Boulevard -- might be roomier, but it’s tough to beat the weathered and improvised feel of the original spot in Old Town.

Wonho Frank Lee/Highland Park Bowl

Highland Park Bowl

Highland Park

An emerging neighborhood’s historic drinking-and-gaming centerpiece
If throwing strikes in a stunningly restored circa-1929 bowling alley, while sipping excellent cocktails and chowing down wood-fired pizzas sounds like a perfect Friday night for you, then step this way. The 1933 Group -- known for top-notch, vintage-inspired watering holes like Harlowe, Sassafras, and Idle Hour -- really outdid themselves with this latest venture with an attention to detail that provides so much eye candy, while still leaving room for plenty of fun. You’re going to want to invite the whole crew.

Ercoles 1101

Ercoles 1101

Manhattan Beach

Dive bar where you come for the history, but stay for the cheeseburger
One of the oldest bars in LA, Ercoles has thankfully retained much of its true grit over the decades without anything “craft” or “refurbished” interfering. What you will find is cheap booze, worn wooden booths, and a cast of regulars at the bar that greet each other like they were on "Cheers." And you definitely don’t want to leave without ordering this dive bar’s wonderfully simple griddle-cooked cheeseburger loaded with toppings. Just don’t forget to bring cash.

Courtesy of Boneyard Bistro

Boneyard Bistro

Sherman Oaks

The Valley’s booze-and-BBQ mainstay
So, let us get this straight: you’ve got 42 rotating taps of craft beer, a massive whiskey selection, and fantastic hickory-smoked BBQ? Do you really need more reasons to drink at Boneyard Bistro? OK, how about the low-key vibe and friendly staff that make it an equally great option for watching the game with buddies and taking your special someone to brunch? Or maybe the special events like tap takeovers and fried chicken Mondays? Sold? Great, we’ll see you there.

Carlos Lopez

The Varnish

Downtown

Jazzy speak-easy with award-winning drinks
One of the first bars in the speak-easy-bandwagon, The Varnish -- a tiny little spot hidden in the back of Cole’s -- has also become one of the best free live-music bars in the city, with exceptional jazz nearly all the time, and the best cocktails in the city, all the time.

Eugine Lee

The Slipper Clutch

Downtown

Serious ‘80s punk rock vibes with seriously good drinks
This Downtown bar’s become a quick favorite thanks to an all-star team that includes Cedd Moses and Eric Alperin, who’ve imbued the spot (hidden behind the also-notable Bar Clacson) with an old-school, punky vibe and a highball-inspired drink list. Bring some quarters for the retro video games, too.

Noted Media

The San Fernando

Glendale

A neighborhood fave worth travelling for
Instead of ruining the legacy of the local fave Big Fish, The San Fernando’s taken over the Glendale spot and ensured it remains neighborhoody, with an interior that’s an ode to the nearby railway and an interesting-but-not-snooty fresh drinks list that utilizes house-made syrups, as well as local-songwriter nights in a ‘hood without much live music.