Charleston: The Ultimate Local's Guide
Est. 2019 | Santa Monica
An airy bar near the Third Street Promenade, co-starring legit Mexican food
When Lanea moved in to replace longtime favorite Copa d’Oro, the space became unrecognizable: it's much airier now, with a breezy wraparound counter, a cushioned lounge, and sea blue decor paired with wood tones. Lanea translates from Hawaiian as “heavenly flower,” which definitely fits the transformed atmosphere. Beverage Director Bethany Ham takes advantage of the nearby farmers market when developing her vibrant cocktails, like the Jungle Bird Scooter: a turmeric-stained, mezcal-powered reference to Santa Monica’s notorious motorized scooters. Ham also makes a legit spicy mezcal margarita with pepper honey and pepper salt. If you’re looking for something more straightforward, simply scan Lanea’s roster of mezcals and tequilas that delves over 150 bottles deep. Lanea also serves some of the best tacos Santa Monica’s ever seen, which come on made-to-order corn tortillas with guac, chopped white onions, sliced cucumber, and fragrant delfino cilantro (flowers included). Lamb is the clear taco star, though you could definitely make a case for thin-sliced cecina (pounded beef) and vegetarian combo of squash blossoms, cremini mushrooms and spinach.
Est. 2018 | Historic Filipinotown
Gin and genever get the spotlight, fueling Filipino-influenced cocktails
A gold door beneath a coupe glass sign leads you into this moody lounge, where you'll find comfortable grey couches, wavy chandeliers made with recycled glass, and a mural of Lady Genever herself in the back corner. Owners and longtime friends Christine Sumiller, Patricia Perez, and Roselma Samala pay tribute to their Filipina heritage by incorporating ingredients like calamansi, pandan, and datu puti in their gin/genever-forward cocktails, which also feature musical names like Heard It Through The Grapevine and Jessie’s Girl. Themed four-pour gin and genever flights allow drinkers to compare and contrast the key spirits, while more straightforward types may want a “headbutt”: a beer-and-genever-shot combo in the Dutch kopstootje tradition, the Netherlands being where gin precursor genever was born. Whatever you get, Genever provides complimentary Filipino style corn nuts tossed with fried garlic.
Est. 2018 | Chinatown
A tiny brewery expands to a new neighborhood and takes flight
It took expanding from Highland Park to Chinatown for this standout brewery to find a larger audience. Now that HPB is unshackled, brewmaster Bob Kunz creates beautiful barrel-fermented ales and sours blended with premium California produce. The 16 taps here rotate with mostly sessionable ales, peppered with outliers like the surprisingly tropical New England-style IPA called Coco Wham or the funky American stout brewed with black garlic that goes by Black Bulb. Sour ales and saisons brewed with seasonal stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and cherums (a cherry-plum hybrid) also factor into the line-up, and they even provide half-pours of most beers to make experimentation more inviting. Sitting across from Los Angeles State Historic Park and a short walk from the Gold Line, the airy space features a light-strung patio, a convivial vibe, and an evolving food menu from lauded local chef Shawn Pham.
Est. 2018 | 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.
Est. 2017 | 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.
Est. 2017 | Hollywood
Carrying the tiki torch into the modern era
Just two blocks from where world traveler Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt (aka Donn Beach) opened Don the Beachcomber in 1933, bartenders Austin Melrose and Zachary Paterson are putting a contemporary twist on tiki at this 275-seat bar. While its name honors a Polynesian god, LONO defies tiki conventions like dark, windowless rooms that offer an escape from the daily grind. Instead, guests are greeted by a pink-and-green neon sign that reads “Where the Wild Things Are,” leading them into a space that features a five-seat bar, themed booths, and banana leaf wallpaper up front; a tea room with lobster trap lanterns; and an elevated patio with striped cabanas and a secondary bar. Island-inspired bites include Kona coffee rubbed tomahawk steak and Hawaiian shave ice, and the drinks can get as elaborate as guests like, ranging from classics like the Zombie to signature blends like Curse of Lono (a drink they serve ablaze). If you're looking to push the envelope even further there's the truly over-the-top Release the Kraken punch, which incorporates a full Grey Goose bottle. Tiki bottle service, anyone?
Est. 2017 | 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.
Est. 2016 | 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.
Est. 2016 | 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.
Est. 2016 | 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.
Est. 2016 | Venice
A Central Coast craft beer titan gets experimental at its LA gastropub
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. has a sterling reputation in the beer world, and managed to maintain indie cred as they’ve grown from their base in Paso Robles. The Propagator, the company's experimental brewpub in Venice, has allowed the Lion (David Walker) and Bear (Adam Firestone) to further cement their status with LA beer drinkers. Beer figures prominently into the corrugated metal and rusted steel space: small kegs double as bike racks, they list beers on sliced barrels, and big circular booths fit into brew tank cross sections. The pilot brewhouse produces beer that may eventually join the company’s larger line-up; if not, locals can enjoy one-offs like Bavarian Weissebier and Hazy Pale Ale crafted with herbaceous Motueka hops from New Zealand. Beer flights are a great choice in this setting, and the menu of comfort food provides the perfect complement to all those suds. Weekend tours are available by email reservation.
Est. 2015 | Downtown
Longtime friends create a dream hangout in the Arts District
Years ago, Randy Clement and chef Matt Molina were hired a day apart at the late, great Campanile -- and they've reunited with Everson Royce Bar, delivering the total package to the Arts District. It's tempting to linger at the moody bar beside the “my that’s better” neon sign, but the real action takes place on a sprawling light-strung back patio complete with communal picnic tables, orange sail shades, and a bocce court. Drinking options range from freewheeling wines by the glass to craft beer, boilermakers, barrel-aged cocktails, and even red and green micheladas. Molina, a James Beard Award-winning chef, has created a highly craveable menu of bar bites (which you'll find on the menu under “I Want To Eat”), including a textbook cheeseburger, barbecued chicken thighs, and shrimp roll.
Est. 2015 | 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.
Est. 2014 | 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.
Est. 2014 | Eagle Rock
A family-run brewery gets the modern setting and food it needed
This spinoff from a key member of LA's craft beer revival offers much more than the original brewery (which technically isn’t located in Eagle Rock). Where ERB beers have always been highly seasonal and sessionable, you can get a lot wilder at the public house's eight rotating taps, where you might find anything from a tart, savory Gosé to a hazy IPA brewed with single origin Ardi Ethiopian coffee. For variety’s sake, beertenders serve four-glass flights and can even build a quality michelada using the Eagle Rock beer of your choice. Chef Jerry Su, co-founder Ting Su’s brother, levels up the offerings with an eminently beer-friendly menu that includes such standouts as a mushroom “hot pocket,” medianoche starring house-smoked pork loin, and blackened salmon collar with grits.
Est. 2011 | Echo Park
An ocean of California craft beer inside a historic theatre
Tony Yanow has been a central figure in LA's beer boom, and now co-owns Artisanal Brewers Collective: a family of 10 neighborhood bars and brewpubs that spans from Sherman Oaks to San Diego, the crown jewel of which is arguably Mohawk Bend. Devoting over 70 taps to rotating California craft in a century-old Echo Park theater, Mohawk helps guide guests by dividing its beer menu into categories like Lighter, Toastier/Maltier, Hoppier, Bigger, (double figure ABV) and Sour. There's also a category devoted to New Original Breweries, featuring beers from sister brewpubs like Broxton Brew & Public House in Westwood, 6th & La Brea in Mid-City, and Bluebird Brasserie in Sherman Oaks. Beer-friendly comfort food is the star of the edible show here, which includes many vegan options. Hopheads will appreciate Mohawk's annual Los Angeles IPA Festival, which invites California breweries to submit IPAs to be judged by pros and civilians alike over a weekend in early March.
Est. 2011 | Long Beach
A standout in an already craft-beer-centric neighborhood
Plenty of Long Beach establishments have committed to craft beer, but their ambition pales in comparison to Beachwood. Expanding from nearby Seal Beach, this brewpub delivers BBQ and Southern comfort staples like pulled pork and baked mac & cheese, alongside some of California's best beers (brewed on-site) which get showcased along with top picks from other breweries on a proprietary space-age 36-tap draft system. Beachwood co-founder Gabe Gordon’s “flux capacitor” allows beertenders to customize each beer’s carbon or nitrogen level, temperature, and pressure, while brewmaster Julian Shrago ensures the line-up always includes Beachwood styles ranging from IPAs to stouts.
Beachwood Blendery, meanwhile, is a separate tasting room around the corner that specializes in Lambic-inspired, Belgian-style sour ales aged in oak barrels, like the beautifully tart Chaos Is a Friend of Mine. The Blendery also serves a separate Belgian food menu, including crispy chicken wings coated with a spicy Lambic reduction and mussels steamed, partly, using Chaos is a Friend of Mine.
Est. 2011 | 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.
Est. 2010 | Los Feliz
Personal wine recs and a wall-mounted motorcycle help set this spot apart
Hollywood Boulevard east of Vermont Avenue has become one of LA’s hottest blocks, and Covell is the bar that lit the fuse on that boom. Longtime wine luminary Matthew Kaner helps steer Covell’s wine program in unexpected directions, while fellow owner Dustin Lancaster crafted the hang-worthy vibe with personal touches like a wall-mounted Indian motorcycle. Here, traditional printed wine lists are eschewed in favor of personalized recommendations, the eight rotating taps pulse with craft beer from local breweries, and a complimentary food menu includes simple-but-satisfying cheese and charcuterie plates, plus salads and sandwiches. The bar's been successful enough that it even sprouted a boutique hotel upstairs -- if there are any rooms available, Hotel Covell is a great choice for an overnighter or staycation.
Est. 2008 | Beverly Hills
Molecular cocktails minus the kitsch, at a bar inside a hotel restaurant
When The Bazaar by José Andrés opened at SLS Hotel Beverly Hills in 2008, the bar tucked inside brought unprecedented molecular flair to the city’s food and cocktail scene. LA's bar culture caught up in the ensuing decade, but the team at Bar Centro hasn’t stopped pushing boundaries: spherified cherries still appear at the bottom of Manhattan glasses, and servers continue to strain “magic” mojitos over cotton candy.
The innovations kept on rolling in September of 2019, when the resident bar team debuted Bazaar Flight at Gate: Bar Centro -- an ambitious 12-course, globally inspired cocktail tasting menu. The air travel-themed experience takes place at a separate 10-seat bar, by reservation only, and comes with tapas, an electronic boarding pass, and a passport. Interactive cocktails include Diamonds of the Sea, a Russian-inspired drink that pairs vodka pearl “caviar” with olive powder; and a Siphon G&T that lets guests create their own gin with customizable botanicals, herbs, and spices, and pair the resulting booze with a tonic of their choosing.
Est. 2009 | 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.
Est. 2009 | 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.
Est. 2008 | 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).
Est. 2000 | 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.
Est. 1961 | 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.
Est. 1959 | Santa Monica
A beachside standby with a modern patio out back
This nautical bar has been a reliable ocean-adjacent escape from crowds of tourists for 60 years, and played host to legends like Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, and Elizabeth Taylor. Inside, plenty of salty characters (some more charming than others) still show up for heavy pours, big steaks and shrimp cocktails. That's not to say it's stayed stagnant, though: in celebration of the bar's 60th anniversary, second-generation owner Chris Anderson added The Backyard, a light-strung patio with a separate menu. Of course, only a booth -- or, if you’re truly lucky, a prized stool -- will satisfy long-timers.
Est. 1939 | West Hollywood
An entertainment industry hangout that received a major revival
Formosa will feel familiar to L.A. Confidential fans -- it's where Lana Turner throws her drink in Detective Edmund Exley’s face. The bar's been an iconic showbiz haunt for decades, and received a revival from 1933 Group in 2019; it's now more vibrant than ever, with red pagoda-shaped Tiki mugs, dragon swizzle sticks, and a reclaimed bar sourced from the iconic Yee Mee Loo in Chinatown. Of course, the classic red trolley car's still there as well, lined with booths and black-and-white celebrity photos. Cocktails honor key moments in Formosa Café history, including a poem Bono scrawled on a napkin and John Wayne’s overnight stay in a booth, while chef David Kuo updated the food menu to honor the bar’s Chinese-American history with dishes like Kung pao chicken and dan dan mian.