Austin: The Ultimate Local's Guide
If the sheer size of this place doesn’t qualify it as a top-tier birthday spot, then the games certainly will. Between Skee-Ball, Jenga, and pinball, you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to get irritatingly competitive against your friends -- but what really makes ADB a crowd pleaser, though, is its full liquor cabinet. Games, beer, liquor; the place has something for everybody.
Houston Hospitality’s Thai Town spot hasn’t gotten any less great over the years. The only thing better than the live music, burlesque dancers hanging off the ceiling, and always changing R&D Bar (with cocktail themes that have ranged from Knocked Up to Hey Arnold! to Zelda)? The DJs, who constantly ignore the Top 40 you get everywhere else, and hook it up with sexy Motown and funk beats all night long, and the bands, which range from Neil Young cover bands to some of the best indie-rockers in LA.
Speaking of HH joints that haven’t gotten any less great, Good Times at Davey Wayne’s is still rocking '70s flair at the living room-themed Hollywood bar. If you’re looking to make it a big day instead of a big night, Good Times is open in the afternoon on weekends for some killer food on its patio (which is also where you can grab those alcoholic sno-cones) -- which also means you don’t need to sweat the nighttime guest list.
If karaoke is the birthday you’re looking for, steer your crew to Blue Goose. It’s easy to miss, because the poorly lit sign just says “Cocktail Lounge,” but sneak around the side of the strip-mall to find the entrance. The comfy leather couches go quite nicely with the bar’s stiff pours, and for some reason this place never seems to fill up -- so it’s the perfect spot for you and your friends to completely dominate while you sing crooning versions of Alanis Morissette and David Bowie.
Melrose Umbrella Co. also seems to have gotten the hint that a lot of people are over the days of the Top 40 DJ, because they blast throwback jams that people want to hear (who could ever get sick of the Isley Brothers?). Plus, the drinks are great (Try a Patterson’s Nap, with bourbon, tangerine, lemon, and Campari) and the clientele tend to look like supermodels, which means when you strike out on your birthday, you’re striking out large.
The Griffin’s wide open center and dual bars are already the recipe for a great birthday, but if your big day happens to be on a Wednesday, you’ve got another excellent ingredient: the bar’s Wing Wednesdays, where you can snake a beer and five wings for $5. Oh, your birthday is on a Friday? Looks like you’ve got reason to celebrate twice now.
If you thought Downtown and Glendale-adjacent were the only places brewing special craft brews and fun stuff to do, you thought wrong. Since 2014, MacLeod has been pouring choice English-style ales in the middle of a warehouse in Van Nuys, complete with live music, food trucks, darts, and board games. A big group of friends looking to get their birthday beers on will feel right at home, especially since they have a “Buy Your Friend a Beer” board, and you can subtly/not-so-subtly suggest they rack up a couple hundred for you.
The heart-of-DTLA location alone makes it a top-notch spot to begin (or end) your special night. Add to that the fact that you don’t need a reservation and there’s lots of space and you have yourself a birthday that everybody’s gonna enjoy. Gather your group on the patio and get down on some tasty shared plates -- like the chicken & donuts with Tapatio whipped cream -- and a giant beer and spirits list (including the amazing, hard-to-find KIN white whiskey).
Tonga Hut has everything you want in a birthday, if everything you want includes over 70 different “grogs” (including some that are on fire). The North Hollywood spot has plenty of booths, as well as a jukebox, darts, and, of course, the opportunity to join The Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard... aka if you can drink every single one of the bar’s grogs in a year, you’ll get a special hand-carved plaque on the wall. A birthday is obviously the best time to start.
You’ll feel like you’ve been thrown straight into the French Quarter as soon as you step foot into The Little Easy, and if that means a ton of faux-pearl necklaces and “woooooing,” you’ll be all the better for it, even if there’s (generally) no flashing. The bar’s got tons of seating, tasty bar food, and crazy B-movies playing on the TVs -- and a giant tank of self-serve water for whichever of your friends goes the hardest.
Though the food at The Hermosillo is rock solid, the real treat is nestled inside courtesy of the expansive beer menu of Highland Park Brewery. It has draft beers as standard as IPAs and hefs, as well as beers that are as experimental and tasty as a cilantro & ancho chile brew. Throw a shuffleboard table and the ring/hook game into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a helluva birthday.
In a town so full of clubs, covers, and velvet ropes, it’s nice to be able to grab some booths with your friends, and, ya know, actually be able to hear them. That, combined with cheap & crazy strong drinks, Chinese & Thai food, and the bar’s infamous “Big TV” make The Roost hard to beat. Plus, you'll be able to hear your friends say thank you when they realize how good you were to their wallets this year.
If you’re going out downtown, start your night at Brack Shop. An excellent get-the-gang-together-before-painting-the-town-red bar, you’ll be able to gear up for your big night with tasty bar bites (shout-out to those mole tacos), fun cocktails, and a rotating tap list that will please even the most hardcore of beer nerds. But what’s that? You made it back to Brack Shop at the END of your night? Well, you’re in luck: there’s a brand-spankin’-new game room upstairs with pingpong, darts, and even an N64.
Let’s be honest: Shatto 39 Lanes is the cheapest bar in town, and it’s got the added bonus of being in the same building as LA’s best bowling alley. What else do you need (besides arcade games, pool tables, and a snack bar, which they also have)? Birthday Olympics, yo.
Frogtown bar crawl
A crawl through Frogtown is always a beautiful birthday move since you’ve got Frogtown Brewery, Salazar, and Zebulon all lined up and waiting. Start at the brewery for a few pints of flavorful craft beer and a bite from whatever food trucks are posted up that day; then, head up the street towards Salazar for a Paloma, the probably-best cocktail in LA. Still hungry? In addition to upscale shareables, Salazar also makes some of the best tacos you’ll eat this year on life-changing tortillas. Finally, head next door to Zebulon for a lively vibe, big patio, and (depending on the night) some live music or dancing.
If you haven’t been to Clifton’s yet, you’re doing something seriously wrong. Besides being one of the best pieces of LA history we have, it is by far the most one-of-a-kind bar in the city. Three floors and four different bars (with more rumored to be on the way) await you inside, so if you’re expecting a big crowd, this is your spot. The newest and most exciting edition to the Clifton’s empire is Pacific Seas, a world-class tiki bar hidden behind a mirror on the third floor. Collared shirts are required, but don’t worry -- that includes Hawaiians.
Perfectly low-key and chock-full of friendly staff and patrons, it makes no sense to us that this place isn’t more famous. The patio out back is by far one of the best in LA, and since the place opens at 3pm on weekends, it’s a perfect choice for some beers in the sunshine. With cheap drinks, strong pours, shuffleboard, and ample seating, Verdugo Bar is your favorite bar even if you never knew it existed.
LA most certainly isn’t short of hidden bars, and The Slipper Clutch is no exception. Behind a door in the back of Bar Clacson you’ll find The Slipper Clutch: an ‘80s throwback packed full of neon signs, pinball machines, and party-pleasing drink specials. It’s easy to step back into Clacson for some charcuterie plates, pétanque, and coffee, too.
Highland Park Bowl is amongst the most stunningly designed buildings in Los Angeles, full stop. The bowling is pricier than you’ll find at places like Shatto, but you’re getting what you pay for in terms of comfy-ass couches and insanely impressive decor. Plus, the kitchen serves have wood-fired pizzas and the same rockstar beverage program that the 1933 Group is known for. “Roll” into Highland Park Bowl for your next birthday and you may just get a “strike”!
Sincerest apologies for that last line.
Block Party might just have the granddaddy of all day drinking patios. In the back of this beer-and-wine-only Highland Park hotspot, you’ll find an elite-level patio with shuffleboard and picnic tables waiting for you and your birthday crew. Highland Park is getting cooler by the minute, and Block Party is one of the driving forces behind that.
While the Atwater Village Bigfoot is a true gem, Bigfoot West somehow wins this round; it feels bigger, isn’t full of of scary bikers, and has more seating space. The place stocks good beer and serves tasty cocktails, which only add to the adult Chuck E. Cheese's-style environment. Bring your crew here and you’ll feel like you’re dominating the entire establishment, which, let’s be honest, is the exact feeling you want when you’re celebrating your birthday.