Food & Drink

24 Essential LA Dive Bars, and Why You Should Drink in All of Them

When it comes to drinking in LA, flashiness is undoubtedly part of the image. We’ve got who-knows-how-many “secret” entrances, more speakeasies than we can count, and a ton of beautifully designed, detail-packed lounges. There’s another side to LA’s drinking scene, though: our dive bars are strong and plentiful, always full of neighborhood life and unified by cheap drinks. But with so many great dives, which ones are worth your time? We’ve got your back: you’ll find our all-time favorite LA dives below, along with foolproof reasons why you should visit each of them.
 
Note: A lot of these places have been around for so long that even the current owners don’t know when they first opened. For those places, we have an approximation of their opening via their Yellow Pages info, denoted with a “~” sign.

Chimney Sweep Lounge

Est. ~1993 | Sherman Oaks
Stiff drinks and pool in a Sherman Oaks strip mall

There’s no shortage of dive bars in the Valley, but few have the personality or charm of Sherman Oaks’ own Chimney Sweep. Grab some White Russians and booth it up, or bring your always-strong drinks over to the other side of the bar for some pool. Lebanese heavy-hitter Carnival Restaurant is next door, too, for all your pre- (and post)-drinking needs.

Ye Rustic Inn

Est. 1971 | Los Feliz
Lively Los Feliz dive famous for wings

There’s no mark of a great dive bar that Rustic doesn’t hit. Dim lighting and red leather booths: check. Stiff pours so cheap that you need to order two drinks to meet the credit card minimum: bingo. Walking distance from a number of much pricier, much trendier spots: of course. Sometimes Jon Hamm is there: Not really the mark of a great dive bar, but it seems worth mentioning. Yet above all else, the reason you’ve wound up at Ye Rustic Inn is the wings. Perfectly fried, spicy, and tangy, Rustic’s wings are the best Buffalo wings in LA, and a rare instance when we'd advise eating a dive bar’s food.

HMS Bounty

Est. 1962 | Koreatown
A K-Town legend known for stiff drinks and steaks

The nautically-themed Koreatown dive has been an institution for decades, and in our book, nothing goes better with impossibly cheap, impossibly strong well drinks than a nice big steak. Pair all that with the CD-based jukebox, settle into a booth, and have yourselves a big night.

Lei Aloha

Est. ~1977 | Westchester
LAX-adjacent sports bar

Unlimited airport lounge cocktails are all well and good, but if you’re in need of some cheap drinks and local charm before your flight, this cash-only, no-frills dive is a must. Mixed drinks for $5 and under? Check. Pinball machine? Big check. Microwave available to heat your own food? Check-aroo.

The Branch Office

Est. 1963 | Torrance
Reliable South Bay spot for $2 beers

No matter who you are, it’s hard to argue with $2 beers and $3.50 well drinks. Sort of like an ungodly cross between Moe’s Tavern and the bar at the Elk’s Lodge, The Branch Office’s free pool tables and decent food keep South Bay regulars coming back.

Crawfords

Est. 2016 | Westlake
Top-tier fried chicken and cheap beers

Sure, traditional dives have adhere to a set of guidelines that really make them a “dive,” but we love Crawfords’ spirit so much that we’re willing to let a few slide. For each rule that Crawfords breaks, they rally back with something true to the dive bar spirit. Sure, they’ve got a solid lineup of craft beer, but they’re selling at dive bar prices. Sure, they haven’t been around for that long, but they’re already packed with regulars and locals as faithful as anywhere. Sure, they’ve got incredible food (specifically fried chicken), but it’s unpretentious and casual. If a dive bar is a place to grab some friends, drink $4 beers, post up in a leather booth, and play Big Buck Hunter, Crawfords is in.

Kibitz Room

Est. 1961 | Fairfax
A live music legacy next door to Canter’s

There are a lot of dives that tout a significant amount of LA history, but the Kibitz Room is right up there with the best of them. Countless LA musicians -- including nobodies like Guns N’ Roses and RHCP -- got their start here, so throw back some drinks and enjoy the music. You never know who might be on their way to the top of the charts.

The Roost

Est. ~1963 | Atwater Village
Atwater Village’s most trusted dive, now with Thai food

Though Atwater’s best bar lost its signature free popcorn, they’ve replaced it with a full Thai food menu, and we’re thrilled about it. Though it’s by no means the most traditional fare, there’s something beautiful about throwing down on some Pad See Ew with your friends after a round of The Roost’s always-too-strong drinks.

Scarlet Lady Saloon

Est. 1999 | Culver City
Culver City watering hole with occasional free food

The Scarlet Lady tempts you with many of the usual trappings of a genuine dive bar: cheap and strong drinks, colorful clientele, unpolished karaoke, and well-worn pool tables. But where it really comes through strong is with regular appearances of homemade food (chili, hot dogs, nachos, breakfast burritos...), often times for free, or at least, all-you-can-eat for cheap.

Tattle Tale Room

Est. 1963 | Culver City
Cheap drinks and karaoke

You can usually sing a song from the Tattle Tale’s massive list within an hour of walking in the door, which separates it from your standard karaoke dive. What keeps it in line with the others, though, is the consistent knack for strong pours, friendly staff, lively atmosphere, and hard-to-top people-watching.

Ujpest Sports Lounge

Est. ~1998 | Van Nuys
$3.50 pitchers and pool at this Hungarian sports bar

When you need a Hungarian sports bar with mini-pitchers of beer for $3.50 and pool tournaments (for whatever reason), Ujpest is your dive of choice. Also, you’ll find free hot dogs here on Monday nights, and karaoke most nights.

Alhambra Cocktail Lounge

Est. 1904 | San Pedro
Legacy San Pedro bar for rotating cheap drink specials

With buckets of King Cobra, Bud on draft, darts, and $3 Fireball shots making regular appearances at this historic, century-old San Pedro dive-of-dives, there are a lot of ingredients for the night to go wrong. Then again, with a better attitude, maybe those are all the ingredients you need for the night to go just right.

Frolic Room

Est. 1934 | Hollywood
Laid-back dive the middle of buzzy Hollywood

Despite being next door to the Pantages, across the street from the W, a few doors down from luxury condos, and only a few feet from the most horrendous tourist haven in LA, the Frolic Room has managed to stay untouched as an elite LA dive bar since the ‘30s. Consider it the single best alternative to Hollywood BS that you can find.

Joe Jost’s

Est. 1924 | Long Beach
The oldest continually operating dive bar west of the Mississippi

This family-owned dive institution has been doling out frosty cold schooners of cheap beer, split Polish sausages on rye, and pickled eggs for decades, and thankfully hasn’t changed much over the years. Don’t forget to grab some peanuts from the 100-year-old roaster.

The Castle

Est. ~1970 | Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach hang known for sports and ping pong

While some may enjoy watching their sports on the screens behind the bar, the real move is to head for the ping pong table in the back. Just don’t ignore the bar completely, as there’s a bit of a Coyote Ugly-vibe up there that's not to be missed.

Jumbo’s Clown Room

Est. 1970 | Thai Town
This non-nude stripclub is a true LA icon

Truly, there’s nowhere in LA like Jumbo’s. It’s not only dudes who brave the ever-present line to pack themselves into this burlesque club to toss out $1 bills. The tatted-up dancers of every size and build are all equally devoted to their craft, defying gravity with crazy climbs or throwing out insanely believable come-hither stares. Jumbo’s is an unbeatable LA institution -- also, Courtney Love got her start here, so they’ve got that going for them, too.

Hinano Cafe

Est. 1969 | Venice
Jim Morrison’s old haunt, featuring one of LA’s best burgers

No day spent at Hinano Cafe is a wasted one, and though it’s probably most famous for Jim Morrison’s self-carved initials, it’s solidified itself as one of LA’s best dives thanks to a consistent crowd of less-than-sober singles and a sesame seed-bunned burger that just won’t quit. Get their on the early side and take advantage of the pool tables and the jukebox.

Drawing Room

Est. ~1980 | Los Feliz
Dark, strip mall spot with darts and karaoke

Sure, there are a lot of dark, dimly lit dive bars, but the Drawing Room is on another level. The Los Feliz strip mall joint, is so dimly lit it makes playing darts an issue… or maybe that's just the booze. Either way, good luck finding your way around without bumping into something. Oh, and early risers rejoice -- the place opens up bright and early at 6am.

Cinema Bar

Est. ~1947 | Culver City
Culver City icon famous for live music

Wanna go to a dive that has live music, but don't want to bring earplugs? This Culver City spot has free bands nearly every night, most of whom fall into the gypsy jazz/swing/country/country-swing-gypsy-jazz realm, rather than the I-STILL-CAN'T-HEAR-ANYTHING-THE-NEXT-DAY realm.

Cozy Inn

Est. ~1984 | Culver City
Divey hang with shuffleboard, pool, and darts

Though their bounty of bar games may be the reason you show up to Cozy Inn, you’ll find plenty more reasons to stay. Be it the constant holiday specials, large selection of bar games, jukebox, or good-hearted staff, Cozy Inn is a knockout Culver City dive that shouldn’t be ignored.

Roadhouse Bar & Grill Los Angeles

Est. ~2007 | Torrance
Early risers can enjoy breakfast at this Torrance staple

Thanks to a 6am opening time, Roadhouse is an undefeated Torrance staple for an early (read: boozy) start to the day. Grab a breakfast burrito or some banana nut pancakes and a Bloody Mary, and post up. Unfortunately, no Swayze here, though.

Ercoles 1101

Est. 1927 | Manhattan Beach
A 90+ year-old bar with another great burger

If you’re looking for a place where everyone will eventually know your name and be eating great classic cheeseburgers, this Prohibition-era haunt is your spot. There’s nothing fancy about the burger -- but you didn’t come here for fancy, you came for cheap beer, and now you’re ALSO eating a tasty burger.

Philly West

Est. 1992 | West LA
Philly memorabilia and cheesesteaks at this West LA haunt

Cheesesteaks? Yep: This spot from a Philly expat's got the real-deal-American-cheese-griddled goodness, in a hall that feels ripped right from the home of the Liberty Bell and ingloriously unloaded on West LA. In other words: Philly West is pure magic.

King Eddy Saloon

Est. 1906 | Downtown
Old-school, dark, and grungy drinks in one of LA’s oldest landmarks

When King Eddy -- a beloved, incredibly run-down, 100+ year-old dive -- announced it was being updated, people were nervous it would go the same route as so many “updated” LA dives, and find itself stripped of all its character. Luckily for die-hard patrons it's still dark and dangerous-feeling, and you can still get an extra-strong rum-and-coke without pressure to get a $16 cocktail. The only difference is that now it smells (a little) better.

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Jeff Miller is on Instagram at @jeffmillerla and Twitter at @ThrillistLA.
Danny Jensen is a Thrillist contributor. 
Wilder Shaw is is a regular Thrillist contributor.