With the recent blow-it-outta-the-water opening of Good Times at Davey Wayne's, "secret" and "hidden" bars are about to start coming up in every conversation again. To help ensure you've got your secret bar basics down, here's a beginner's guide to every LA bar that's -- in some way (hidden entrance!) or another (no address!) -- secret. Shhhhhh.
This NYC-imported cocktail bar features both award-winning mixologists and a where-the-hell-is-it entrance, but what makes it special is the fact that it's one of the only places in town where you can get an old-fashioned Flattop and an Old Fashioned on the same visit.
How to get in: Go through the back door of the barbershop. Maybe get your haircut first though?
Even if there weren't a hidden entrance, this bar's facade -- at Vermont and Third -- is so indistinct, you'd think it was a whatever dive, rather than a classy cocktail bar. Add to that an Alice in Wonderland puzzle to get in, and you've hit K-town's best-or-second-best (see below) secret bar.
How to get in: Go through the front door... and then figure out which doorknob to turn to ACTUALLY get in.
You'd think the whole there's-no-name-and-it's-in-a-back-alley thing would have gotten old the minute Heather Graham did, but nope: Seventy7 Lounge continues the Swingers thing with stiff drinks, burlesque shows, and an entrance that's so money, it doesn't even know it.
How to get in: Find the cocktail sign in the alley -- there's a bouncer behind that door.
You may have already guessed that the name of this kinda Latin-themed lounge in the Valley doesn't have any signage, just, uh, red doorage; what's not totally clear is that in addition to delicious drinks, they also have an excellent food menu.
How to get in: Go to Robano's Pizza. Walk down the alley. Find the red door.
Because one great whiskey bar wasn't enough, Seven Grand now houses a second great whiskey bar -- albeit one that's super-tiny, super-secret, has a whiskey-locker program for your personal stash, and only serves three mixed drinks.
How to get in: There's a phone, and a light, with instructions in English... and Japanese.
The oontzery the Supper Club shares a wall (...and a hidden door) with this industry-hang cocktail lounge from super-awesome bartender Daniel Nelson and his crew, with vintage couches and mirrors and lots and lots of very dark corners. To drink in.
How to get in: Go behind Musso & Frank, and find the very huge and intimidating dude with the list. Be on it -- or be convincing.
In some ways, the grandfather of the secret-LA-bar, La Descarga is the Houston Brothers' ode to Havana in the 1950s, with rum drinks, a cigar smoking patio, and floorshows from live jazz bands with very, very live dancers.
How to get in: It helps to have a reservation -- so make one, and then the doorman will show you into an office, where you'll be told the rules, and shown the... closet?
This kinda-cramped-in-a-good-way speakeasy's in the back of one of LA's longest-running restaurants, and feels like a step back in time, thanks to wooden seats, stiff drinks, and music -- like Sinful Sundays, their end-of-the-weekend ode to dirty songs from the '20s.
How to get in: First, get a sandwich (and a Moscow Mule, if it's gonna be that kind of night) at Cole's, then continue to the door in the back, and turn the knob. Come early -- seats are first come, first served.
This divey K-town bar is marked only with an "R" on the outside, but inside are great bands or karaoke and a good hang -- if you know the password.
How to get in: KNOW THE PASSWORD (which you can find on Facebook and Twitter).
This's another Houston Brothers bar (told you they were the kings) with a similarly single-minded theme: the building used to be a brothel and a hotel, so you're transplanted into both, with almost Disney-style attention to detail -- and a death-defying, high-stepping show every hour on weekends.
How to get in: Get past the doorman, who'll show you to your room... and its bed.
This bar from the kings of the secret entrance (the Houston Brothers, it's the Houston Brothers), is a jaw-dropping, kind of hipster-y ode to the '70s, with DJs playing Fleetwood Mac, vintage beer cans, and hot chicks rollerblading.
How to get in: There's a garage, with one door. And it's the refrigerator.
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1. The Blind Barber10797 Washington Blvd, Culver City
2. Lock & Key239 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
3. Seventy 7 Lounge3843 Main St; Culver City,
4. The Red Door10057 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake
5. Jackalope Bar515 W 7th St, Los Angeles
6. The Writers Room6685 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles
7. La Descarga1159 Western Ave, Los Angeles
8. The Varnish118 E 6th St, Los Angeles
9. R Bar3331 W 8th St, Los Angeles
10. No Vacancy1717 N Hudson Ave, Los Angeles
11. Good Times at Davey Wayne's1611 N El Centro Ave, Hollywood
At the Blind Barber, a barbershop & cocktail bar combo spot, you can chase that refreshing slap of alcohol on your neck after a fresh haircut with actual alcohol once you're out of the chair.
On such a bizarre stretch of Vermont that the only way to describe it is "across from the Vons", Lock & Key is a speakeasy totally hidden behind this unassuming/terrifying unmarked red door. Knock on said door and a dude wearing a bowler and ascot will answer and let you in. PRO TIP: Don't ask him if he's in Mumford & Sons.
Opening tonight, Seventy 7 Lounge's an LA speakeasy in the neo-classic sense: the only marking's a glowing "Cocktails" sign, and the only way in is to tell the doorman the password, accessible every day on their Twitter, which is now finally useful for something other than following @GloriaSteinem.
Look for the red door to get into this hidden speakeasy, where prime cocktails take center stage.
In the back of Seven Grand is the bodacious, lustful Bar Jackalope -- seducing you with delicious whiskey flights, serious ambiance points, and a rowdy crowd.
Though writers' rooms are normally sad holes filled with depleted beanbags and inspirational quotes from Chuck Palahniuk, this one aims to capture the much less depressing vibe of the "back room" of Musso and Frank, where, in the '30s, people like Fitzgerald and Hemingway would sip cocktails and talk ish about Faulkner to his face. The intimate bar (from the dude behind Gramercy Park's Rose Bar in NY, as well as a crew of Hollywood peeps) is in an alleyway off Hollywood Blvd, and features a garden patio and, inside, a Parisian-style elevator cage VIP area & brown leather booths opposite the bar, where the redheaded dude from The Doheny will make you drinks like a Kaffir Rickey w/ lemongrass syrup, carbonated coconut water & gin, and the Cho Sun One with Cork whiskey, Korean pear, perilla leaf, lemon, dates, and sesame.
From a former Doheny barman and the guys behind Piano Bar, La Descarga is a painstakingly-designed, two-story ode to pre-Fidel Havana, complete with a secret entrance, weathered ceiling/walls, a felt banquette, bathrooms festooned with reprints of old, Cuban newspaper articles, and a bar made of white Carrera marble.
In the back of Cole's -- specifically behind an oak door that's marked with a framed picture of a cocktail -- is The Varnish, a tiny bar from the vaunted mixologists behind New York's Milk & Honey and Little Branch. The bar is an intimate, Prohibition-era hideaway with cozy wooden booths, soft jazz playing in the background, and expertly-made top-shelf cocktails. Order the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, or go off-menu and let the bartender make you something unexpected.
This password-protected speakeasy (check their Facebook before you go) is the perfect hipster/dive bar to lose time playing bingo or throwing back a few while listening to a live band rock out.
Located in a restored Victorian house built in 1902, No Vacancy’s Prohibition era-inspired ambiance (there’s a secret entrance) and rotating, 12-item cocktail menu mimic its 20th century-born home. The three-story bar hosts cocktail connoisseurs in its various, dimly lit rooms, which are decorated with red leather and dark wood accents. At the bottom of a red carpeted staircase, a brick-walled courtyard is home to baroque fireplaces that set the tone for the live entertainment -- jazz music, burlesque shows, and tightrope walkers alike.
Straight out of The Brady Bunch set, this 70's living room-themed Hollywood bar is decked out with hammocks, an Airstream Trailer, and a DJ spinning Bee Gees-esque beats. It's hard to tell what's cooler: the epic secret entrance through a refrigerator door or the no-cover. Weekend nights usually draw the biggest lines, but Good Times is open on weekend afternoons, aka the perfect time to kick back on the patio and order up some Tex-Mex street food and craft cocktails.