Los Angeles Bars & Nightlife
7953 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood
In the continued migration west of all things New York comes the LA outpost of a beloved West Village cocktail bar. It's a stellar spot for a group, an ideal way to kick off a night of cocktail hopping, and the private room is our go-to for events or intimate dinners. Cofounder Dushan Zaric has transformed a former BBQ restaurant into a space straight out of a Baz Luhrmann movie, with Art Deco touches, mahogany paneling, and textured wallpaper. Fans of the original will notice the neon “Psychic” sign in the window, and indeed, there are three psychics in residence each night, available for fifteen-minute readings. But really you come for the cocktails: There are the classics for which EO is best known, plus newbies like the Hope Monkey (Kaffir-lime-infused Gin Mare and absinthe bitters). Many of the new cocktails showcase locally sourced chamomile and sage syrup, and CBD oils in addition to fresh citrus juices. There’s also a full dinner menu, but the bar snacks are probably your best bet—bone marrow poppers, oysters, and fries are a good way to go.
Hotel Bel-Air Bar
701 Stone Canyon Rd., Bel Air
Winding up the traffic-free, tree-lined hill to the Hotel Bel-Air, the only sound you’ll hear is that of the birds chirping. It’s hard to grasp that you’re still in LA.
1 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica
A meal at 1 Pico comes with the best element of staying at Shutters on the Beach: the view. You know where the sidewalk ends and the sand begins? That’s where you’re sitting. Or rather one floor up in the breezy, wood-beamed dining room. And judging from the hamachi tartare, squid-ink pasta, and simply, beautifully prepared market fish, chef David Almany designed the menu with the scenery in mind.
2907 Main St., Santa Monica
From Main Street, you can just see Ashland Hill’s tiny brick front—big enough for a handful of stools at the bar and a kitchen counter for quick orders. Keep walking and you’ll get to the picnic-tabled back patio. For food, there are shared plates (crispy cauliflower, shishito mac ’n’ cheese) and Ashland Hill’s take on pub food (a shawarma wrap, fried chicken sandwich, white cheddar burger with Parmesan cheese fries). Drinks range from “super local,” i.e., Ashland Hill’s own, to Southern Californian, Stateside craft beers, and a mix of California and international wines. There are cocktails, too, and if you happen to be a gin drinker, this is where you want to be. There are dozens of gins to choose from, maybe ten different kinds of tonic, and a menu of fixings to go with it all.
Firestone Walker Brewery
3205 Washington Blvd., Venice
California’s big craft beer brand Firestone went south to open up a casual restaurant, bar, and brewhouse in Venice. The original, much bigger brewery is still in Paso Robles, but here, they brew on-site, testing out the beers they plan to keep in Venice only. At the bar, Firestone fans will find all the classics (from the 805 to the DBA and Union Jack IPA) in addition to a rotating on-tap selection.
Santa Monica Brew Works
1920 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica
It doesn’t get more local than drinking Santa Monica-made beer in this no-frills tap room. If you’re new to the game, start with their 310 blonde ale and check the food truck schedule before you go. If you’re taking the metro from further east, Santa Monica Brew Works is just a couple of blocks from the 17th Street/SMC stop.
1746 N. Spring St., Chinatown
Apotheke is nearly impossible to find—though not for long, given that David Chang’s Majordomo is next door. It’s on a slip of Spring Street that’s…not quite Chinatown…not quite DTLA. The interior of the bar, with its low rosy lighting, blush banquettes, leather armchairs, and pretty tile, is reminiscent of a French boudoir; that is to say that while so many bars feel inherently masculine, this one skews feminine. The outdoor patio is just as comfortable, with Turkish rugs scattered over the deck, big sofas to sink into, and plenty of space heaters. The beauty of the off-the-grid location is its size: You can sit outside and stargaze, never experiencing the claustrophobia so prevalent in other LA bars. The drinks are more like elixirs spiked with alcohol and divided into “aphrodisiacs,” “health & beauty,” and “painkillers.”
The Walker Inn
3612 W. 6th St., Koreatown
This teensy cocktail bar is accessed through the regular bar at Hotel Normandie in Koreatown, and when you walk through the door, the dim lights and lounge seating make you feel as though you've been transported to a different city. They specialize in wild, perfectly crafted cocktails, best experienced through their omakase program, which delivers whatever the super-talented lead bartender Katie Emmerson is making that evening. With a larger group, you can sit in the lounge and order cocktails a la carte (the menu changes every 6-8 weeks).
Break Room 86
630 S. Ardmore Ave., Koreatown
This ’80s-themed club behind the Line Hotel is entered through an alleyway on Ardmore, on the west side of the building. Once you pass the bouncer, you'll be taken through the back halls of the hotel and through a false refrigerator door into the actual bar. The private rooms play karaoke, and there's a burlesque show every hour where dancers do a Michael Jackson routine in their Calvin Kleins; it's the kind of place you go for a long night of dancing.
2611 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake
The Friend is the latest bar to open up on this stretch of Hyperion that’s finally starting to catch up with Sunset Junction in terms of bars and restaurants.