43 LOS ANGELES BARS YOU NEED TO DRINK IN BEFORE YOU DIE
Really you should drink in every LA bar before you die, but for the sake of your liver/the length of this story, we’ve whittled the bucket list down to these 43 absolute musts.
It’s one of the most famous gay bars in the world and — no matter your sexual preference — it plies you with great drinks, an ultra-friendly staff, and one of the best patios in LA, with plush seating areas that start as day-drinking hubs and end as sloppy nighttime spots. Often a few hours later.
Is there anywhere else in LA where punk-rock history and excellent craft cocktails collide in a bar that looks like a From Dusk Till Dawn bordello? No, no there is not.
You’re gonna want to drink at this local brewery at least once (and at most, way, way, way more than that) because if you don’t, you’ll never know what you’re missing out on: one-day-only special beers? Craft fairs? Music festivals? It changes every day.
Welcome to mecca for LA beer geeks — there’s not a more knowledgeable hop-staff in town. Nope, not even there. No dude, not there either.
At some point, you need to stumble in here, sing a Bon Jovi song with 10 Korean businessmen pouring soju down your throat when you hit the pinnacle of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and immediately forget it ever happened.
From a strictly historical perspective, Chez Jay has to be on here; Santa Monica’s gone through so much development in the last decade that it’s something approaching a miracle that this legendary bar/”steakhouse” from the ’50s is still there, right by the pier, doing what it’s been doing since your grandparents were there — doling out heavy pours and massive steaks, steps from the ocean.
Nowhere else in LA is the great-beer-to-great-whiskey-to-friendly-staff-to-pool-to-arcade-game ratio this high. Nowhere.
Because every Angeleno needs to drink at 6am while ’70s soul blares in the background at least once. And this is the place where that can happen.
If indie rock had an official home base, it would look a lot like The Echo: no real signage on the outside, a big, dark room on the inside, and bands like Vampire Weekend and St. Vincent playing tiny local shows before they break out. If you want some sort of “I’m-still-cool” bragging rights (which, don’t lie, you do), you’ll grab at least one beer here. Just to say you did it.
This cavernous underground bar in an old power plant was one of the first to really make craft cocktails a thing in LA. Nearly every alcohol surgeon in town got their start here before moving on to… well, tons of the bars on this list. But the room is still absolutely stunning; its glamour is only helped by one of the strictest dress codes in the city, which makes every night out there (even if it’s, like, only one ever) feel like an event.
Extra bonus points for Skid Row-adjacent grittiness.
If you live in Hollywood and don’t hit a dive bar, you’re not really *living* in Hollywood — and when the Powerhouse closed last year and reopened with a fresh ingredient-driven cocktail menu, it left this divey-divey-DIVEY dive as arguably the last one in that part of town, and has the cast of characters to prove it.
You’ll play Jenga, drink rare beers, hang out on the patio, and wonder how the afternoon became 1am all of a sudden.
The fact that it has best secret entrance in town is enough to get it on this list. But it also has alcoholic sno cones. And ’70s cover bands. And furniture from your parents’ house.
Is there a better 1:30am burger/beer/picking-up-the-last-call-leftovers bar on the Westside? No. There is not.
Why is there an old-school nautically themed bar right in the center of the city nowhere near a beach? You’ll have to go to find out.
Neither a hotel nor a cafe, this beloved, mostly acoustic music venue is notable not just for the parade of stars who have made their way through the intimate hall over the years (Adele! Mumford & Sons!! John Mayer!… ?) but the lobby bar as well, which serves as both a dimly lit waiting room for the performance space to clear out between acts and a meet-and-greet area for fans who want to throw one (or two! or three!!) down with a potential next big thing.
Look at that photo above. Seriously, do you need to ask why you need to go to this place?
At some point, you’ll be stumbling Downtown and be like “Won’t somewhere just give me a cheap shot and a beer instead of this mixology bullshit?” And then you’ll find King Eddy and you’ll be like “oh… this place will.”
There’s a salsa show, and a cigar lounge, and a secret entrance, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Havana, but right outside the door’s not just one, but TWO amazing taco trucks. You win.
Everyone has to have a Duff at least once in their life. That’s just a fact.
I mean, the bartender is the VERY SAME DUDE who used to serve martinis to Sinatra. Ask him for a cocktail. And stories. He has tons of both.
One day, you’re gonna want to drink like Mötley Crüe, but you’re not gonna want to do it anywhere else on the strip, because, uh, duh. But the Rainbow? The Rainbow still works. Just ask Lemmy from Motörhead, who will inevitably be sitting in a corner holding court.
One of the great pleasures of living in LA is the ability to drink outside nearly year-round. One of the great pleasures of drinking outside nearly year-round is doing it at this patio bar at LACMA, in a too-deep recliner, while a jazz band is playing and you’re looking at the iconic lights out front.
This notorious transplant bar is not really a “you gotta drink there before you die” place, but more of a “you’re inevitably going to drink here and ride the mechanical bull and not remember it before you die” place.
This is LA’s sleaziest strip club. Also there is no cover. Also it has $3 beers. Also it shows sports. Also you should go. Once. (Or twice.)
Tuesday is Porn Star Karaoke at this Valley dive bar, which is exactly what it sounds like, and is something you literally can’t do anywhere else. In related news, it’s unclear if anyone has ever been there on a day other than Tuesday.
Um. They deconstructed a Savannah townhouse and REBUILT THE DAMN THING INSIDE THE BAR to make it feel like you’re in the South. Also, the bottled drinks are delicious.
Take a chance on a whiskey or three you’ve never had — the bartenders here breathe it and the selection is extraordinary. If you’re feeling especially lush, make an attempted entrance to the secret Bar Jackalope in back — that’s where they’re hiding the Japanese stuff.
You’ll go here once ’cause, well, you need a selfie here. And even though the years of Lindsay Lohan appearing randomly in it have passed, that’s totally OK.
It’s the shittiest best karaoke bar you’ve ever been in. Promise.
Most bowling alley bars serve watered-down Budweiser and your bowling neighbor is some guy named Earl. Wouldn’t it be nice if once in your life you went to a bowling alley bar where they served fresh-ingredient cocktails, had custom-made board games for when you were taking a break, and your bowling alley neighbor was a model named Natasha? Yes, once in your life, that would be VERY good. And it’s possible here.
You’re gonna come once for the view — and then you’re gonna stay for the DJs, the beds you can drink in, and the pool you can drink in.
Patient zero of the LBC’s bar scene? Right here, in a world-class whiskey bar — right in the heart of what could be considered LA’s second city.
There’s no beer bar in town that gets geek culture as much as The Surly Goat (the owner of which has gone on to open other brew-heavy enterprises like Little Bear and Der Wolfskopf), which was doing pours of hard-to-find and local craft beers before nearly anyone else in town — which now means it’s got the inside scoop to limited releases and tap takeovers year-round.
One day, you’re gonna get a baller bonus, and on that day you should call up the Montage in Beverly Hills, ask to go to its hidden bar Ten Pound, take the stairs up over Scarpetta, sit on its porch, and drink a crazy-old pour of Macallan.
Shamrocks and Irish coffee. Done.
An upscale dive bar? Yep, and it’s in the Valley, where a lot of the off-Ventura bars are cookie cutter. This one, though, has both dartboards and great beers, plus next-level sausages.
John Lennon drank there. The Eagles drank there. The Red Hot Chili Peppers drank there. And you will need to drink here — probably while packed into the back bar, watching a band that will be playing The Forum a year from now.
Heading upstairs at the Ace feels like a special event, due to the bar’s impeccable view of the city, impeccable drinks, and the impeccable feeling that you are somewhere very, very special (the ability to take an Instagram of the “Jesus Saves” sign from above doesn’t hurt, either).
More than any other, this bar has brought LA into the national cocktail conversation: the drinks here are always top-top-top level, served in a room that feels appropriately both adult and wild, especially on Sunday nights, when Naughty Nikki sings — and flirts — for everyone in attendance.
There are plenty of places to sit by the beach with a beer. There are not plenty of places to sit DIRECTLY ON THE VENICE BOARDWALK WITH A SUPER-GOOD BEER AND FOOD. Venice Ale House is one.