LAGuide

The Best Bars In Downtown LA

The best bars in downtown LA.

The Best Bars In Downtown LA  guide image

Downtown LA’s bars are every bit as wide-ranging as the neighborhood itself, with rooftops where you might overhear someone say, “Well, ever since I slept with Timothée Chalamet…” mere blocks away from divey pubs serving $6 tater tots at Happy Hour. This guide spans that entire spectrum. So whether you’re heading to Chinatown, the Arts District, or somewhere in between, here are the 25 places where you should be drinking in downtown LA.

THE SPOTS

Melody Lounge review image

Melody

Not to be confused with the Virgil Village wine bar with a similar name, Melody Lounge in Chinatown is a dimly lit drinking hole that’s perfect for a quiet date or rowdy night out, depending on the DJ. Somewhere in between a dive bar and a cocktail spot, this place serves well drinks, an extensive list of craft beers, and spins records every night of the week. Paper lanterns bathe the room in a sultry red glow while DJs play whatever mix of tropical house, Latin trap, future beats, soul, or funk they feel like that night. It’s laidback and fun in an effortless way, the way everyone wishes they could be.


Homage, a microbrewery and restaurant in the middle of industrial Chinatown, is made for people who actually want to dance. There’s a pleasant patio out front where you might spot a couple of toddlers with their tattooed parents. But the real scene is inside the garage, which has a long bar counter, a spinning disco ball, and a DJ spinning vinyl records behind a monochromatic booth. Most people come here to sip housemade IPAs and snack on scallop crudo during the day, but on Friday and Saturday nights, the dance floor is packed until 1am.


Highland Park Brewing has been one of LA’s best craft breweries for a while, but the original location is pretty small. So if you’re looking for a good pregame spot before a Dodgers game, try the  Chinatown location. Right across the street from LA State Historic Park, the brewery’s warehouse space has a huge dog-friendly patio. You can usually roll in with a big crew and their four-legged friends, order a couple of pitchers of beer, and share bar snacks like cheese fries or tater tots.


During the daytime, the rooftop at the Ace Hotel is a perfectly pleasant spot to sip a beer and take in some skyline views. After the workday is over, however, people start ordering martinis, and the whole place turns into a big group hang with a DJ. Depending on the night, you might end up laughing with a bunch of Swedish tourists in the pool, or cozying up to your date next to a firepit. Upstairs at The Ace gets pretty crowded on the weekends, but if you drop in around sunset on a weeknight, you won’t have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and shout for your drinks.


With its poolside lounge chairs and plush benches situated under a galaxy of twinkling lights, Broken Shaker is exactly what you might picture when the words “Los Angeles rooftop bar” pop into your head. Located at the very top of the Freehand Hotel in Downtown LA, this is one of the few downtown spots with unobstructed views of the city skyline. And despite the hoards of people posing in front of the pool, $15 cocktails, and the overall see-and-be-seen attitude, this rooftop bar still manages to remain relatively low-key. It offers all the requisite things you need for a proper day at the pool, like strong drinks, fried food, and enough animal floaties to populate Noah’s Ark.


We’re always skeptical of transplant cocktail bars expanding to LA from other cities, so we were wary when NYC-based Death & Co. opened in the Arts District. But the drinks are so good here, we wouldn’t care if they’re owned by Halliburton (for the record, they’re not). This is a dark, upscale cocktail spot that doesn’t take reservations, but there’s a bar to get some warm-up drinks while you wait for your table. We love the smoky, bourbon-and-mezcal-based Year of the Trees, but talk to your server about what you like and they’ll point you in the right direction. 


The Wolves is a fancy cocktail bar where bartenders use fire, smoke, and spray bottles to make drinks. The wood-and-leather-covered space is dark and romantic, and they don’t allow any standing room, so expect to put your name down and wait if you come at a busier time. If you get excited about specialty cocktail menus involving ingredients like “milk clarification,” cream cheese, and date bourbon, make this your new spot. There’s also a bunch of very French dishes like sauteed duck hearts, pommes frites, and ratatouille on the menu for when you get hungry.


So far, The Wyman Bar is Downtown LA’s fanciest bar opening of 2022, and the only one housed in a former Blade Runner set piece. It’s in the historic, 128-year-old Bradbury Building where you’ll find crushed blue velvet sofas, exposed-brick walls, and a variety of coffee, tea, and cocktails to sip while glancing seductively at your date. A note: Wyman Bar is owned by NeueHouse, a members-only social club, so eventually you’ll have to pay to get in. But for the time being, NeueHouse will offer membership day passes, subject to reservation availability.


You might not be able to drink a daiquiri on a train like a British aristocrat in the 1920s, but at least you can do it inside LA’s most historic train stop: Union Station. Homebound Brew House, a Dodgers-themed sports bar and beer hall, serves a bunch of $12 cocktails, daily Happy Hour specials, and bar snacks inside of the bar area near the station’s front doors. And even if you aren’t traveling, it’s a great place to order a few pints of tap beer with friends. They’ve got a couple pool tables, stand-alone checkerboard, and some big leather booths where you can spend hours with your friends, after gazing longingly at the breathtaking architecture of course. 


With two floors—one jade green, the other a sultry dark red—in the middle of Chinatown, General Lee’s is a guaranteed night of style. DJs spin classic hip hop, R&B, moody pop, and Sade all night long, and drinks are made fast and strong. Everything, from the wooden tables upstairs to the plush velvet couches to the vintage DJ booth has that old-school Chinatown look, and on any given night, you might see college kids dancing their butts off or 30-year-olds nursing a tiki cocktail in the corner.


This is the LA version of a somewhat famous fancy cocktail bar from NYC, located on the outskirts of Chinatown. Unlike its original location, this Apotheke isn’t a speakeasy at all - instead it’s just a fantastic space to drink really good cocktails and people watch all night on the massive back patio. The decor leans into the whole 1800s apothecary aesthetic, and while we wouldn’t mind if the bartenders weren’t wearing lab coats, the medicinal-themed cocktails are so good, we don’t care. This is our favorite downtown bar right now.


Greetings from the best big group bar downtown. Rhythm Room is located in the basement of a big office building at the corner of Spring and 6th, and has a massive space filled with activities to keep you and your friends entertained: four pool tables, three ping pong tables, shuffleboard, darts, board games, and a live jazz band. Also, there’s an entirely separate bar area with good cocktails and a crowd looking to mix things up.

Lost Spirits is no way, shape, or form a bar. That said, this Arts District distillery is one of the most unique places to drink in Los Angeles. And before you say that you gave up drinking rum after college, and don’t really care how it’s made, let us stop you. Lost Spirits is not just a distillery. It’s a two-hour-long art installation/science experiment/jungle cruise that you have to see to believe. In the spirit of being as awestruck as we were, we’ll withhold any specific details, but just know that a night at Lost Spirits is more than worth its $35 admission price. Just be sure to book tickets well in advance on their website - tours sell out quickly.


The fact that gay bars are opening again on a regular basis in DTLA is thrilling. The fact that we got one as downright excellent as Precinct is the cherry on top. In terms of the space itself, Precinct isn’t exactly a jaw-dropper, but its large open floor plan works well for the massive crowds that are flocking to this place for some of the best nightly entertainment downtown. Whether it’s Latin or Madonna night, or the bi-monthly bear celebration, Precinct is the craziest party in the neighborhood right now.


Seven Grand has been open for a decade, essentially giving it landmark status in the downtown nightlife scene. But you’ll still be hard-pressed to find a more well-made whiskey drink in the city. Not to mention the massive space that feels like a Canadian hunting lodge for billionaires (prepare for aggressive taxidermy). Check out Bar Jackalope in the back too. They specialize in Japanese whiskey and have a secret cigar patio ideal for drinking the night away.


Part bar, part restaurant, full outdoor patio greatness, ERB has quickly established itself as one of the more reliable places to grab a drink in the Arts District. There never seems to be a line, the cocktails are tremendous, and their laid-back patio is one of our favorite places to sit around and drink cocktails with friends. Get the burger and the biscuits while you’re here.


Historic Filipinotown doesn’t have many bars - but Crawfords more than makes up for the lack of places to drink in this neighborhood. The small interior has a weird, divey feel to it, with a few scattered tables, a pool table, and Buck Hunter in the corner. The real hidden secret though? The fantastic fried chicken sandwiches you can order at the bar.


Oh, The Edison - where would downtown even be without you? The massive nightlife mecca (in the basement of an old downtown nuclear power plant) might be the biggest reason DTLA started feeling cool again. And despite the fact that its initial allure is long gone, The Edison definitely still holds up. With everything from a game room to a live music venue to private lounges and people swinging from the ceiling, it’d be hard for anyone in your crew to walk away bored.


Mumford Brewing is permanently closed

Mumford Brewing imageoverride image

Mumford Brewing

$$$$(213) 346-9970
Hours:SUN
12PM-6PM

Greetings from the best brewery downtown. Mumford might not be the biggest or the flashiest in the area, but the beer being cranked out of here can’t be beat. That said, their taproom on the Little Tokyo/Arts District border isn’t some sad cave you can’t find. It’s bright and airy and a fantastic spot for hanging out with some friends on a lazy Saturday afternoon. They’ve got tons of games (Connect Four, anyone?) and you can bring in any outside food you want.


Ktown has a bonafide monopoly on karaoke in this town, but deep in the heart of Little Tokyo is a tiny spot on the third story of a mall that on its own brings some fierce competition. Max is an LA karaoke institution and one that’s almost a rite of passage for new residents. So what’s the big difference? Four letters. B-Y-O-B. As in roll up with two 30-racks and a handle of Jim Beam and Max’s employees won’t even blink an eye. Stay safe out there.


Resident’s entire setup is outdoor and the bar itself is an airstream, which makes it feel like you’re getting hammered at your cousin-who’s-still-trying-to-figure-it-out’s place outside Boulder. The vibe is low-key, the drinks are good, there’s always a food truck, and the attached music venue has a great lineup.


Yes, Varnish is a speakeasy, but no, you aren’t going to hate it. Lines get long during peak weekend hours, but once you’re inside, the atmosphere is surprisingly low-key. Although the place isn’t large, there always seems to be a booth available for you and your friends. Getting hungry? Cole’s is attached, and you can eat as many French dip sandwiches as you want at The Varnish.


If you already know about The Escondite, you probably don’t want anyone else to find out about it. Because this somewhat hidden bar on the Little Tokyo/AD border has everything going for it - live music, no cover, great crowds, good cocktails, solid bar food, and a little patio with views of downtown. Just don’t tell anyone.


Angel City Brewery isn’t brewing the best beer Downtown, but it definitely has the best space. Its massive taproom and attached brewery in the heart of the Arts District is spectacular, with tons of communal tables, plenty of corn hole, and a front patio where you’ll always find a delicious food truck. Their hours go late into the night, but Angel City will always be one of our favorite day drinking spots in town. Just get there early, because weekend lines here are no joke.


You’ve done the Angel City thing a few too many times and are looking for a change of scenery. Go to Arts District Brewing. There’s a massive bar, tons of open seating, and an entire wall dedicated to Skee-Ball. And if you get hungry, there’s a designated window where you can pick up all the chicken and burgers from Fritzi next door.


We’ll cut to the chase here - this place is an all-out sh*tshow. But sometimes that’s just where the night takes you. Casey’s is secretly gigantic, with multiple bars, a huge front patio with ping pong, and an entirely separate room full of games you only see at Dave & Buster’s. This isn’t a place you head downtown specifically to go to, but if you’re crawling your way through the neighborhood, it’s a great spot to grab a cheap drink and experience some strange.


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