There’s very little that needs to be explained about Hollywood’s nightlife. It is, after all, one of the most iconic epicenters of debauchery in the history of the world. It’s vast, insane, grungy, clubby, and to a large swath of the population - completely repulsive. And as someone who lived four years of their life smack in the heart of it, I tend to agree. But I also know it’s rampant with places that are actually worth your time as well.
From dive bars, to cocktail bars, to strip clubs, and speakeasies there were actually once speakeasies, you’re hard-pressed to find a more eclectic nightlife experience in America. So pull up your drinking boots, and let’s get weird. Here are the Hollywood bars you actually want to be drinking at.
The Woods isn’t just one of our favorite bars in Hollywood, it’s one of our favorite bars in all of Los Angeles. Situated on the ground floor of a fantastically shady strip mall on La Brea, The Woods is everything you want in a neighborhood bar: great crowds, cheap drinks, fantastic music, and zero lines. The space is small and dark, but there always seems to be enough room to dance uncontrollably in the back. And the woodsy interior (yep, there are stumps for seats) is not nearly as dumb as it sounds.
Welcome to LA’s bus stop. Nowhere in Hollywood will you find a wider variety of human being than at this classic Tinseltown dive. Directly next door to The Pantages Theatre and open since the 1930’s, don’t be surprised to find struggling Silver Lake musicians rubbing shoulders with Hollywood executives, and lost theatergoers buying spoken-word EPs from dudes in kabuki make-up here. Anything’s possible at Frolic Room, and everyone’s here to enjoy the same dirt cheap drinks and do-whatever-the-hell-you-want vibe.
Back before the Houston Brothers became the Houston Brothers, they opened Piano Bar - a dark space on a Hollywood side street that helped launch what’s probably the most successful nightlife group in Los Angeles. And while their properties have only gotten more and more over-the-top (and amazing), Piano Bar’s formula is a simple one: a comfortable, low-key spot where you can listen to local musicians at zero charge. All in the company of a well-made cocktail, of course.
The opening of La Descarga cannot be underestimated. Not only did it put a nightlife juggernaut in one of the more terrifying strips of Hollywood, it flat-out changed the potential of what a bar could be in LA. From walking through a 1920’s armoire to get into the place, to the burlesque-style salsa dancers, to the secret Cuban cigar lounge, La Descarga is an all-out experience. And one that definitely requires a reservation. So put in that minimal effort and go rhumba the night away at one of the best bars in the city.
Holy sh*t. Where do we even start with you Jumbo’s? You’re a Hollywood icon and an Original with a capital “O”. You're one of our favorite nights out in LA, period. Yes, you’re a strip club. But a strip club we’ll happily wait an hour outside to get into, because you’re worth it every time. Your energy and crowd (and dancers) are unlike anything else in this town, and your cheap drinks and heavy pours get us exactly where we need to be going. Never, ever change Jumbo's. Love, The Infatuation.
We love The Pikey for several reasons. Its aggressive English pub interior is oddly very comforting, the beer list is stellar, and everything on the menu is apparently organic and that means those fish and chips are healthy. Right? Right. But above all else, The Pikey stands out as an incredibly laid-back bar that’s easy to get into, right on the cusp of when things generally start to fall apart (read: The Sunset Strip).
Located on a still-waiting-for-its-moment stretch of Vine, Sassafras’ aggressive “Old South” theme might a bit much if it wasn’t all so awesome. There’s quite literally a Savannah townhouse inside Sassafras. FROM ACTUAL GEORGIA. That was deconstructed and then rebuilt inside a bar in Hollywood, CA. America is for dreamers, people. The cocktail list continues to be among the best in Hollywood, and there’s fantastic live music pretty much any night of the week.
Power House has been around forever and was always an enduring symbol of Hollywood’s seedy past. So when word got out that it was getting a big, shiny makeover, everyone sh*t their pants because yet another (lame) Hollywood dive bar was going under. Well, guess what haters? Power House didn’t close. It just reopened better than ever. The old Hollywood vibes are still there, except now it’s actually a place that's appealing to grab a drink. The cocktails are fantastic, there’s a great jukebox, and if you can get over the fact it’s across the street from an unsettling wax museum, you’re in for a great night.
Is this the most popular bar in LA? It’s a hard statement to argue. Davey Wayne's struck absolute gold with this 1970’s house-party themed spot that no one in their right mind could be bored at. After you walk through a refrigerator via a vintage garage sale, you’re delivered into a house, with a kitchen, a living room, and even a backyard where sno-cones and tiki drinks are being dished out. There’s live music and, if you're lucky, even a roller-skating show on the roof. If this is what the 1970’s were actually like, we missed our era.
OK, Stout is probably considered more of a restaurant (and certainly one of the more underrated burgers in town), but we’re putting it on the list because of their great space and a beer list that’s as good as any. Come to Stout to refuel in between stops on your Saturday night bar crawl or to get a little buzzed before that movie you don’t want to see at Arclight. Either way, Stout always has your back when you need it most.
The Well is great because there’s actually not much to it. Located in what’s basically an office tower’s loading dock, The Well is where you simply grab a drink with friends when you don’t have time to deal with anything else. It’s always easy to get into, and extremely well-priced considering the area. There’s not a theme, or a wacky entrance, or really much of anything. It’s just a bar. With alcohol. And that’s oddly refreshing in Hollywood.
Hollywood’s next big thing has arrived, and it’s in the form of a breakfast-themed cocktail bar. You read that right. The most important meal of the day is now available into the wee hours at a cocktail bar off Hollywood Blvd. Because who doesn’t want Benedict French Fries at midnight on a Saturday? You also get handed a cup of coffee and a rolled-up newspaper for just walking into the place and even the cocktails themselves are breakfast-inspired. The Spiked Cereal Milk sounds a fraternity hazing tactic, but take our word for it - it’s amazing. Get to Nighthawk while you still can.
We’ll be the first to admit the whole mixology thing can get a bit exhausting at times. But Harvard & Stone does it well. You could come to this Industrial bar in East Hollywood every day and the menu will be different, with an ever-changing list of insane cocktails and guest bartenders there to create them. But the main draw at Harvard & Stone is certainly the live music, with a blues or rock band playing upfront almost every night. You kind of feel you’re dancing in the sewers here, and that’s way more fun than you think.
Slowly but surely, Black has found its way on to the Hollywood bar scene, and now it’s a flat-out force to be reckoned with on the weekends. The bread and butter here is their gigantic, open-aired back patio that makes the seemingly hundreds of people they let in here far more manageable. Located next to absolutely nothing on Santa Monica Blvd., Black’s isolated nature works in its favor. It’s relatively easy to spend an entire night here and not realize it.
The Three Clubs is one of our favorite Hollywood dive bars because it’s a place you can pick up a drink and sit in peace. If you’re an actor, you’ve definitely been here after one of your indie plays on Santa Monica and if you eat burritos, you’ve stopped here en route to Cactus. There’s also a whole separate performance space through the swinging doors that books everything from jam bands to stand-ups. And that can be fun when the world is spinning.
Located in the basement of an apartment complex next door to their gigantic No Vacancy space, you can only access Dirty Laundry via a side stairwell and a nightly buzzer code you get off social media. Welcome to the speakeasiest of all speakeasies. But guess what? It actually was a real speakeasy. And that means the space is small, subdued, and loaded with outstanding old-school cocktails. CAUTION: You’re in a basement and there’s no cell reception. You WILL have to talk to people.
On the ever-changing Cahuenga strip, Grandpa Johnson’s might have finally struck the perfect chord for the area. It’s definitely a scene, but a tolerable one. The crowd (for now) is great, and that Art Deco interior is actually extremely cool. The cocktails are solid and all named after the owner’s actual family and friends, which makes us super curious as to who Lorraine is and why her cocktail gets us so trashed.
The Roosevelt Hotel is one of the best things to happen to Hollywood since the creation of Hollywood, and The Spare Room is easily our favorite space on the property. Located on the second floor of the iconic hotel, The Spare Room has a laid-back vibe and solid drinks, but will frankly always be known for one thing - bowling. There are two full bowling lanes in this throwback lounge, and scores are kept the old-fashioned way - by writing them down. The wait gets serious for it though, so put your name in early and go get drunk while you wait.
If you’re a comedian or a friend of someone who considers themselves a comedian, you’ve been to Boardner’s. The dim, 80 year-old bar is a haven for post-show drinks, and after that public breastfeeding joke tanked during your set, you’ll need it. The vibe is super casual, drinks are cheap, and the bar menu is actually pretty stellar. The history of this place is pretty insane too, but there’s not enough room to get into it here. Just know sh*t went down.
Greetings from one of the most under-appreciated nightlife spots in all of Los Angeles. With bars on the windows and almost no signage, Plaza looks like a closed-down nail salon from the 80’s, but it’s very much open. And hiding inside is one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets - a nightly Latino drag show that’s one of the strangest, most fun experiences Hollywood can give you. The shockingly large space has a great energy, dirt cheap drinks, a weird dance floor, and a brand of entertainment you never knew you needed so badly.
Lost Property is one of those bars you walk into and say “Wait, how long has this been here?” The answer is longer than you think, but its nondescript Hollywood and Vine location has kept it pretty under-the-radar. Located in the repurposed event space of the flip-flop and board short tragedy that is 33 Taps around the corner, Lost Property is low key whiskey bar this area desperately needed. And your ideal spot for a night cap.
To L Bar on Sunset, the greatest bar that ever has and will ever exist. You left us only a few years ago, but it seems like an eternity. You changed us, formed us, and made us realize it’s completely ok to try a power split in a dance circle of strangers. We love you and miss you, and know you’re making a lot of angels very happy in Bar Heaven. Rest in peace, friend.