Venice’s bar scene is a mix of laid back outdoor patios, dimly-lit bars with solid cocktails, and the occasional clubby venue where Happy Hour spills into dancing to 2010’s hip-hop remixes. If it’s Saturday night and you’re leaving dinner on Abbot Kinney with no concrete plans, don’t order that $50 Uber to the Eastside just yet—here are the best bars in Venice.
A flip flop’s toss from the beach, Hinano Cafe is a well-worn dive bar that’s been open since the 60’s and has no interest in rebranding itself anytime soon. This is the kind of place you come for cold beers after a long beach day or just for a moment of peace from the chaos that is the Venice boardwalk. Don’t expect fancy craft cocktails here because there aren’t any— play a game of pool, have a few beers, and order their legendary burger, which is one of our absolute favorites in town. Cash only.
A beautiful ocean view can add a lot to cocktail hour, which is why it’s worth braving the chilly Pacific breeze at Hotel Erwin’s High Rooftop Bar. The rooftop bar serves elaborate cocktails that come with helpful descriptions, such as the Breakwater Mai Tai that is accurately listed on the menu as “Pretty, Islandy, and Fruity AF.” Make a reservation to nab one of the comfy couches (ideally under a heater) and take in the sunset with a plate of fries and a mezcal negroni.
James' Beach doesn’t serve the most refined cocktails in Venice, nor does it pretend to. What makes this spot a staple for locals is its proudly untouched retro beach aesthetic, consistently great margarita, and the fact that it functions as a Swiss Army knife for whatever type of night you want. You can sit at the white table-clothed dining area for a causal fish taco meal and a watermelon margarita, or head straight to the rowdy bar for shots, draft beers, and some very good lemon drop martinis to kick off a night.
photo credit: The Brig
This Brig is Abbot Kinney’s last true dive bar: an establishment that has been in business for nearly 70 years, which by LA standards makes it a historical landmark. The interior is less dark and grungy and more retro Palm Springs Airbnb, but the dive energy is there in spirit. You can order a shot and beer combo at the bar, play a game of pool in the back, or get some fresh air on the outdoor patio when the Saturday night crowds arrive for the bar’s surprisingly great mojitos.
This breezy two-story bar is so close to the beach most people are tracking sand as they walk in the door. The Whaler usually host a lively (and pretty bro-y) crowd on weekends where everyone is wearing surf merch and the same three styles of sunglasses. Here you can enjoy some solid cocktails, beer pitchers, bar food that’s actually pretty good. Head to the top level and watch the sunset to a DJ set before the bar fully transitions into a nighttime venue.
photo credit: The Lincoln
The Lincoln is far from the Abbot Kinney crowds, but that doesn’t stop this place from getting packed on weekends. This cocktail bar looks like a mix between a beach bungalow and a dark tool shed with Edison bulbs and tin panel walls. Mood lighting aside, there is a great outdoor patio (which feels closed off from the loud traffic on Lincoln Blvd.) and very solid drinks for every taste, from fancy fruit-infused cocktails to the simple “World’s Best Dad” combo that includes a Miller High Life and shot of whiskey.
If you speak a little Spanish you might piece together that this bar is run by the same people as Great White, except the theme here is less Aussie and more Mexican. Located off the boardwalk, Gran Blanco looks like a Tulum beach bar with its all-white interior and disco ball. Reservations are strongly encouraged for dinner, but walk-ins at the bar are welcome if you don’t mind drinking on your feet until someone gets up. Order the Normalizo, a spicy jalapeño-watermelon-mezcal blend, or the excellent espresso martini made with reposado tequila. Also: the food here is quite good and available at the bar.
photo credit: Townhouse Venice
There’s a lot of history behind Townhouse, starting with the fact that it’s over 100 years old and its lower level, the Del Monte, was an actual Prohibition Era speakeasy. These days Townhouse is more speakeasy-themed and exists as a rowdy two-story bar full of college students and young professionals looking to kick off the weekend with tequila cocktails or catching a live act at Del Monte. There are booths available on the ground floor if you’re here to catch up with friends, but this very loud venue can make carrying a conversation difficult without straining your vocal cords.
photo credit: Matt Gendal
Belles Beach House
Belles Beach House is technically a restaurant that serves pretty good cocktails, but it’s really the experience of drinking here that earns a spot on this list. At Belles, we suggest leaning into the unsubtle tropical beach theme and ordering a mai tai, piña colada, or any drink poured into a tall tiki mug. That’s why you’re here. Besides feeling like you time traveled to 1970s Waikiki, this boardwalk bar offers other campy amenities such as punch bowl drinks, tequila-spiked slushies served in coconut shells, and a DJ playing tropical house music as you completely lose sense of which continent you are on.
photo credit: Wonho Frank Lee
The Little Friend
The smaller, more intimate sibling to Silver Lake’s The Friend, this Venice bar is where you go to dance the night away to throwback 80’s hits with a bunch of sweaty strangers under a giant disco ball. As the name implies, the space is quite small, made up of a few tables and a tiny bar in the back that serves great cocktails and natural wine. The cocktail names are part of the charm here, with each one personifying a certain “type”, like The Joker, The Hustler, and, our personal favorite, The Passion, which has a strong mezcal kick with sour hibiscus and passionfruit flavor.
Going out with a large group sounds fun in theory until the actual planning begins. That is, unless you go somewhere like Wurstküche. This Euro-centric beer hall has long tables for people to gather, a wide assortment of grilled sausages ranging from pork bratwurst to pheasant with herbs de provence, a whole lot of imported beer, and some of the best Belgian fries in the city. Bonus: everyone orders at the counter so no need to split the check 12 ways.
photo credit: Only The Wild Ones
Only The Wild Ones
Only The Wild Ones is a natural wine bar that distills the current Abbot Kinney aesthetic: a lot of exposed brick, tall plants, a rose gold disco ball, and furniture that looks like it was pulled from a Pinterest board titled “Cali Boho Chic 2016.” The drink menu, apart from the obvious wine selection, also happens to be decently large, with draft beers and some refreshing low-ABV cocktails. A white wine “Old Fashioned” made with amaro and orange oil is crisp like an Aperol spritz, while the Wild Spritz with rosé aperitif has a bold floral quality going on.