Not all that long ago, Highland Park’s nightlife consisted of two things: a scattered crop of dive bars that have been around for years, and the restaurant where you were eating dinner and getting wine drunk. That’s all changed now. York and Figueroa are lined with every type of bar, and weekend foot traffic is on par with downtown, West Hollywood, or even Koreatown. Simply put, Highland Park is the most exciting neighborhood to be drinking in the city. Here are the eight places to focus on first.
Checker Hall is our favorite spot to drink in HP right now. Located on the second floor of an old Masonic Lodge, the open space has a big triangular bar, booths lining the walls, and a great outdoor balcony overlooking Figueroa. The cocktails are fantastic, and the crowd is filled with people who have a better Spotify than you. We love it here because it’s the rare kind of place you can walk into with anyone and have a great time.
Technically Walt’s Bar is in Eagle Rock, but it’s only a few minutes off York Blvd., and you need to be drinking here. The place calls itself an arcade bar, but good news - it’s not an arcade bar. It’s a neighborhood dive bar with a 1950s aesthetic that doesn’t feel embarrassing, and a row of pinball machines in the back. They also have a popcorn machine that takes quarters. Wine and beer only.
Whether or not you’re an avid craft beer drinker, there’s no denying the Hermosillo is Highland Park’s favorite place to grab a drink. Come here any night of the week and by 5:30pm this place will be filled with people actually talking to each other and drinking some of the best beer in the city. The Hermosillo is essentially the tap room for Highland Park Brewery, but they also have a very solid bar food menu.
ETA is the ideal nightcap bar. The space itself is small and fairly plain, but it never gets too crowded, and the drinks themselves (not to mention the bartenders who are serving them) are excellent. The tequila-based “El Matador” with Oolong Tea is a must-order.
Block Party is living proof that if you give the people good beer, a cruise ship-sized shuffleboard, and a massive back patio to hang out in all afternoon, no one will leave disappointed. Located in the middle of York Blvd., Block Party is that place you roll into on a Saturday and leave five hours later wondering where your day went. Don’t worry - you spent it drinking alcoholic snow cones, eating hot dogs from the cart out back, and wondering why every other bar isn’t like this.
When it comes to taking run-down old places and making them extremely awesome again, it’s hard to compete with what happened at Highland Park Bowl. The nearly 90-year-old institution had fallen on hard times over the years, but recently came back as the coolest bowling alley in the city. The place isn’t massive (there are only eight lanes), so we recommend making reservations ahead of time. Also, make sure there’s a designated driver - the movie-themed cocktails are a dangerous brand of delicious. Order any of the pizzas with confidence.
Grabbing a drink at La Cuevita (or Little Cave, as some know it) is like drinking margaritas in the cellar of a Mexican distillery. It’s dark, somewhat mysterious (bat decorations are present), but also really, really fun. There are tiny nooks for you and your friends to take over, an excellent back patio, Happy Hour from 5-9pm every day, and free tacos on Tuesdays between 10pm and midnight. Repeat that to yourself: FREE TACOS ON TUESDAYS.
Located in a small, detached building behind Cafe Birdie that can only accessed by walking through the restaurant and out the back patio, Good Housekeeping reads like another high-concept speakeasy bar you were tired of two years ago. But despite its somewhat hidden location, Good Housekeeping is not a speakeasy. It’s just a great little place to grab some tremendous cocktails and build a solid buzz before you (hopefully) head back in to eat at the restaurant.