The Least-Awful Rooftop Bars In LAWhen you absolutely have to be on a rooftop in LA, make it one of these.
In a city with as much sunshine and as many tall buildings as LA, you’d assume it would be easy to find great bars, patios, and dance parties on rooftops. It’s not. But the weather’s getting warmer, you have an outfit that’s been waiting to be worn for eight months, and there’s a deep yearning within you that’s begging for strong cocktails and panoramic views of the city.
But now is not the time to give in and go to places with overpriced drinks and crowds full of people who shriek when Harry Styles comes on. Stick to these rooftops in LA, try to make a reservation when possible, and both you and your little outfit will be happy.
For some reason, rooftop pools are scarce close to the ocean. But there is Calabra. Perched atop the Santa Monica Proper Hotel, this splashy Mediterranean restaurant has an indoor lounge, poolside patio, and lots of loungey furniture. The music is loud and people definitely want you to notice their outfits, but the atmosphere is fun and breezy, and the lamb burger is really good. Load up on dips and enjoy the ocean breeze.
This sleek Italian spot is one of the rare Hollywood rooftops where we'll happily lose track of time. The menu includes a good mix of fusion-y Italian small plates we’d come back for, but the real draw at Lemon Grove is the fantastic terrace. It has postcard views of the Capitol Records building, plush patio furniture, and enough decorative cacti to make the space look like a press event at Coachella. When you're not staring at all of that, you’ll be snacking on hamachi tartare and grilled prawns while sipping sangria.
This is the rooftop bar to end all other rooftop bars. Not only is Cha Cha Chá not awful, but it somehow manages to strattle the fine line of fun, casual, and downright beautiful. Located on a tree-filled rooftop in the Arts District, this is where you come when you want a one-way ticket to the city depicted in movies like La La Land. It’s the perfect place to swing by with a couple of friends for mezcal cocktails and tuna tostadas, hit a romantic date night out of the ballpark, or seal the deal with someone you’re desperately trying to convince to move to LA.
This grand, multi-story restaurant and bar in Hollywood was once a recording studio by the same name where Stevie Wonder, Bowie, and the Chili Peppers made magic happen, so the food and music carry equal weight. The fun, pricey restaurant downstairs is great, but the rooftop is super fun too. You’ll find a striking jade green bar and giant heaters that look like table lamps and drinks named after famous songs and albums—we loved the Midnight Vulture, a smoky mezcal drink that involves Campari and cilantro.
Located on top of The Hoxton, Cabra has all the requisite Downtown rooftop amenities—great skyline views, a semi-rowdy crowd full of questionable hat choices, and a pool that someone’s absolutely going to fall into. But what sets Cabra apart is the food. The Peruvian-leaning menu is filled with light, shareable small plates that are great for packs of friends and won’t fill you up to the point where you can’t go out afterward. We recommend sticking mostly to the “cold stuff” section, which includes things like salmon ceviche with pistachio and hamachi tiradito topped with kumquats and miso brown butter.
There’s always something going on at Hollywood’s Bar Lis. On Tuesdays, you can drop in for a glass of Gamay and live jazz. And on Saturdays, the whole place transforms into a tequila-fueled dance party. This plant-filled bar has a retractable roof, a lounge with an open-air deck, and a huge indoor space where you and a few friends can dance while a DJ spins disco and soul tracks. Cocktails start at around $18, or you can get bottle service starting at $350 if your pseudo-celebrity friend is paying. The next time you want to be outside with a great view of the Hollywood sign while wearing that outfit you'd put on to win back your ex, head to Bar Lis.
If you want to feel powerful and a little evil (like Edna Mode), drink an expensive, complicated cocktail on a rooftop overlooking the city. The open-air Umbrella Club on top of the Sixty Hotel in Beverly Hills is perfect for that kind of thing. You can sit by a fire pit, gaze at skyscrapers, and sip a fancy rum cocktail with a flower garnish. This spot is best suited for a date or small group for drinks before or after dinner, but note that they do have a full menu with burgers, pizzas, and salads.
E.P. & L.P.
Chances are, if you’re over 21 and owned a bandage dress in the year 2014, you’ve been to E.P. & L.P. Ever since they opened their doors on Melrose and La Cienega, they’ve been famous for their incredible rooftop patio (and infamous for their long lines on the weekend). With unobstructed views of West Hollywood and plenty of space in between tables, it’s an ideal place to eat and drink outside while still feeling comfortable. The food menu isn't as extensive as Bombo, the upscale Mexican spot downstairs, but you can still get a decent burger and some tacos and watch the sunset over the Hills.
Located at the very top of the Freehand Hotel in Downtown LA, Broken Shaker is exactly what you might picture when the words “Los Angeles rooftop bar” pop into your head. Despite the hordes 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, unobstructed views of the city skyline, and enough animal floaties to populate Noah’s ark.
Located on the 12th story of the Waldorf Astoria, this lush rooftop patio serves a panoramic experience that’s just as luxurious as the neighborhood it’s housed in. Emerald green chairs are draped in satin, cocktails are strong and tasty (we like the slightly spicy ginger margarita), and you’ll have a view of the city that’ll either make you feel like a bird soaring over the California coastline.
LA is home to plenty of unsolved mysteries (like the sudden disappearance of the Mr. Peanut mural on Temple Street), but none are more perplexing than the lack of good rooftop pool/bars/restaurants on the Westside. Luckily, we have the High Lounge. The rooftop space at the Hotel Erwin in Venice is one of the few hotel rooftops you can check out even if you’re not a guest. Though there isn’t a pool, the drinks are solid and the views are as good as you’d expect from a hotel one block from the beach. The crowd on the weekends can get bro-tastic, but if you’re able to go on an off-time, or after work during the week, you might have the place to yourself.
Trying to find a restaurant that pleases everyone is difficult, even if that “everyone” just means you and your many whims and fancies. Head to the Ace Hotel. They’ve got a massive industrial rooftop space that’s got the best of every world imaginable, including a full bar, cozy outdoor fire pits, a pool area, and tons of tables to spread out on. Just know that it can certainly get crowded on the weekends.
Up on the top of The Beverly Hilton is where you’ll find Sant’olina—a Mediterranean bar and restaurant offering spectacular views of the Los Angeles skyline. From the floral blue tablecloths to the floor-to-ceiling windows, the patio here reminds us of a fancy country club cabana, except without the wafting scent of sunscreen or stray tennis balls. Instead, you’ll find shareable dishes like phyllo-baked halloumi, bright-red beet muhammara, and grilled za’atar chicken served with preserved lemons and fattoush salad, all served from a vantage point you probably haven’t experienced since you last rode Disneyland’s Soarin’ Over California ride.