We like wine. And we like drinking it with friends in public. So it’s a shame that so many wine bars are overpriced and aggressively pretentious, and have atmospheres that barely rival most Brentwood orthodontist offices.
Luckily, more places in LA are starting to prove that wine bars can be the cool, actually-fun places you want to frequent. Whether you’re meeting a client or a first date, or your old roommate just really wants to drink some chardonnay tonight, these are the LA wine bars you want to know about.
At first glance, Same Same looks like another dime-a-dozen wine bar. It’s dimly lit, there’s a long row of cushy booths against the wall, and there’s a couple in the corner giggling and doing weird human flirtation things. But then you notice there’s a steaming plate of pad thai sitting in front of them, and you realize things are different here. Thai food and wine? An excellent combination. Same Same’s wine list might not be the most extensive, but it’s all selected to pair perfectly with the fantastic (and very spicy) Thai food coming out of the kitchen. The khao soi is a must-order.
Good Measure is a new spot in Atwater Village from the Bar Covell people, and, like that place, here you’re going to get a long wine list and a helpful staff willing to let you try lots of things. The space is modern, with lots of booths, and the crowd is here to have fun rather than start their bedtime routine. Bring some coworkers for laid-back after-work drinks and end up staying for dinner, or take a first date for some marathon wine tasting. The food is also great - get the pork rillettes.
Tabula Rasa is the anti-wine bar wine bar. The industrial space in East Hollywood is calm and cool, there’s a live band in the corner, and most people inside are talking about Moby’s free meditation album and not the Malbec they’re currently holding. But they do serve great wine here, along with a solid beer list and a snacks menu that has no business being as delicious as it is. We’d come here for the Cuban sandwich alone.
Bodega is a giant spot just off Lincoln full of people who didn’t get the memo that wine bars are usually quiet places. The wine selection is long, and the bartenders are pretty helpful at guiding you to the right one, so Bodega makes for a great introduction to wine appreciation. It’s a space to hang on couches catching up with friends, eating some pretty decent food, and staying for a few hours longer than you intended. Also, their weekday Happy Hour goes from 5 - 7pm and all night after 10pm.
Most of us know absolutely nothing about wine and have simply perfected the art of pointing at things with confidence. So the notion of a wine bar with over 150 types of rare wines generally induces waves of anxiety. But here’s the catch - at Bar Covell, there are no menus. You simply tell the people behind the counter what you’re in the mood for tonight (to the best of your ability) and they choose for you. And they usually get it exactly right. Also, the snacks menu has gotten quite strong, and you and your date should definitely be splitting that charcuterie board.
Do you have a strong opinion on Merlot vs Syrah? Do you know what kind of wine glass will go best with the wine you want to drink? If you’re a serious wine person, you probably already know about Wally’s. If you want to be a serious wine person, you should start going to Wally’s. This Beverly Hills spot is, like most Beverly Hills bars and restaurants, kind of a scene - it’s full of rich people who love wine more than they love a lot of things. Come here to people watch, and don’t leave without getting the carbonara pizzetta.
We all have that friend who’s been around forever. The one you go months without talking to, but as soon as you actually hang with them, you wonder why you don’t see them more. Marvin is that friend. This underrated wine bar in Beverly Grove is a laid-back neighborhood spot that isn’t trendy, and often gets overlooked for the cooler, newer bars in the area. But every time we go back for drinks and end up staying for a great dinner, we always ask ourselves why we aren’t here all the time. Marvin deserves a little more recognition.
Don’t mistake Ester’s as just a holding pen for the inevitable wait for a table at Cassia next door - it’s a fun and not even a little bit stuffy wine bar that’s worth checking out on its own. The wine list covers a lot of ground, but they’ll happily direct you towards something you’ll want to drink. It’s also a wine store, so if one of the bottles on the walls strikes your fancy, you can grab one of those, and pay retail price plus a corkage add-on (which still ends up being good value for wine bar drinking). The food is mostly snacky things that go with wine - charcuterie, cheese, sugar-y lavender almonds that are much tastier than they sound - but there’s enough stuff to make this a casual dinner spot too.
There are a lot of things French people do better than us, and one of them is wine. So Garçons de Café, a little wine shop and bar in the Spring Arcade run by three French people, is an excellent place. The wine list is completely French, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, order one of the flights, and try different wines organized by region (Burgundy) or type (organic whites). Accessorize with a cheese and charcuterie platter, and berets are optional (but suggested).
Anyone who ever tells you all wine bars are basically adult naptime should be pointed to Bacari PDR. This bright and airy wine bar right by the beach in Playa Del Rey might not have the most thought-provoking stock of Australian sauvignons in town, but they do have a 90-minute open bar on the weekends where all house wines, sangria, and champagne are $25 per person. This place is fun and unpretentious, with the kind of drink specials to get any night started off right.
Most people in El Prado don’t even realize it’s a wine bar. Essentially serving as the pre-game/post-game drinking hole for Echoplex concertgoers, El Prado can certainly get rowdy at times on the weekends, but ultimately serves as a cool, mellow spot to grab a quick drink during most of the week. They also have a decent beer list and bar snacks (read: hummus) for when you need some nutrients.
We would argue that the best use of wine bars is the after-work drink. You get to feel like an adult because you both have a job and drink wine, but that wine is also helping you forget how crappy it is to be an adult sometimes. Mignon, in the Historic Core, is well-positioned for downtown after-work drinks and has $6 glasses of wine from 6 until 8pm every day. The list is small and mostly European, with a bunch of unusual picks in the mix. Get here at lunchtime from Wednesday to Saturday for some of the best pasta in town from Cento Pasta Bar.
Silverlake Wines is more of a wine shop than an actual bar, but we don’t care. These people know wine and they know how to have a good time drinking it. There is a wine tasting bar off to the side, but it fills up quickly, so expect it to be standing room only most nights. You can come in here and pick up a bottle any day of the week, but the best times to come are Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays for their stumble-home-with-a-neighbor wine tasting events. Ranging from $15-$25 per person (and that includes cheese, hummus, and flatbread), these things fill up fast, so reservations are definitely recommended.
The owners of Venice Beach Wines clearly understand what Venice residents want. It has a tiny covered patio on Rose, the space is cozy but also modern, and their Happy Hour is from 4 to 6pm, because who around here has an office job anyway? VBW is our go-to spot for a low-key drink in the neighborhood - the wine selection is good (and you can always shop inside too), they know their way around a cheese board, and the whole place makes us wish we were one of those Venice people without an office job.
Pour Haus wins the award for having the best Happy Hour of any wine bar in the city. The laid-back spot in the Arts District serves $5 red, white, and sparkling options from 4-7pm every day of the week, and also a handful of excellent snacks at the same price. Definitely get involved with those oxtail tacos. Also, Tuesday night trivia can get aggressively competitive.