For as big and diverse as LA’s going out scene is, there comes a time in all of our lives when we realize we’re completely sick of most bars. You can only go to the same old standby so many weekends in a row, and that new bar everybody’s talking about is now officially scratched off the list after you waited 45 minutes to get in last weekend. That’s just the nature of the game. The ups and downs of LA bars can be difficult to navigate, but with a little bit of digging, you can always find some places that are still worth your time. Here are 13 LA bars you definitely aren’t sick of yet.
Sunset & Vinyl
You’re done with the whole speakeasy thing. You’re not going on Twitter to track down a password and you’re definitely not crawling through a shoe closet just so you can stand around a sweaty dance floor with bad music. Consider Sunset & Vinyl the anti-speakeasy. Yes, it’s on the second-floor of an 800 Degrees Pizza in Hollywood, but there are no lines, bouncers, or weird entrances (you just walk up the staircase). The small attic-like space has excellent bartenders, a quiet atmosphere perfect for dates, and a huge vinyl collection.
The gimmick of arcade bars has long worn off. At this point, you’d rather just sit in a bar and talk to your friends instead of germ-swapping with strangers all night while taking turns with the Space Invaders game. Here’s the good news - Walt’s Bar is not an arcade bar. It’s a retro wine and beer bar that also happens to have a row of pinball machines in the back if the wind (read: alcohol) moves you to play a little. The crowd is local and low-key, and if you get hungry, there’s a popcorn machine that costs a quarter.
On an industrial stretch of La Cienega by the 405, The Mandrake is one of the most underrated bars in central LA. While it definitely fills up during peak weekend hours, the crowd is always casual and more likely to have just come from work at an architecture firm down the street than another club. The specialty cocktails are all fairly priced (nothing costs more than $12), there’s a foosball table in the back, and they usually project old movies onto the wall.
You like fancy cocktail bars, you just don’t like waiting 35 minutes for a chicken to lay an egg in the back so the bartender can put egg white foam on your drink. Go to Good Housekeeping in Highland Park. The small cocktail bar in a standalone building behind Cafe Birdie has some of our favorite cocktails on the Eastside, but without the big crowds and wait times you might have experienced at other spots. The place only has a handful of tables, so while it’s not great for big groups, it’s a perfect nightcap spot after a dinner date.
Casita Del Campo is much more than just a bar. It’s a classic Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake and has been a gay nightlife institution since the 1960s. While you don’t need to cross town to eat the food here, when the time comes to soak up those lethal margaritas with some food, you’re not going to be mad at their large menu of enchiladas, burritos, and big plates of meat. The place has two patios that both get rowdy every night, an indoor dining room with a giant rubber tree in the middle, and a theater in the basement with nightly drag shows.
During the day, this nautical-themed spot on 4th St. in Long Beach is more of a diner, but at night it turns into a full-on live music venue with a great beer list, a low-key crowd that only shops at thrift stores, and a late-night food menu that goes till 1am. Drinking at The Pike feels like you’re drinking at a bar from a ’90s movie where everybody could break out into song at any moment simply because they’re having a good time.
Snake Pit is a neighborhood bar that never gets too crowded, has bartenders who’ll actually talk to you, and a jukebox you’ll hover around for the duration of the night. Plain and simple, this small Melrose spot is one of those places where you can do whatever you want. Need a nightcap after a sexy date night? Want to rip a few shots at the bar and create your own dance floor? Anything goes at the Snake Pit.
If you’re tired of pretty much every bar in Hollywood right now, join the club. Nowhere Bar is the neighborhood’s saving grace. The small spot on Hollywood has zero lines, no covers, and cocktails all under $10. The crowd is a mix of casual dates, locals having a quick martini, or people just looking for a tolerable bar experience in Hollywood. Keep your calendars open on Tuesdays - it’s tiki takeover night.
Is Dan Sung Sa a restaurant or a bar? The answer is it doesn’t matter. This dark tavern in the heart of Ktown is one of our favorite spots in the city to get a little too drunk, snack on some Korean bar food, and forget we’re in the middle of LA for a night. The whole place smells like whatever’s on the grill, the wooden wall panels are ideal for scribbling on when you’re hammered, and you just ordered 10 bottles of soju with zero regrets.
Long before the arcade bar became a thing kids in Brooklyn thought they invented themselves, Blipsy was just a dark dive bar on Western with some pinball and Donkey Kong in the back. Guess what? It still is. Expect zero lines, no fancy cocktails, and a bar full of people who are actually there to play retro arcade games. Warning - it’s cash only, but there’s a coin laundromat next door for all your quarter needs.
This Latino drag bar on La Brea is one of those places you walk into and wonder why it took you so long to get here. From the outside, Plaza looks like a random storefront, but on the inside, it’s one giant party. There’s a huge dance floor, affordable drinks, and of course, the stage where all the magic goes down. Every drink comes with a bag of Doritos. Cash only.
Kibitiz is not where you start your night, but it’s definitely where you should end it. The tiny cocktail lounge attached to Canter’s on Fairfax is where you go after a great night out that you don’t want to be over yet. Drinks are cheap, the crowd is always interesting, and there will probably be a band playing in the corner. And in case you didn’t catch that, it’s attached to Canter’s.