It’s 4:30pm on a Friday, and your best friend just sent the “What are we doing tonight?” text. Thus commences the weekly ritual of trying come up with a fun place to go to, and the inevitable return to the exact same bar you were at last weekend.
Nightlife fatigue is real in this city, and the only way to get through it is to keep tabs on all the places you actually like. That’s easier said than done, so let us help. Whether it’s that dive from your old neighborhood, or that crazy dance bar you went to three years ago and can’t remember the name of, it’s probably on this list. Here are our favorite LA bars that everybody always seems to forget about.
The Edmon exists in an in-between area of Hollywood - it’s on the ground floor of the Hollywood Historic Hotel - and for that reason alone, it never gets too slammed. The art deco space has good cocktails, a crowd that’s there because they want to talk without having to scream, and plenty of comfortable chairs at the bar for you and your date who wouldn’t commit to a full dinner. But if dinner is on the itinerary, come for a few pre-meal drinks before walking one block over to Osteria La Buca.
Verdugo is where you go when you’re rolling deep on a Saturday, but you don’t feel like dealing with the crowds in Silver Lake or Downtown. Located off a side street in Glassell Park, Verdugo has a fantastic back patio, a big craft beer selection, and a weekend Happy Hour that runs from 3-7pm. While they don’t serve any food, there’s always a few food trucks out back for when your body is crying out for nourishment.
In actuality, 1642 is probably a place you didn’t know about rather than one you forgot existed, but either way, this intimate Historic Filipinotown spot is definitely worth a visit. Open since 2010, it’s wine and beer only, and the kind of place that exudes an effortless cool. The bare-bones space is full of people who seem like they genuinely read for pleasure, there’s live music most nights of the week, and if you need some food, there are usually a few good taco stands outside.
On an industrial stretch of La Cienega by the 405, Mandrake is one of the most underrated bars in Mid-City. While it definitely fills up during peak weekend hours, the crowd is more likely to have just come from work at an architecture firm than another club. The specialty cocktails are all reasonably priced (nothing costs more than $14), there’s a foosball table in the back, and old movies being projected onto the wall. If you get hungry, they have potato chips behind the bar - as should be required by law.
OB Bear is a classic drinking tavern in Koreatown, and though it doesn’t have the smokey chaos you’ll find at nearby Dan Sung Sa, it does have some of our favorite bar food in the city. The seafood-leek pancakes are a must-order and the heat from the spicy chicken wings will stay with you until morning. If that sounds uncomfortable, don’t worry - beer pitchers and soju are there to help. Inside, it definitely gets crowded, but the big booths are roomy and ideal if you’re coming in with a group.
Know Where is a casual cocktail bar in East Hollywood that’s a welcome antidote to long lines, $17 drinks, and dudes in clubs fighting about whether or not somebody looked at them weird. This is the kind of spot you choose for a midweek nightcap, then end up coming back the next day by yourself simply because you like being here. The teal-painted space is small and narrow, but feels like you’re drinking in your fun uncle’s basement in Fort Lauderdale. Happy Hour runs 5-7pm daily (and all day on Sunday), and each night of the week has its own boozy theme, like Tiki Tuesdays and Whiskey Thursdays.
There’s always that moment at the end of a long night when you’re completely over the bar you’re currently at, but not quite ready to go home, either. Which is when you should remember Snake Pit, the classic dive on Melrose that’s the best last-call bar in the city. Here you’ll find cheap drinks that actually have alcohol in them, bartenders who won’t ignore you, and a jukebox for you and your friends to take over.
When it comes to a night out on the Eastside, Bar Bandini is never the first place that comes to mind. But this Echo Park wine bar deserves to be in your rotation. Bandini is one of those places that always seems to get the mood right - weekdays involve regulars drinking wine from the tap, and eating a part-burrata, part-mozzarella cheese that’s much better than it sounds. Things get livelier during weekends, but never to the point where you have to worry about getting a lemon drop thrown in your face. In fact, it’s beer and wine only. But it’s also very far from being boring.
Alibi Room is in that part of Culver City west of the 405 that most people don’t realize is still Culver City. But this low-key cocktail bar is a great option when you’re tired of drinking in Venice. Alibi has been around for over 10 years and is this neighborhood’s trusty standby. There’s an extensive craft beer list, cocktails, and a late-night Happy Hour Monday-Wednesday. Oh, and there are Kogi truck tacos on the menu, too.
In Hollywood, you have to either be pretty flashy or gimmicky to get a crowd. The Well is neither of those things, and that’s often why it gets passed over. But it shouldn’t. Located in the bottom of a big office building at Sunset and Argyle, if you think you’re walking into a loading dock, that means you’ve found The Well. It’s a surprisingly large space with plenty of corners for you and your friends to take over, strong drinks, and jukebox, and a 5-8pm Happy Hour on weekends. This is your jumping off point before a night out in Hollywood.
Finding places where you can dance in LA that aren’t nightmarish club hellscapes can be a treacherous search, particularly on the Westside. But one place that always manages to get the dance floor right and fly a bit under-the-radar is The Room. During the week, this dimly lit Santa Monica bar is a solid place to grab a cocktail with a friend, but come weekends, the place turns into a full-throttle dance party of the best variety. Expect a lot of Top 40, rap, and old school hip-hop.