LA isn’t exactly the easiest place to meet people. For as social as this city can be, too many bars tend to be too cliquey, too loud, too sectioned-off by booths, and generally not conducive to talking to anyone other than who you showed up with. Or maybe that’s just where society stands at this point.
But whether you’re single and ready to mingle, or simply sick of staring at your same friends every weekend wondering what to do next, the art of actually meeting people in a bar is far from dead. From karaoke to line dancing to full-scale bocce ball, LA has some great bars where you might actually be able to mix it up with some relative strangers. Here are the 21 best places to make that happen.
Harvard & Stone comes from the same family as Davey Wayne’s, No Vacancy, and Breakroom 86. But if visions of secret entrances and flapper girls twirling from the ceiling are flowing through your head right now, take a pause. Harvard & Stone is surprisingly low-key, and easy to get into. That said, it’s also fun as hell. Expect live music most nights of the week, late-night DJ’s, and a makeshift dance floor that gets rowdy in a hurry. The crowd is always cool, casual, good-looking, and definitely ready to mix it up.
Generally speaking, any plan to meet new friends on the ground floor of a Super 8 is probably not a great plan. But when that Super 8 is the one in East Hollywood that contains Girl At The White Horse, go for it. The space is a new version of an old dive bar of the same name, with a nice back patio, a great dance floor (involving a disco ball), and tons of little nooks for those unexpected midnight extracurriculars. Also, the cocktails are served in plastic to-go cups with straws, which is just an excellent idea.
Welcome to the golden boy of the downtown gay scene. Precinct is a massive, warehouse-y bar in Bunker Hill and probably the most popular gay bar in the entire city right now. Though lines can get bad (especially on the big drag show nights), the crowd is far more laid-back and unaffected than what you usually find in Weho. In short, people are here to party. Combine that with relatively cheap mixed drinks and great music and you’ll have yourself some new friends in no time.
The Snake Pit is one of those bars you stumble past at 12:30am, decide to go in for one drink, and end up closing the place down. This is a divey bar of the best variety - great bartenders, cheap drinks, and a jukebox that will turn you into a dance floor star. There’s no designated dance floor, but when the right song comes on, everyone hops on their feet and starts making room. If dancing with a stranger to the Grease medley at 1:45am isn’t how you want to close out your night, we have nothing in common.
Just when you think all is lost, there’s Red Lion Tavern. The Silver Lake beer garden is not only one of our favorite patios in the city, it’s one of the best places to sit down, have a couple steins, and actually talk to the people sitting next to you. The Bavarian theme isn’t what you’d consider subtle, but it feels authentic and that’s all that matters. There isn’t a better place to mix it up a bit on the Eastside than Red Lion.
ERB is one of the bars you assume will be pretentious and horrible and ends up being the exact opposite. And while the interior bar is small but cool, the real party starts on the back patio. With long benches, communal tables, and even some bocce ball thrown in, this is our favorite space in the Arts District to mingle with new people. Add great cocktails, a solid beer list, and even better bar food, and ERB has your Saturday night made.
A large chunk of LA gay bars have a well-deserved reputation for being expensive, tourist-clogged hell-traps. Akbar is the antithesis of all of that. The Eastside gem is a place people go to grab a cheap drink and actually hear themselves talk. The vibe is relaxed, and Monday night’s lip-syncing competition “Learn The Words, Bitch” is everything you’ve ever wanted.
Amidst a sea of dime-a-dozen bro bars, The Gas Lite stands as one of the only remaining bars in Santa Monica where people truly don’t give a sh*t. And the name of the game at this local dive bar is karaoke. And dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. When you factor in the cheap drinks and a crowd that definitely wants to get to know each other, you’ve got a great night on the Westside.
This bar in Venice is a much-needed addition to an area that oddly struggles with worthwhile places to grab a drink. Though the interior is pretty trendy, the vibe at The Lincoln is casual and friendly. There’s an excellent front patio with plenty of room to get the conversations flowing, and a waitstaff that always makes sure you have a drink in hand. Which, by the way, are Top Gun-themed.
F*ck yes. This 48-year-old LA institution is still one of the best places to change up your usual weekend bar grind and go experience something you’ll actually remember. This Studio City cowboy bar is where you drink $1 jello shots, learn how to line dance, and then groove the night away on stage with a Cher impersonator. The crowd is always excellent and engaging and will make you feel like the star that you are. Saturday night disco night is not be missed.
As a default, games bring people together. Add strong beer and some hot dogs, and you have a full-on day party. And at Block Party in Highland Park, you’re getting just that. This place is perfect for craft beer drinkers, but it’s that cruise ship-scale shuffleboard on the back patio that takes this Eastside spot to the next level. Everyone here is always having a good time, and you will be too.
If you’re single and ready to mingle in this city, Bungalow is simply where you go. This post-grad slopfest blocks from the Santa Monica beach is certainly not for everyone, but it’s hard to argue there’s a better space to meet people than this one. It’s essentially a converted beach mansion, with living rooms and libraries and massive outdoor patios all for the taking. The crowd is young, attractive, and ready to make the most of their Saturday and yours. Plan accordingly.
It’s harder than it should be in LA to find a decent spot to have a beer with some friends. Good thing there’s Surly Goat, the rather nondescript beer bar smack in the center of everything. You never have to wait in line, the crowd is always good, and if you time things right, they might even have some Pliny on tap. If that word means nothing to you, you’ll still have a great time at one of Weho’s best casual drinking spots.
Bootie LA is definitely not a bar. It’s a weekly dance party that takes place anywhere from Echo Park to downtown. But if you’re looking to dance to Top 40 pop mash-ups in a surprisingly un-clubby atmosphere, Bootie LA is ideal. Even though the themed event has become more and more popular, the crowd has generally remained cool, laid-back, and entirely ready to have a lot fun. Everyone here is probably in some sort of costume, and you should be too.
You’re damn right Barney’s is on this list. Sure, the kitschy sports bar is a local chain these days, but the OG Weho location remains as fantastic as ever. Whether you’re for Tuesday trivia, Wednesday karaoke, or football Sundays, the vibe here is always exactly what you want it to be, with a crowd that just wants to drink beer and get a little rowdy while watching their teams lose.
Blue Collar is one of those places that feels bigger than it is, and that’s because everyone at this cocktail bar is on their feet, talking, and having a good time. The vibe is like a neighborhood dive bar, but one where you can tell the bartender you feel like drinking whiskey tonight, and they’ll make you the cocktail of your dreams. It’s unpretentious, fun, and full of plenty of new friends.
The dimly-lit Ktown bar is a fancy cocktail drinkers’ paradise, but unlike the more exclusive/reservation-only Walker Inn attached in the back, people are up and mingling about here. This isn’t your Fireball throw-down spot, so don’t come expecting to get too wild. The crowd is cool and interesting and they probably came to drink good cocktails. If you came to do the same, you’ll fit right in.
When it comes to dancing in LA, most people think their options are fist-pumping with the Euro-bros of Hollywood or people-watching at some spot out in the Valley. But those people don’t know about The Short Stop - part dive bar, part pool hall, part dance your face off slopfest. It’s excellent. Get there early on weekends or be prepared to wait. But otherwise expect a fun crowd who wants to have just as much fun as you do.
Kibitz Room is one of those places that everybody forgets about, and that’s precisely how everyone working and drinking there prefers it. But this iconic rock & roll afterparty bar is still one of the best places to roll up after a few drinks, listen to some great live music, order a few more drinks, and get weird with strangers. Oh, and it’s attached to Canter’s, so your late-night Reuben is mere steps away.
Admittedly, Chestnut Club can get pretty overwhelming on the weekends. But if you’re looking to mix it up with the local post-grad crowd, this Santa Monica hotspot needs to be at the top of your list. And surprisingly, you can also score a decently-made cocktail while you’re at it. Either way, the crowd is good-looking and ready to party. And that’s always a winning combo.
Backstage Bar in Culver City is one of those rare unicorn bars where you can show up with pretty much anybody at anytime and you’re going to have a hell of a time. Directly across the street from Sony Studios, its 80-year history runs deep, but these days it’s known for ridiculously cheap drinks, a great crowd, and one of the best karaoke situations in Los Angeles.