It’s hardly a secret - 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 just generally not conducive to talking to anyone other than who you showed up with. Or maybe that’s just where society stands in 2016.
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 17 best ones to make it happen.
Just when you think all is lost, there’s Red Lion Tavern. The Silverlake 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 aesthetic might be a touch put-on, but you frankly don’t care. The vibe is 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, community tables, and even some bocce ball thrown in, there isn’t a better outdoor space in the Arts District to mingle with newbies. Couple that with great cocktails, a solid beer list, and even better bar food, ERB has your Saturday night made.
A large chunk of LA gay bars have a well-deserved reputation of 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 when they 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. Couple that with cheap drinks and a crowd that definitely wants to get to know each other, and you've got a great night on the Westside.
This new 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 wait staff that always makes sure you have a drink in hand.
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 go to 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. Couple that with strong beer and some hotdogs, and you have a full-on day party. And at Block Party in Highland Park, you’re getting just that. Block Party is heaven for craft beer drinkers, but it’s that cruise ship scale shuffleboard in 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 beach in Santa Monica is certainly not for everyone, but it’s hard to argue there’s a better space to meet people than this one. What’s essentially a converted beach mansion, there are living rooms and libraries and massive outdoor patios all for the taking. The crowd is young, hot, and ready to make the most of their Saturday and yours. Plan accordingly.
In a city as social as West Hollywood, the quest to find a decent spot to roll up and have a beer with some friends can be an exceptionally difficult one. 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, who cares? You’ll have a great time at one of Weho’s best casual drinking spots.
OK, Bootie LA is definitely not a bar. It’s a once a week mash-up dance party that takes place anywhere from Echo Park to downtown. But if you’re wanting to dance around to Top 40 pop mash-ups in a shockingly unclubby atmosphere, Bootie LA is your dream come true. Everyone here is probably in some sort of costume or you should be too. But even as the themed event becomes increasingly more popular, the crowd has generally remained cool, laid-back, and entirely ready to have a lot fun.
You’re d*mn right Barney’s is on this list. Sure, the kitschy sports bar is a local chain these days, 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 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. It feels 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 you’ll get hammered in no time.
The dimly-lit Ktown bar is a cocktail drinkers' paradise, but unlike the more exclusive Walker Inn 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 be right in the mix in no time.
When it comes to dancing in LA, your options are pretty much limited to the fist-pumping Euro-bros of Hollywood and maybe a people-watching spot out in The Valley. Or so it seems. The Short Stop in Echo Park is 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 n’ 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 coed crowd, this Santa Monica hotspot needs to be at the top of your list. And surprisingly, you can also score a decently-made cocktails while you're at it too. Either way, the crowd is insanely 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 old 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.