The Best Sh*tshow Bars In Los Angeles
It’s not just any night, it’s a shot-taking, dancefloor-breaking, leave-your-phone-in-the-Uber kind of night that you won’t forget. Or remember.
There are a lot of different “nights out” in Los Angeles. Some involve drinking wine and falling asleep in your Uber on the way home. Others are all about whiskey so expensive that you can’t afford more than one glass. And then, there are the nights out that are absolute disasters - in the best way possible. We’re talking about those times when you do shots of sambuca just because someone bought them for you. Or get involved with tequila for the first time since “The Incident” during your first year at UCLA. Or try to bum cigarettes off the bouncer (and then get kicked out for trying to smoke them inside).
Those kinds of nights only happen at one kind of establishment: The sh*tshow bar. The problem is, most of them suck. However, there are a few messy bars that are actually a lot of fun. So next time you’re going out with That Friend - or if you are That Friend - head to one of these guaranteed good-time spots.
Tramp Stamp Granny’s
Going to Tramp Stamp Granny’s for the first time is a bit like showing up at summer camp: It’s exciting, scary, and you’re going to leave with some stories to tell. It’s right in the middle of Hollywood, and you’ll know you’re there when you see the only line full of people you’d actually want to be friends with. It’s almost entirely pink inside, and, along with the other former (and current) theater kids, you get to drink cilantro-infused tequila cocktails and scream-sing “Teenage Dream” with the piano player. Tramp Stamp is great compromise when your friends want to go to a nearby club, and you want to go somewhere not-terrible.
Lash is permanently closed
Lash is a dark, dingy dance club in Downtown LA with a low-key bar and some tables out front - but walk straight past all that and head to the back room, where you’ll find a warehouse-sized dancefloor and a bar serving mixed drinks that are basically just pint-glass-sized shots. There are DJs every Friday and Saturday, and they’ve also got themed nights throughout the week - everything from drag night, to ’90s R&B, to the rather self-explanatory “Party. Anthems. Only.” Be warned: There’s a high probability you and whatever group you go with will get invited to after-hours drinks at a stranger’s apartment.
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When you’re going to Harlowe, it’s not just any sh*tshow night. It’s a tequila night, or a “shots of gin” night, or really, whatever kind of night it is that you can only handle once a year. You’ll ignore how much your feet hurt, dance like you usually only do at weddings, and go home with someone you’ve never met before. This Weho bar is the perfect place for all those things, and they have excellent DJs that only play songs you know every single word to. For one night a year, it’s absolutely glorious.
Like your hardest-partying friend, The Surly Goat always manages to be involved in your drunkest nights. That’s probably because this Weho spot serves all kinds of deceptively strong beers, like some impossible-to-find bourbon barrel stout that also happens to be 14% ABV. And in addition to 27 rotating taps (and a full bar), the Goat’s got arcade games, shuffleboard, and a patio that’s laid-back, but still gets sloppy enough for you to have a great time.
It’s true - all sports bars are sh*tshows in their own way. But none are as fun as Sonny McLean’s, the Boston bar in Santa Monica. But you don’t have to love Tom Brady to have fun here - this place fills up nightly with people looking for great craft beer and what might be the stiffest pours on the Westside. It’s especially fun during games, when you can join people named Sully and Fitzy in screaming at the TV and calling anyone that turns the ball over “a bum.” When the game’s not on, they’ve still got one of the most competitive dart boards around - we highly recommend getting involved.
One of the best disaster bars in the city, The Virgil has two excellent dancefloors full of people taking shots of whatever’s cheapest. But skip the front one and head straight to the dark, grungy, and very sweaty dancefloor in the back, where you’ll find a DJ playing pop tracks from the last 30 years. You’ll walk out feeling sticky in every single way, but you really couldn’t give less of a f*ck about it.
Zebulon’s a live music venue in Frogtown, where you can see shows pretty much any night of the week. But unless you know someone in one of the bands, we actually recommend showing up after the shows are over, when a DJ comes on and this place transitions into dance party mode. It might not be the most overtly rowdy place in town, but we like it because you can show up at 10:30 and there still won’t be a line. Find some space for you and your friends to claim a section of dancefloor, get a pitcher of cheap beer each, and tear the place up until 2am.
Any night where a crowd of strangers are chanting “OO-GA-BOO-GA” at you is a great night. And Tiki Ti is the only place in LA - and maybe the world - where this happens on a regular basis. This tiki bar near Sunset Junction is approximately the size of a Trader Joe’s parking space, but the drink menu is about 50 items long, and no matter what you get, you’ll be feeling a buzz about three sips in. The drinks are strong and sweet, and most of them involve whipped cream or large pieces of booze-soaked fruit. Tonight’s going to get weird.
We wouldn’t blame you if you mistook Brennan’s for any run-of-the-mill Westside post-grad bar - like all those places, they’ve got vegan snacks, average pizza, and a surprisingly great selection of craft beer on tap. But on the first and third Thursday of every month, the patio at this Marina del Rey spot hosts turtle racing, which involves placing bets on which turtle is going to get to the outside of a circle fastest. It’s strange, loud, and insanely fun - especially when you’ve put a shot down on a side-bet about which turtle’s going to finish last. So next time you’ve had a terrible enough week that you need to get things started on a Thursday, this is exactly where you need to be.
Any place that lets you stand at the bar and smoke is a certifiable sh*tshow. But that only makes us love Harvard & Stone more. Things get wild at both the (technically outdoor) “R&D” bar and inside, where on weekends there’ll be super-talented burlesque dancers walking the catwalk above (and sometimes on top of) the bar. And when the dancers aren’t performing, there’s a DJ playing records while the crowd mixes it up and drinks good cocktails. And don’t worry - the entire actual inside is totally smoke-free.
You’re asking for trouble if you own a bar and you have a Happy Hour from 10:30pm-12:30am every single night. And trouble is exactly what you’ll find at The Bayou, a crowded and amazing gay bar in Boystown with $2 beers and $4 well drinks. The bartenders will inevitably spill something on you, but for all the free drinks they hand out, you really won’t mind. This place is the size of a Weho studio, so be prepared to throw some elbows trying to get to the bar.
Saddle Ranch Chop House
Going to Saddle Ranch is a lot like taking a shot of Fireball: It’s something you only do when you want to drink like you’re 21 again. It’s also an appropriate analogy, because a stranger will probably hand you a shot of something brown and vaguely cinnamon-y while you’re at this absolute mess of a bar on the Sunset Strip. It’s cheesy, it’s crowded, and it’s absolutely ridiculous (there’s a giant mechanical bull inside) - but it’s also an incredible way to spend a night. You might wake up next to someone who has to get back to class at UC Riverside the next morning, but it’ll still be a great time.