The Bar Hit List: Where To Drink in LA Right Now
photo credit: Rececca Peloquin
To help you figure out which restaurants are actually worth a visit, we created the Hit List, our guide to really good LA restaurants that are fresh on the scene.
And here, we’re doing the same for bars. Finding a great place to drink in Los Angeles isn't always easy, but instead of wondering where to find the right scene or a decent cocktail, we’ve done the work for you. With everything from natural wine spots to Hollywood rooftops and a dive bar that makes a great burger, use this list of LA bars the next time you’re looking for an exceptionally good time.
New To The Bar Hit List (2/12): Baby Battista
A basement bar pouring natural wine immediately sounds cool, but that’s only part of Baby Battista’s charm. The bar’s nondescript entrance sits at the back of Nico’s wine shop in Atwater Village, where you’ll find stairs descending into a roomy cellar. It’s decorated like a lo-fi lounge from the 1970s. The soft, ruby-hued lighting makes everyone look 40% more mysterious. And there’s a separate black box theater where you can catch a comedy show or live music. Keep Baby Battista in mind for when you want to sip chablis and make flirty eye contact with your date from the comfort of a decades-old loveseat.
Located in the old Genever space in Historic Filipinotown, Shim Sham is a casual neighborhood bar that makes being a casual neighborhood bar look easy. There’s a big horseshoe-shaped bar ideal for striking up conversations with strangers, a few TVs playing sports, and a drink list where everything from frozen cocktails to boilermaker combos are $13 or under. The extra dirty Mayatini and The Condor, their take on a margarita with a Tajin-covered rim, are both destination cocktails. As in, we’ll happily leave our own neighborhoods to drink them. Keep an eye on their Instagram, too. There’s always a cool pop-up happening on the sidewalk in the event you get hungry.
You’d never know from the relaxing atmosphere at Koreatown’s Coffee MCO that the same space flips into a pet-nat party (with no cover) after dark. Red Room is that cafe’s ruby-colored wine bar alter ego, and depending on the night, there’s usually a DJ set, singles mixer, or straight-up dance party happening in this two-story lounge. The lineup (listed on their Instagram feed) changes week to week, but the Salomon and cargo pants crowd of Olympic Boulevard is always here. Expect blasting house music, flowing yuzu highballs, and small plates from rotating chefs doing pop-ups in the kitchen. Be sure to get here early before all the free parking spots in the lot are gone.
Justine's could exist on an asteroid inhabited by aliens with good taste. This dark, kooky Frogtown wine bar behind Just What I Kneaded—it's owned by the same people—is illuminated by light fixtures made of porous rock and a glowing orb behind the bar that draws your gaze like a UFO sighting. There are wall murals of lounging blue goddesses and retro speakers play dream pop as you sink into a velvet booth with a bottle of chilled red. Merely sitting in Justine's is an experience, and it's made even better by the fact that you can have a full meal here. The vegan, Italian-leaning menu includes small, blistered pizzas, meatless lasagna on Sunday nights, and a delicious mushroom "calamari" that's a spot-on clone of the real thing.
As soon as we walked into this DTLA basement bar below Seven Grand, we knew we’d be spending a lot of time here. As the name suggests, it's vaguely Mexico City-themed. All that translates to is a divey room full of people drinking carajillos and aged mezcal glowing on neon shelves. It would be hard to have a bad time here, considering the huge pool table and arcade games featuring Spanish-speaking Donkey Kong. But the best part is that everything on the drinks menu costs less than $15. Come for a weeknight cocktail before a show at The Regent or a full-throttle party on the weekend.
Amidst the protected bike lanes, baby strollers, and other telltale signs of gentrification on the stretch of Venice Blvd between Mar Vista and Venice, El Chucho stands out as being pretty cool. The space (formerly La Potranca) had been a neighborhood dive for years, serving cheap beer and screening soccer games for Spanish speakers looking to stop somewhere before heading home from work. The new owners have kept the pool table, soccer games, crass posters, and cheap beer. And they’ve also added natural wine and vinyl DJ sets. El Chucho is a total scene on weekends (in case you need to wait in line to feel something). On weeknights, it’s a tame spot for a catch-up.
This is a laid-back neighborhood bar on the Sunset Strip. Yes, you read that correctly. Bar Next Door looks straight out of a 1970s crime drama, with diner-style booths, fluorescent lights, and a wraparound bar where you could picture Lt. Columbo smoking a cigar. There's always a good mix of coworkers rolling up their sleeves over cocktails and solo drinkers making chit-chat, adding a buzz to the small space that never gets too hectic. The cocktails are fantastic, too, even if they have cheesy LA-themed names. The Olive Drive tastes like a sweet, floral vesper, and the Viper Room is a pisco sour kicked up with serrano chile heat and tart passion fruit.
If you haven’t heard, the smashburger celebs behind Love Hour opened a bar in Koreatown. It’s right next to their walk-up window in the old Beer Belly space, which has a photo booth that your moderately narcissistic friend will enjoy and a great patio for everyone else. Weekends at Love Hour can get busy—expect a bumping playlist, multiple birthday parties, and a flow of people coming through with burgers and bottles until midnight. The bar also hosts a natural wine party called Half Full every month with a lineup of DJs who know how to get people dancing. Afterward, keep the party going at Normandie Club or another great Koreatown bar nearby.
Honey's is a clubby queer bar at Star Love (a colorful cocktail spot in East Hollywood) with events happening practically every night: karaoke Wednesdays, upbeat house DJ sets, comedy nights, even queer night markets. There's a wraparound bar up front and a room where people dance in the back. Even if you come on a weekday, it’ll feel like a big night out. While Honey's is a lesbian-focused space, it feels welcoming to everyone. They serve $10 well drinks Wednesday through Saturday from 7pm-8pm, and they’re usually strong enough that you’d only need one or two before hopping on stage to perform your choreographed dance to “Fergalicious.”
Text ten friends if they want to go to a 1970s-themed Italian disco and chances are you’ll have ten friends show up at your door. So it’s not surprising that Let’s Go Disco is already one of the most talked about LA bars—and we’re here to tell you it delivers on its promise of kitschy, retro debauchery. Attached to De La Nonna in the Arts District (the door is to the right when you enter), the space has circular booths, neon lighting, stucco arches, and of course, spinning disco balls. Head over early to beat the lines—that way you can drink sesame-leaf-infused gin martinis in a low-key listening atmosphere and be ready to dance when the DJs start at 9pm.
After nearly a decade, there's a lesbian bar in LA again. Say hello to The Ruby Fruit, a welcoming, jubilant queer space in a Silver Lake strip mall. The natural wine bar already feels like a tentpole of the community. Inside, there’s a tiny wrap-around bar and a handful of tables, but the party spills out onto the sidewalk on a regular basis. Come for a night that feels like an impromptu block party of married couples, neighbors, bandmates, and everyone in between.
Snoozy wine bars on the Westside are almost as common as white Teslas on the Westside. But natural wine bars where you can groove to vinyl DJ sets? That's where Offhand comes in. This corner spot on Santa Monica Blvd feels like a mellow party, with a DJ spinning records in the corner from 9pm to midnight on weekends. Grab dinner nearby before you come to sit on bright orange stools along the bar for the night. Just make sure to check their Instagram beforehand to see if they'll be hosting a pop-up—they've done everything from pizza nights with LaSorted to a plant-based night market with vendors from Vegan Playground.
Baby Gee looks like the kind of old-school, divey, watering hole that would be welcome in any neighborhood: vintage checkered floors, a wooden banquette, and stained glass windows to keep it comfortably dim. But it's the small details that make this charming bar one of the best bars to hang out in Long Beach. Some clear thought was put into the reasonably priced cocktail menu—most drinks cost under $15, but offer interesting twists like a basil sprig in your gin and tonic, or a dash of lemongrass in your whiskey soda. Bar snacks like toasted rosemary focaccia and burrata pizza drizzled with hot honey make you wonder why other bars don't serve better food, and the chill-but-packed bar area feels like the perfect place to possibly meet someone you might one day introduce to your parents.
This Chicago-themed bar on Sawtelle goes all in on the classic dive bar aesthetic: red leather booths, year-round Christmas lights, a jukebox, and plenty of games from pool to skeeball. The bar food is classic, too, including a very solid Italian beef sandwich with spicy giardiniera and a snappy hot dog that’s heavy on mustard and relish. You’re not coming to Tiny’s to feel like you’ve discovered the hottest scene in town––you’re coming here to savor timeless pleasures like cold draft beers, slushy cocktails, and big baskets of fries, set in a space roomy enough for groups. Also, the bar has an entire mule menu featuring a tasty whiskey mule concoction that’s $6 during happy hour.
We are so relieved to tell you: Power House is back and nothing has really changed. After going dark for a few years, this bar at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland remains unpretentious, kind of grimey, and still serves perfectly satisfactory well drinks. There are no heavy-handed gimmicks or themes, and despite its location, tourists never seem to find their way in, resulting in reasonable prices and bartenders who don’t hate you by default. That’s what makes it one of our absolute favorite bars in Hollywood, and an essential pit stop before or after the Hollywood Bowl. Like our own children or the humongous La Salsa Man on PCH in Malibu, we would do anything for this endearingly unremarkable bar.