Where To Drink When It’s Rainy In LA
photo credit: Marie Buck
If you’re reading this, it’s probably going to rain (or is already raining) in LA. While any precipitation is a welcome relief to what’s been another very dry winter, we all know what happens when this city experiences even five minutes of the wet stuff. Common sense vanishes, traffic laws are thrown out, and every side street instantly transforms into Class 5 white-water rapids. And that’s exactly why you need these reliable, cozy bars where you can decompress and wait out the storm.
If your backyard barbecue got rained out, and now you need a place that’ll fit eight people and a dog, head to Mohawk Bend. Not only does this Echo Park spot have the best local beer selection in LA, but they also have a long row of high-tops that are ideal for an impromptu drunk pizza party. The vegan-friendly menu isn’t going to change your mind about meatless chicken, but there are enough pies involving meat and cheese to keep anyone happy.
Few rainy activities compare to a day at the bowling alley, and no bowling alley embraces the golden age of bowling alleys like Highland Park Bowl. This spot was restored to its original 1927 form, complete with a Rube Goldberg-esque pin-setting machine. The cocktails here are strong, and the pizza is way better than pizza at a bowling alley deserves to be.
Maybe you want to spend the day learning about wine, rather than chugging it from a bottle while staring out of your apartment window. That’s when you should head to Melanie, a wine bar pouring mostly European dynamic wines in a cute space that feels like a friend’s living room. It’s run by the same people as Sushi Note and Augustine Wine Bar, two of our favorite places to drink wine in LA. This is a place where the sommeliers know how to level with you–no question is a dumb question, even if your date asks if orange wine is made from oranges.
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Does the rain turn you into a tortured 19th-century novelist? Lean into it at The Wellesbourne and its library-like setting. This cocktail bar on Pico has an aggressive British pub theme and feels like a rich Englishman’s country estate. Not just because of the big leather chairs and dark wood furnishings, but also because they have an entire room covered in bookshelves with actual books you can read next to the roaring fireplace. It’s also a great choice if you’re looking to kill some time before a movie at The Landmark.
There are a lot of national chains and indistinguishable froyo shops in downtown Santa Monica, but low-key spots to drink some wine on a gloomy day? Not so much. So thank god for Esters. The casual spot on 7th St. feels a world away from the screaming hordes on The Promenade, which is ideal when you’re meeting up with a friend who also has strong feelings about the final season of Insecure. The wine list isn’t the biggest in town, but it’s full of a wide variety of bottles that cater to any price point. Also, you’re definitely getting the grilled cheese.
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Ototo is a new Japanese restaurant/bar in Echo Park and easily the best place in the city to drink sake. It’s from the same people as Tsubaki next door, but Ototo is more laid-back–the kind of place where you can post up with friends, work your way through an encyclopedic sake menu, and order tremendous bar snacks along the way (the chicken katsu sando and fried oysters are both musts). All the sake options at Ototo might feel a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry, the waitstaff will happily answer any and all questions you have.
Much like the vintage couch we paid way too much money for, Dan Sung Sa is one of a kind. The dark, all-wood tavern has a big tent in their front parking lot, smoke from the central grill hanging like mist over the tables inside, and a crowd that’s pounding Hite like it’s their last night on Earth. The whole scene is a beautiful, drunken dreamscape–perfect for when you want to hang out somewhere other than your living room on a rainy day. There’s also a large menu full of skewers, kimchi pancakes, and other excellent dishes you can snack on while you’re here.
From its low-lit leather couches and dark green walls to its inventive cocktails and flaky buttermilk biscuits dipped in pimento cheese, Thunderbolt is a neighborhood cocktail bar that does it all. Run by the folks next door at The Park’s Finest, it’s one of the few places where you can find incredible drinks, Southern-style snacks, and a comprehensive bottle shop all under the same roof. The move is to order a few snacks from next door, followed by a Liquid Picnic (a vegetable-forward gin martini), and enjoy a few hours of their early 2000s rap playlist.
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Nothing beats cruising up to the bar and drinking a few lethal martinis when it’s pouring outside. And if you’re looking for a classic Hollywood atmosphere to do it in, go to Musso & Frank. This Hollywood Blvd. steakhouse is one of the oldest restaurants in the city and most of the bartenders have been working here for decades. If you’re lucky, one of them will tell you some insane story about a dead celebrity while they’re midway through a heavy pour.
A tiny watering hole in Culver City, Old Man Bar specializes in one thing: Whiskey. Bourbon, specifically–they’ve got a fantastic list of hard-to-find (and occasionally very expensive) bottles, and some of the best Boulevardiers and Old Fashioneds in town. But rather than being stuffy, this is a cool, dark space, filled with taxidermied animal heads, a fireplace, and a fun crowd that makes you think this could easily be a roadside tavern in Manitoba.
Coping comes in all forms, and that includes pounding forties in the Ralphs parking lot while the rain soaks through your rollerblades.