LA can open as many fancy rooftops, high-end cocktail bars, and questionably-themed dance clubs as it wants. But the best nights out in this town will almost always involve a dive bar. The criteria of a great dive is somewhat undefined, and that’s kind of the point. But you should usually expect affordable drinks, zero lines, great people-watching, and the comfort in knowing that no one cares if you don’t hit the high note in “I Will Always Love You.” Whether you’re looking for a quick beer after a long day or to swan dive off the karaoke stage into the arms of a retired pirate, here are 16 dive bars where your dreams are still possible.
Crawford’s proves that a place can still qualify as a dive bar even if 50 years of sweaty history haven’t been stomped into its floors. Open since 2016, this tiny bar in Historic Filipinotown has a lively space filled with billiards and big booths of friends getting increasingly more drunk. It’s beer and wine only, which might seem like a detriment, but keeps the debauchery at respectable levels. If you leave without getting at least one plate of the hot chicken (it’s some of our favorite in LA), you’ve done it all wrong.
West Hollywood is home to bars for almost every kind of night out imaginable. That said, it struggles mightily when it comes to low-key dive bars where you can always find a seat. Enter Snake Pit, the neighborhood bar on Melrose that’s remarkable simply for being unremarkable. It’s the kind of place you come in halfway through the night for a quick drink and end up staying for three hours. The drinks are cheap, the bartenders will actually talk to you, and their juke box is one of our favorites in the neighborhood (it has the Grease mega-medley).
Open since 1959, Chez Jay is an LA landmark. It’s also one of the only places we can think of in Santa Monica (that’s not a tourist trap or a sceney small plates place) where you can get stiff mixed drinks and a buttered lobster tail in one sitting. There are peanut shells on the floor, the jukebox probably doesn’t play anything that came after 1983, and we’re almost positive that the weird giant fish on the wall is staring at us. The back patio is only open till 2:30pm, but is a fantastic place for some weekend day drinking.
In the same year that spiral bound notebooks were invented and the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was held, Joe Jost’s opened its doors in Long Beach. Since 1924, Joe Jost’s has become an LA drinking landmark and a place with all the insane weirdness you’d expect from one of the oldest bars west of the Mississippi. Come in any day of the week (daytime is definitely the time to be drinking here) and you’ll quickly find yourself in a heated billiards match with a local bowling team while you crush baskets of pickled eggs and pretzels. You’ll never want to drink anywhere else again.
This city has no shortage of iconic tiki bars, but nothing compares to the magic of Tiki Ti. Located inside a glorified lean-to along Sunset in Los Feliz, this dime-sized bar has been around since the early ’60s and is still operated by the original owners. The crowd is mostly comprised of locals who’ve been drinking there for the last three decades, two cocktails will put you under the table, and if you order the right drink, a tiny mechanical toy bull will prance across the bar.
If you’re looking to get a little rowdy tonight, but also get yelled at by someone who probably was a pirate at some point in their life, Ye Rustic Inn is where you should head. The dark, dingy bar on Hillhurst in Los Feliz has a surly waitstaff and loud music. It’s the kind of place you would go to make out with someone who just explained all their arm tattoos to you. Oh, they also have some of our favorite wings in the city. Come Sundays, this place is slammed with people watching their favorite football teams lose.
Nowhere in Hollywood will you find a greater variety of human beings than at this dive. Located directly next to The Pantages on Hollywood Blvd., Frolic Room has been around since the 1930s and is a place where you can find broke musicians drinking next to studio execs and lost theatergoers wondering why they just bought an indie folk album from Dora The Explorer. Anything is possible at Frolic Room, and everyone’s here to enjoy the same cheap drinks and unhinged atmosphere.
Kibitz Room is not where you start the night. It’s where you end the night after you stumble into Canter’s Deli at 1:15am and realize you might have one more in you. Attached to the classic Fairfax deli, Kibitz Room offers bartenders who don’t care about you, a strange musical performance unfolding on the tiny stage, and a shockingly good beer list. The short 10-yard walk back to your pastrami sandwich is just the cherry on top.
Hinano Cafe is located on that disturbing stretch of bars and restaurants on the Venice/Marina Del Rey border that’s generally reserved for screaming tourists and underage LMU students. And because of that, you might be quick to write this place off. Don’t do that. Hinano is a quintessential beach dive with an unaffected crowd full of actual locals, a dangerous four-hour Happy Hour, and a burger we’d drive long distances to eat.
Despite some recent development, Playa Del Rey is still a tiny beach neighborhood that feels perpetually trapped in the year 1967. Prince O’Whales (or pee-oh-dubs, as the locals call it) is doing it’s very best to keep it that way. The dingy bar in the heart of PDR is actually a lot bigger than it looks from the outside, with a stage for karaoke, ping pong tables (that are only used for beer pong), and a big back patio for people who want to scream at football. Needless to say, your entire Saturday will pass fairly quickly at POW’s.
Hollywood is a neighborhood where bars seem to survive only if they have a heavy-handed theme or awkward celebrity promotion on Instagram. The Woods is an outlier. On the ground floor of a fantastically shady stripmall on La Brea, this tiny spot is everything you want in a neighborhood dive bar - zero lines, affordable drinks, and a laid-back crowd that showed up with nothing to prove. Come at the right time (after midnight) and the small open space in the back becomes the dance floor of your dreams.
After a long day of frolicking at the beach, you probably want some cold beer and a burger. Go to Ercoles to get it. The classic Manhattan Beach bar is just a few blocks from the beach and is the kind of place where boardshorts are uniform and people will judge you if you don’t have sand on your feet. The space itself looks straight out of 50 First Dates - and everybody inside is drinking cheap beer, playing pool, and good greasy burgers.
Another LA institution, this burlesque bar on Hollywood Blvd. is perhaps the only strip club in the country where waiting an hour to get in is time well spent. Once inside, you’ll find a mixed crowd full of every walk of life, absurdly talented dancers, and an energy that simply can’t be replicated. Whatever your opinions are about strip clubs, toss them out. Jumbo’s is special and a night everyone in LA needs to experience at least once.
Located on a stretch of inland Santa Monica dominated by framing stores and supermarkets, The Gaslite remains one of the wildest bars on the Westside. The crowd seems to change nightly here, but you can always expect things to be unpretentious and on the brink of complete chaos. If you sign up for karaoke, you’ll probably end up singing Meatloaf with a stranger before being carried off into the night on someone’s shoulders.
When you get sick of going to the same bar over and over again, go to Plaza. The drag bar on La Brea is one of the most unique nights out in LA. Despite a rather nondescript exterior, the place is actually quite big with a full proscenium stage, a huge dance floor, and plenty of seating for big groups. It’s a cash bar, but the beer is affordable and you get a bag of Doritos every time you order a drink.
If you’re a Green Bay Packers fan living in Los Angeles, you know exactly what Tattle Tale is and you’re probably there right now. If you’re not a Packers fan, you still need to be drinking there. Open every day at 6am, this iconic Culver City bar has karaoke every night (with wireless mics for added performance value) and snacks that, depending on the mood, are completely free for everyone inside. As an added bonus, it’s right next door to Scarlet Lady Saloon, another excellent Culver dive bar.