In order to help you figure which new restaurants are actually worth going to, we created the Hit List, our guide to recently-opened LA restaurants that are actually worth your time and energy. That’s right, we actually get off our asses and go try these places - just because a place is new and has pretty pictures, does not mean you should be spending your money there.
And now, we’re doing the same for bars. LA isn’t especially skilled at cranking out good new bars at a consistent pace, so we admittedly end up drinking at some pretty lousy ones. But we also find some great ones. From a speakeasy above a pizza chain to a bar where you can draw in coloring books, here are the best new bars in Los Angeles.
New to the Bar Hist List as of 5/30: Rooftop Bar at the Nomad, Highland Park Brewery Chinatown, Employees Only.
When Nomad’s rooftop first opened, it was only available to guests staying in the hotel. But now with a few months under their belt, they’ve opened the place up to everyone, and it’s fantastic. The big space has great downtown views, excellent service, and a low-key crowd of people pretending to be more sober than they really are. Oh, and tremendous drinks. There are cocktails from the “classics” menu at the downstairs bar, plus plenty of new options just for the pool area, and an entire frozen drinks section. If you get hungry, order the fava bean hummus or the burger.
Highland Park Brewery has always been one of our favorite places to drink craft beer in LA. So when they announced the opening of a new space in Chinatown, we were excited. Good news, it’s great. Located in a converted warehouse across the street from LA State Historic Park, the place is twice the size as their original HP space, with plenty of tables for big groups, a dog-friendly front patio facing the park, their first dedicated tasting room, and a small bar snacks menu that’s way more delicious than it needs to be (get the cheese curds). This is where you need to be drinking before a Dodgers Game.
Located in what was formerly the old Baby Blue’s BBQ space in West Hollywood, Employees Only is a fancy cocktail bar/restaurant that comes to us from NYC. The dimly-lit space feels like a luxury airport lounge from the 1970s - but one that’s predominantly filled with CW actors, not business travelers. Skip the generic food menu as it’s overpriced and not very good, and concentrate solely on the cocktails. Because those are fantastic. And so is the people watching.
Sometimes you walk into a place and immediately know it got everything right. Tramp Stamp Granny’s is that place. The piano bar on Cahuenga has fantastic cocktails, a 1920s art deco interior, and a crowd looking get rowdy. But that’s not what makes this place truly special. That award goes to the guy at the piano, singing everything from ABBA to Frank Sinatra to Mary J. Blige, and encouraging everyone inside the bar to sing along with him. Tramp Stamp Granny’s doesn’t even feel like a bar - it feels like the best cast party of all time. And if you don’t know what that means, you should go to TSG and find out.
Despite all the bar action that’s been happening in Highland Park these days, its next door neighbor Eagle Rock has been a bit slow on the uptake. But Walt’s Bar is here to change that. The new neighborhood spot calls itself an arcade bar, but good news - it’s not an arcade bar. It’s a retro dive with a row of pinball machines in the back. There’s also a great crowd that’s down to get rowdy, a popcorn machine that takes quarters, and a late-night food menu that reads like the concessions at a middle school basketball game.
The Dankness Dojo is a new downtown brewery/restaurant/all-day coffee shop from Modern Times (the beer company) and, despite the name, it’s an extremely fun place to hang out. Brightly-colored with a partytime feel, Dankness is already packed, but with a relaxed crowd simply looking to drink good beer. The plant-based/vegan food menu is, unfortunately, not very good, so we’d recommend eating elsewhere for some post-IPA nourishment.
Lost Spirits is a new rum distillery in the Arts District and before you say you gave up rum in college or have little interest in understanding how it’s made, let us stop you. Lost Spirits is not just a distillery. It’s an art installation/jungle cruise/science experiment, with plenty of drinking, and it’s one of the coolest experiences you can have in LA right now. In an effort to let you be as awestruck as we were, we’ll withhold any specific details, but just know the $35 admission price is beyond worth it. Each tour lasts around 90 minutes, and you should book tickets well in advance on their website.
Checker Hall is a new bar in Highland Park that’s exactly where you should plan your next big group bar outing. Located on the second floor of a former Masonic Lodge, the space is really just one giant room with big booths and a triangular bar in the middle. But the crowd is low-key, the cocktails are fantastic, and if you get hungry, there’s a solid food menu. It also has a great balcony overlooking Figueroa, and a separate live music venue in the back.
If the name Apotheke sounds familiar, you might know it as the speakeasy/jazz bar your friends took you to in NYC. Update: There’s one in LA now. Much like the NYC original, all the cocktails at this Chinatown bar are apothecary/medicinal-themed, and fantastic enough to soften the blow of the $16 price point. The interior is fairly small, but there’s a big patio in the back with its own bar that we predict everyone will be drinking at by summer. Or next weekend. Go now before the line’s down the block.
Sunset & Vinyl1539 Vine St
Sunset And Vinyl is a speakeasy-ish spot above the 800 Degrees Pizza in Hollywood, and before you throw your hands up in the air because you never want to hear about another speakeasy, know that this one isn’t actually annoying. There’s no secret door or a password you have to get off Twitter or even a bouncer. Just go into 800 Degrees, follow the hallway to the bathrooms, head up the stairs, and you’ll find an unpretentious bar with great cocktails. The small space feels like a parlor in a 1940’s mansion, complete with old records playings and big, cushy chairs to lounge around in. Get their Old Fashioned.
A Simple Bar is the kind of bar you walk into and immediately wish you had it in your neighborhood. Located on Cahuenga Blvd. in Universal City right where it essentially serves as a service road to the 101, A Simple Bar is great for Valley and Hollywood residents in need of a low-key midweek cocktail - or when the 101 is a parking lot and you just need a break. This place has friendly bartenders, a massive floor-to-ceiling TV, and live music some nights.
Opened by the Bar Covell crew, Good Measure is a new wine bar in Atwater Village and one of our current places to drink and hang out on the Eastside. Yes, the wine list is great, but that’s not why we keep coming back. We come back because the indoor/outdoor space is exactly where we want to be on a lazy Wednesday night, and because the waitstaff actually knows how to talk about wine in a way that’s not alienating if you don’t know a damn thing about wine. The bar food is solid too. Get the pork rillettes.
Unless you like Coffee Bean or shopping at Kitson or pretending you’re famous at The Ivy, there’s very little reason you need to be trouncing around Robertson Blvd. between Weho and Beverly Hills - until now. Located on the ground floor of the Robertson Plaza office building (a place where you might have gotten a cavity filled at some point), Bibo Ergo Sum might be the most bizarrely located bar in the city, but it also got everything right. The interior looks a set piece from The Great Gatsby, the cocktails are fantastic, and though the crowd is mostly industry people, the atmosphere is laid-back. Beverly Hills post-work drinks just got way more tolerable.
Walking into Oriel, the new wine bar/restaurant in Chinatown, you’re acutely aware of one thing - this place is a perfect first date spot. It’s dimly-lit, there’s a great little side patio off to the right, and the wine list, while concise, is stacked with interesting and obscure new things to try. In other words, it’s relaxed and approachable, but also kind of sexy. They make the cheese and charcuterie boards behind the bar and you’re definitely going to want to get involved with them.
Located in an industrial stretch of western Glendale, The San Fernando comes out of nowhere, but is the kind of weird neighborhood bar everyone needs. The space is modern, the drinks are affordable, and the bartenders actually want to chat. Add to all that the commuter trains rolling by the windows every now and then, and a tiny stage in the back with nightly live music, and you begin to feel like you’re in another time and place completely. And we certainly aren’t complaining about that.
When you’re completely sick of every bar in town, go to Art Major. The new space in Ktown calls itself an “art bar,” which basically means you get to play a bunch of old-school board games from your childhood, doodle in coloring books, take instant Polaroids and hang them on the wall, and get really drunk with your friends in the process. Frankly, it’s not as much a bar as it is a giant public living room for games and intoxication. Wine and beer only.
Anytime a new bar opens up with a Hollywood Blvd. address, it’s fair to be a bit skeptical. But Lono, the new and very large tiki bar right in the heart of the neighborhood, will prove that skepticism wrong. This place has gotten very popular very quickly thanks to strong drinks, a fun space, and the kind of laid-back crowd you don’t usually find in Hollywood.
Greetings from the best new big group bar in DTLA. Located in a basement on 6th and Spring St, the space is massive, with a huge bar and whole separate lower area full of ping pong tables, billiards, shuffleboards, and tons of tables for you and your friends to take over. Also, they have a cocktail with beef jerky in it.
Located on the ground floor of the Super 8 in East Hollywood, Girl At The White Horse seems like a bar that’s almost too cool for its own good - until you spend a night drinking there and realize you never want to leave. The place isn’t big, but it’s broken up into tiny nooks and crannies that make it seem like it goes on forever. The cocktails are great (and served in plastic to-go cups with straws, which is actually just practical), there’s a wild little dance floor with a disco ball, and the crowd just wants to have a good time.
Bernadette’s is a new downtown bar with a 1970’s basement party vibe and if that sounds familiar, no, this is not Good Times At Davey Wayne’s. In fact, it’s kind of the antithesis of Davey Wayne’s. The space is small, unpretentious, easy to get into, and the kind of place you go into for a quick drink after work and end up staying for two hours. They have a solid craft beer stock, a snacks menu (hello, $2 cans of Pringles), and the best Michelada we’ve had in awhile. Downtown is always in need of more places without long lines and obnoxious shticks, and it got one in Bernadette’s.
Birds & Bees is really the tale of two very different bars. Come on a Saturday night after 9pm and you’ll be dealing with lines and long negotiations with the bouncer to get all your friends in. Come during the week, however, and you’ll find one of the best cocktail bars to open downtown in a while. For being essentially in the basement of a random office building, the space itself is large and open, with an overall feel like you’re drinking in a really swanky fallout shelter. And maybe you are. But really, you’re here because of those cocktails. Get the gin and pistachio-based Smuggler’s Eye Opener.