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 9/19: In Sheep’s Clothing, The Wolves, The Mermaid, Bar Calo
If you get excited about cocktails, you should know about The Wolves - a new DTLA spot serving some of the most interesting drinks we’ve had lately. Like their Old Fashioned, made with 10-year scotch and homemade olive and aromatic bitters. If you’re with a date who isn’t easily impressed by fancy alcohol, try directing them to the bar, where bartenders use fire and smoke and spray bottles to make the drinks. The wood-and-leather-covered space is dark and romantic, and they don’t allow any standing room, so expect to put your name down and wait if you come at a busier time.
In Sheep’s Clothing is a hidden bar inside Lupetti Pizzeria in the Arts District. And by hidden, we don’t mean you need a password or have to slide down a laundry shoot to find it. You just need to know where the door is (it’s the first one on your right when you walk inside the pizza place) and you’ll find yourself in a large, wooden record bar that feels like a thermal spa in Tokyo. Most of the house cocktails are made with some sort of Japanese whiskey, and the casual crowd is composed of friends sitting around at tables, talking about culturally important podcasts and how good the music is here.
In a strip mall surrounded by great sushi, noodle shops, and izakayas, the mermaid is a new neighborhood dive bar in Little Tokyo. It’s a cool, crowded spot with fantastic cocktails (get the Drink Your Vegetables), and there’s a sno-cone machine. If you head to the back by the bathrooms, you’ll probably find yourself peeking into a ship portal to watch mermaids swim by. It’s just a video on loop, but it never really gets old. The bar is also just a few blocks from the Arts District, so it’s a good option for when you realize you can’t spend another minute at a mediocre brewery.
Bar Calo is a new Mexican spot in an Echo Park strip mall that falls somewhere in the middle of the bar-restaurant spectrum. After fighting for your seat either at the bar or along the wraparound red couch, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent cocktail menu and Mexican bar food. Get the chavala, which is basically a tequila Manhattan, the hibiscus flower quesadilla, and some Oaxacan hot chicken.
Sometimes you walk into a place and can immediately tell that it got everything right. This piano bar on Cahuenga, for example, has fantastic cocktails, a 1920s art deco interior, and a crowd looking to get rowdy. But what makes this place truly special is the guy at the piano who sings everything from ABBA and Frank Sinatra to Mary J. Blige, and encourages everyone to sing along with him. Tramp Stamp Granny’s feels more like the best cast party of all time than a bar. And if you don’t know what that means, stop by and find out.
When Nomad’s rooftop first opened, it was only available to guests staying in the hotel. But now, they’ve opened the place up to the general public, and it’s fantastic. The big space has great downtown views, excellent service, and a low-key crowd of people who are here to drink a lot of cocktails. We like to start with a frozen drink by the pool and then make our way to the classics menu at the downstairs bar. And 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.
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 very good, 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.
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.
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.
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 enjoyable 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.
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, instead of businessmen. Skip the generic food menu as it’s overpriced and not very good, and concentrate solely on the cocktails. Because those are terrific. And so is the people watching.
Sunset & Vinyl1539 Vine St
Sunset And Vinyl is a speakeasy-ish spot above the 800 Degrees Pizza in Hollywood. Before you throw your hands up in the air because you never want to hear about another speakeasy again, know that this one isn’t actually annoying. There’s no secret door or a password you have to pull from 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 drinks. The small space feels like a parlor in a 1940s mansion, complete with old records playing, and big, cushy chairs to lounge around in. Get the Old Fashioned.
This is the kind of bar you walk into and immediately wish it were in your neighborhood. On Cahuenga Blvd. in Universal City, A Simple Bar is great for Valley and Hollywood residents in need of a low-key midweek cocktail. Or, for 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 a couple nights per week.
Unless you like Coffee Bean, shopping for Italian furniture, or pretending you’re famous at The Ivy, there’s very little reason to trounce around Robertson Blvd. between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills - until now. On the ground floor of a plaza where you might have gotten a cavity filled at some point, Bibo Ergo Sum is an excellent cocktail bar. The interior could have been on the set of 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.
When you’re completely sick of every bar in town, go to Art Major. The space in KTown calls itself an “art bar,” which means you get to play a bunch of old-school board games from your childhood, doodle in coloring books, take instant Polaroids, 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.
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. But then you’ll spend a night dancing on the wild little dance floor under the enormous disco ball and you’ll 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 practical), and the crowd just wants to have a good time.