Have you looked outside yet today? It’s a horrifying thunderstorm with softball-sized hail. Just kidding, it’s sunny as sh*t. The same way it is almost every day of the year. LA’s near-perfect year-round weather is news to no one, and that means every person who either comes to visit or lives here permanently is ready to take full advantage.
LA has more places to drink outside than it knows what to do with, but for every beach-facing patio, there are two more places with rickety tables looking out onto a parking lot. You don’t want that. You want these 16 places instead.
Block Party is an almost entirely outdoor bar in Highland Park with a fantastic craft beer list, alcoholic snowcones, and a massive back patio. They don’t serve any food, but there are always a few food trucks around on the weekends, and you can order-in any outside food that you want. This place gets crowded on Saturdays and Sundays, but there always seems to be an open table for you to take over. Once that cruise ship-style shuffleboard starts getting competitive, you aren’t going anywhere.
Red Lion is an LA classic, and one of the only true German beer gardens in the city. This isn’t where you come to sample sours and discuss how many notes of apricot you’re getting. This is where you come to drink gigantic steins of cheap beer, cheer for a European football game you have zero stakes in, and stumble out four hours later than you intended. Their menu of German sausages and other giant plates of meat will help you feel much better in the morning.
Big Dean's Ocean Front Cafe1615 Ocean Front Walk
After another solid beach outing, you and your friends want to keep the party going. But no one wants to hike back up the hill to downtown Santa Monica and be forced to change out of their flip flops. So just go to Big Dean’s. The classic dive bar is right on the boardwalk, and despite its highly trafficked location, always manages to keep the crowd local. Don’t expect anything fancy here, just cheap beer, solid bar food, and a great front patio that’s actually on the beach.
Spoke Bicycle is part cafe, part bicycle repair shop, and the most Eastside place that’s ever existed. This isn’t where you come to day dance with a bunch of strangers. You come to Spoke to sit around with your friends and discuss the outline for your windsock documentary, eat a fantastic veggie burger, and drink lots of wine and beer. Afterwards, rent a bike and head down the bike path.
Do you really need to go to the tasting room of a beer brand you can find in any local Ralph’s? When that tasting room is Ballast Point in Long Beach, the answer is yes. Come weekends, this place becomes a bropocalypse, but secure a couch on the roof, grab an IPA, and stare out over the Long Beach harbor, you’ll have completely forgotten about that guy in the bathroom who showed you his DJ Khaled tattoo at the urinal.
If you want to make it up to this Hollywood hotel rooftop on a weekend, you better make your reservation right now. But once you do get through the door, this place has everything you and your could want - strong cocktails, foosball tables, movies at night, daybeds for napping, and a crowd that’s always the right amount of unhinged.
Plain and simple, ERB gets everything right. This restaurant/bar in the Arts District has fantastic cocktails, a massive wine and beer list, and a bar food menu that’ll change the way you think about bar food. But it’s that back patio that keeps everybody coming back. With a mix of small and big group tables, plus tons of space to stand and mingle, this string light-adorned backyard is ideal for nighttime drinking.
Apotheke is the speakeasy/jazz bar that your friends might have taken you to in NYC to a few years back. Update: There’s one in LA now. Located on the outskirts of Chinatown, its 19th-century- apothecary aesthetic is aggressive, but the fantastic medicinal-themed cocktails and massive back patio make up for the fact that the person who just poured your drink is wearing a white lab jacket.
You’ve done Malibu Wines. A lot. But the last time you were there you watched a screaming bachelorette drop-kick her glass of rose into the live band, and you realized you can’t go there ever again. Go to Rosenthal Winery instead. The small winery right along PCH is much easier to get to, and has even better patio. There are plenty of food trucks on the weekends, but you can order-in outside food as well.
When it comes to day drinking in the Arts District, our favorite hangout is Resident. The outdoor bar serves cocktails out of an Airstream and an all-day food menu full of sandwiches and wraps, and has water misters hanging overhead to cool everybody down. When the sun goes down for the day, move indoors to their attached music venue.
Villains Tavern opened back when the Arts District was mostly just a bunch of warehouses (2010), which makes it the grandfather of AD nightlife. But this indoor/outdoor music venue is as good as ever. The place feels like a lounge in New Orleans with fantastic cocktails, a late-night food menu, and a crowd there to mostly listen to live music on the outdoor stage.
Cha Cha Chicken is a tiny walk-up beach shack in Santa Monica that serves some tremendous Jamaican jerk. But it’s perhaps most famous for having one of the only real BYOB situations in the city. For 50 cents a person, you can roll in with as much wine and beer as you want (no hard liquor), order all the Jamaican food you can handle, and lounge away the afternoon on their patio that feels like you’re day drinking in a much more tropical place than LA.
Downtown has no lack of rooftop pool bars, but the Upstairs Bar at Ace is still our favorite among them. This place has the best drinks, the best views, and a laid-back crowd that’s not going to throw you into the pool with your cell phone in your pocket. DJs on the weekend play everything from 70s punk rock to psychedelic pop. And there’s never a cover.
With an entrance that’s nothing more than a door frame on Sunset Blvd., El Cid is an unknown to a lot of people. Time to change that. Walk through that door frame and down a steep staircase, and you’ll pop out on a patio you’ll never want to leave. With two separate levels, plenty of seating, and old black-and-white movies projected on the walls, this is the ideal spot to take a table over with friends or stop in for a quick nightcap after a date.
One of the most underrated places to drink outside on the Eastside, Verdugo is where you go when you’re rolling deep on a Saturday, but you don’t feel like dealing with the crowds in Silver Lake or downtown. Located off a side street in Glassell Park, Verdugo has a fantastic back patio, an excellent beer selection, and a weekend Happy Hour that runs from 3-7pm.
It’d be easy to assume that Venice and Santa Monica are lined with great rooftop bars overlooking the ocean - but they’re not. There is High at Hotel Erwin though. The rooftop bar right in Venice has great views of the ocean, solid cocktails, and a crowd that never gets so bro-y that you can’t handle it. If you want your best friend from home to move to LA, take them to Erwin when they visit.