By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Putting together a proper pub crawl is a sacred trust — a responsibility I don’t take lightly. As one of the co-founders of New Orleans’ annual Cinco de Gayo pub crawl — a 10-stop monster tour of New Orleans’ rowdiest, filthiest gay bars — I’ve come to realize that there are certain rules one needs to abide to ensure that everyone on your crawl has a good time. For instance, NEVER, EVER end your crawl at a tranny club or a butch-girl bar. Waaaay too confusing after a dozen drinks.
In some cities, that’s pretty much the only rule you need. Getting a pub crawl together in Los Angeles, however, offers a unique set of challenges that require a Germanic level of organization, efficiency and precision to overcome.
As we all know, this is not a walking city, and finding a confluence of good bars within reasonable distance of one another isn’t easy. Complicating matters further, the bar-filled neighborhoods we do have tend to get packed. Try rolling into any bar in Silver Lake after 10 p.m. with a dozen drunken idiots and see how long you wait in line. Same in Echo Park or Santa Monica. Downtown has come a long way in terms of nightlife, but the emerging bar scene there is fairly homogenous — especially with the demise of old-school dives like Crabby Jack’s. Golden Gopher, Broadway Bar and 7 Grand are all fun, but, let’s be honest — same owners, same feel, same crowds — is there really any point in crawling from one to the other?
Yet an epic pub crawl within the Los Angeles city limits is attainable. What follows is a time-tested route through Los Feliz and parts of East Hollywood — no lines, virtually no covers, close to public transportation, and ethnically and culturally diverse. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, bring plenty of cash, and stock up on your prophylactic of choice, because by the time you’re done with this crawl, beer goggles will seem like a distant dream.
The greatest enemy of the pub crawl is the line. There’s nothing worse than feeling your hard-earned buzz fade while idling behind a velvet rope. Even though Los Feliz doesn’t have any velvet ropes, most of the bars are small and crowded, and waiting in a parking lot out front is just as bad. So you need to start your crawl early to beat the hordes — like 4 p.m. early. And by 4 p.m. I don’t mean 8 p.m. Trust me, start on time or you won’t make it past the fifth stop.
Where to start? Tiki Ti.
Intimate, festive, close to the Vermont and Sunset Metro Red Line stop, and sporting a selection of at least 80 drinks, all of which are basically just rum and pineapple juice, Tiki Ti has that friendly, talk-to-the-random-guy-next-to-you vibe that eases the time while you wait for the stragglers in your crew to show up. A note of caution, though: The Web site says it opens at 4. In reality, Tiki Ti tends to open whenever the owner-operators feel like it — generally sometime between 4 and 6, depending on the season. You should probably call ahead to double-check.
El Chavo is the next stop, but if Tiki Ti is closed when you start your crawl, feel free to flip the order around and head here first. Formerly a dark, gothic cave of a Mexican restaurant into which no natural light was allowed, El Chavo recently remodeled in favor of a lighter, airier approach. I personally preferred the cave, but the margaritas are still tasty and the eats are, too. You’ll be drinking heavily for the next eight to 10 hours, so it’s probably a good idea to get some food into your system. I recommend the lengua con mole. It may seem slightly counterintuitive to begin a marathon drinking binge, where the threat of alcohol-induced power vomiting is a legitimate concern, by eating tongue. Doesn’t exactly settle the stomach. But fuck it — tongue is tasty.
After El Chavo, those of you familiar with the area will want to take a right and hit up the bars on Hillhurst. You must resist. Good Luck Bar isn’t open yet, and that definitely needs to be a part of any route. Instead, head up Hollywood to Vermont and go straight to The Dresden. Marty and Elayne won’t be on yet, which is exactly the point — you can show up with as many people as you want. No lines, no Swingers tourists, no irony — just a campy old-man bar. In that spirit, I recommend ordering a Tom Collins immediately upon arrival. Fizzy, lemony and loaded with gin, the Tom Collins is a woefully underappreciated old-man drink — like summertime in a nursing home, but in a good way. (Another nugget of info gleaned from the aforementioned Cinco de Gayo pub crawl: Aside from being delicious, the Tom Collins doubles as the ultimate litmus test for figuring out whether you’re in a gay bar. If it comes out yellow, things are as hetero as Bill Clinton in a room fully of chubby girls. If the bartender serves it up pink, loaded with grenadine, the guy next to you who told you your — or your boyfriend’s — ass looked great in jeans wasn’t just being friendly.)