Best of L.A.

Best Of 2009

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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

BEST ESCAPE FROM WEST HOLLYWOOD
Roosterfish

Sometimes it's good, even necessary, to take a break from the glam and roar of gay nightlife and simply hang out and chill. So if you feel like drinking a few beers with the buddies, playing a game of pinball, and listening to good but familiar tunes on the jukebox, Roosterfish in Venice Beach is the place to go. A part of the gay scene for more than 25 years, the relaxed neighborhood bar features electronic darts, a pool table, a "no attitude" atmosphere, a two-hour happy hour, $3 margaritas all day Wednesday and $3 burgers on Sunday afternoons. The two longtime owners are deceased, but the place has such a lasting esprit de corps that a group, including two longtime Roosterfish bartenders, inherited the joint and now run it. Even if you don't live near Venice, it's worth the drive, especially if you've been stuck in that West Hollywood/Silver Lake circuit. 1302 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. (310) 392-2123, roosterfishbar.com.

—Patrick Range McDonald
1302 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 90291
MAP
310-392-2123
BEST 3 MARGARITAS BY A BEACH
Bouzy, La Cabaña and Mucho Ultima Mexicana

There's only one way to drink a frosty, get-your-head-spinning citrus-tequila blend — and that's near the beach. If you're going to knock back the hallmark drink of spring break you might as well feel like you're on vacation. The city is home to showy flaming margaritas, cotton candy-based margaritas, and $2 specials, but it's in the beach towns that you'll find the signature Mexican drink paired with happy hour truffle fries and late-night "hand-hacked" guacamole. He'll say: If the tequila you're drinking isn't 100 percent Agave, it ain't real tequila. And freshly squeezed lime and lemon juices are supremely important. She'll say: Not too much ice or salt, and its got to have a kick to it ... you want to be buzzed all the way to the sand. He: Margaritas are serious business at Bouzy in Redondo Beach during their "Happy Cocktail Hour." They have potent, lip-smacking libations for $4. Plus, their truffle fries and "Kogi" hot dogs are fresh twists on favored classics. She: The staff is easy-on-the-eyes at Bouzy and you'll love their sleek leather booths. But if you must have your chips and salsa, and want to feel like you're in a foreign land, then it's La Cabaña in Venice. They use fresh limes and have more than 20 varieties of margaritas, like coconut or banana. He: Banana margaritas just sound wrong. She: You also need to hit up Mucho Ultima Mexicana in Manhattan Beach for their late-night specials. But it's only $5 for house margaritas and they've got BBQ shrimp tacos. He: Is that the swanky restaurant that serves 150 types of tequilas? She: So amazing. Their "Mucho Margarita" beats the overhyped Cabo Wabo and Sharkeez any day. He: If you're looking for fruity, ice-blended margaritas to swill on sultry nights, Mucho is a choice spot. Bouzy, 1611 S. Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach. (310) 540 1222; La Cabaña, 738 Rose Ave., Venice. (310) 392-7973; Mucho Ultima Mexicana, 903 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach. (310) 374-4422.

—Kee Chang and Sophia Kercher
1611 S. Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach, 90277
MAP
310-540-1222
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738 Rose Ave., Venice, 90291
MAP
310-392-6161
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903 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, 90266
MAP
310-374-4422
BEST AFTERNOON DJ

Michael Stock's years hunched over boxes of records, trolling for vinyl treasure, certainly has paid off. Every Thursday afternoon Angelenos benefit from the staggering breadth of his musical archive. Stock is half of Part Time Punks (with Benjamin White), the duo who put on the eponymous Tuesday night series at the Echo, which means he's keyed into happenings on the local scene. He's been DJing for the past two years in clubs all over the city, including Spaceland, Silverlake Lounge, Tangier and the Vanguard, and has even taught a course at UCI on punk rock and the cinema. Can he be long-winded and verbose? Occasionally. Is he informative? You bet. There's much to be transmitted from Stock's encyclopedic brain, so give him a break. Tune in Thursdays and catch surf punk, scratchy R&B records, new pop, indie, experimental electronica, old Goth hits from the crypt, and international post-punk colliding on air. This professor, booker, promoter, DJ, human database of musical knowledge and radio personality has something to offer everybody. P.S. What did you do today, Jim Ladd? Thursdays, 2-6 p.m. on KXLU 88.9 FM.

—Wendy Gilmartin
BEST ALL-AGES VENUE
The Smell

With all due respect to Echo Curio, host to a consistently compelling combination of outsider art both audio and visual, Jim Smith's The Smell remains the single best venue for showgoers of all ages to experience not only the music of their peers, but that of some bona fide legends, to boot. Despite its rising profile, the downtown venue has kept admission cheap (almost always $5) and its M.O. intact: to play host to the noisiest, messiest, most genreless and generally outside-of-the-box hand-hewn musical experiments around, while maintaining a downright wholesome sense of community fueled by vegan pancake brunches, haircut parties and a generous library of nifty zines. And of course, it's still the home base of local heroes like No Age, HEALTH, Abe Vigoda, and Mika Miko — not to mention possible future stars like Pocahaunted and Widow Babies — as well as the stopping point of choice for Thurston Moore when he's taking time off from Sonic Youth. What's more, the Smell offers myriad ways for youth to get involved, whether behind the scenes or working the front door. 247 S. Main St., dwntwn. thesmell.org.

—Chris Martins
247 S. Main St., Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-625-4325
BEST ART GALLERY FOR MUSIC
L'Keg

Straddling Echo Park's south side and downtown, L'Keg sits tucked between a rotisserie-chicken restaurant and a vinyl–sign-making shop, downplaying its claustrophobic, punk-rock interior with a quiet exterior in the daytime but lighting up when night falls — long after the strip mall's other tenants have left for the day. L'Keg — named after a line in the film Velvet Goldmine (L.K.E.G. is an abbreviation of "Lipstick Kissed Elbow Glove") is, at its heart, a gallery/project space launched by members of the local band Blue Jungle. Exhibitions consist of crafty arts, pop illustrations, photography and heavy-on-the-graphic-design works on paper. But its founders — Cory Myrick, Leticia Llesmin, Nosebleed and Shannon Paley — know that rocking, too, is an art, so they've opened the space to homegrown bands of every persuasion, including Torches in Trees, Bi-polar Bear, Man's Assassination Man, Foot Village, Puppy Dog, and the folksy Leslie and the Badgers, to name a few. In addition to the venue that L'Keg offers to spotlight great local bands, the space is also a distributor of records and publications for local artsy/musical folk, and hosts occasional outlying events, like Sunday hangover poetry parties and screenings of teenage snuff films. 311 Glendale Blvd., Echo Park. myspace.com/lkeggallery.

—Wendy Gilmartin
311 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026
MAP
213-413-5534
BEST BAR FOR VALLEY VAGITARIANS

Touting itself as "Valley chic," Moon Shadow Lounge in North Hollywood, more often known as NoHo, offers a regular happy hour, go-go dancers, live music and Sunday brunch. You can play darts or pool, dance to DJ Boulevard's spinning of hip-hop and electronica on Saturday nights, or sing karaoke on Tuesday nights with host KJ Tony, who offers more than 60,000 song choices. The bar has multiple TV screens tuned to pro football, baseball and basketball. The lounge has such a great vibe that it's been featured in lesbian films such as But I'm a Cheerleader, Girl Play and A Marine Story. It's also a fun jaunt into the Valley if you live, or party, on what 1.6 million Valleyites call "the other side of the hill." 10437 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd. (818) 508-7008, moonshadownightclub.com.

—Patrick Range McDonald
10437 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 91601
MAP
818-508-7008
BEST BAR WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU'RE LAME
Cindy Club

L.A. hostess bars are often wrapped up in unfamiliar rites (sitting uncomfortably in a booth with women who pretend to like you) and unfamiliar languages. What's more, they're expensive: table-service expensive; C-note-tip expensive. What's more, there's little of this exotica to sample between the high-end clubs of Koreatown and Little Tokyo and the gritty, Latino taxi-dancing venues of downtown. One place, however, has opened up this world to the regular folk and made it not so taboo. Nongnuch "Candy" Phimmasone, a Thai businesswoman, opened Cindy Club in 1996 on the border between Koreatown and East Hollywood. It blends the friendliness of mostly Thai servers (and food) with a mixed clientele of Korean businessmen, local Latinos and Silver Lake hipsters. Women and couples hang out there. And prices are unparalleled. A table costs $25 an hour (multiply that by at least four elsewhere) and most drinks (beer, sake, soju and wine) rarely top $10.The recipe has been a winner, and Phimmasone has taken over two adjacent storefronts. Sure, women still sit awkwardly with foreign salesmen who drink sake (no hard alcohol served), but the warm vibe is more like that of a neighborhood bar than a foreign ritual. 4273 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 906-1640.

—Dennis Romero
4273 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 90004
MAP
323-906-1640
BEST BEYOND THE CURE
M/R/X-Wolfpak

L.A. has never had a shortage of goth-friendly clubs, but right now the darker side of the nightlife is gaining newfound interest. At the forefront of the movement is M/R/X-Wolfpak. The monthly bash, which began in 2003, stands out for its musical selections. Resident DJs Job Leatherette, Tony X and Eric Dead have no problem with dropping genre classics, but they mix it up with the latest sounds from L.A. to Berlin. With two rooms for dancing, the party's focus is bringing together the harsh, guitar-driven sound of death rock with stripped down electronic jams known as minimal synth. Much of the playlist will be unfamiliar to club patrons, but you'll want to run to the DJ booth and ask "Hey, what's that song?" often. Live performances from locals and touring acts pepper the night. M/R/X-Wolfpak occurs every fourth Saturday of the month at Roberto's in Chinatown. Unless there's a special event, the cover is $5 before 10:30, $10 after. 686 N. Spring St., L.A. (213) 617-2002.

—Liz Ohanesian
686 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-617-2002
BEST BUILD-YOUR-OWN BLOODY MARY
La Cita

The perfect Bloody Mary is hard to come by. Best enjoyed during the day and an absolute necessity when hung over, a Bloody Mary is one of the most personalized cocktails out there. Some like it spicy, some sweet, some like it garnished with veggies, some with meat, but all require a strong vodka pour. The list of potential ingredients for this cocktail is endless so instead of trying to read the mind of every hungover, tomato juice-fiending patron, La Cita bartender Calixto Hernandez hosts a "build your own Bloody Mary" happy hour every Sunday from 1 to 9 p.m. on the outdoor patio of the divey, downtown, local favorite bar. Over a soundtrack of all '80s music ("But no U2, not now, not ever, because they suck," says Hernandez), for $5 you get a tall glass of iced vodka and free reign over a table of mixers, seasonings and homemade garnishes to concoct your perfect Bloody Mary mixed to taste. The spread includes Kelly Y Gonzalez Bloody Mary mix, celery salt, Old Bay seasoning, Tabasco, wasabi, sweet cherry peppers, pickled green beans, white asparagus, crushed garlic, horseradish, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, as well as trays of bacon, olives, cheese cubes, fresh shrimp, pickled shallots, celery stalks and more, all of which you can load up on a kabob skewer for the ultimate mixing utensil and snacker. At La Cita's Sunday Bloody Sundays, building your own Bloody Mary is like arts and crafts ... but with booze. Bottoms up, and if your drink sucks, it's your own fault. 336 S. Hill St., dwntwn. (213) 687-7111.

—Erin Broadley
336 S. Hill St., Los Angeles, 90013
MAP
213-687-7111
BEST BURLESQUE CLUB

A club packed with both video game nerds and buxom burlesque beauties may seem like wishful thinking, but downtown it's just another sold-out, Saturday night installment of the monthly residence of Courtney Cruz's Devil's Playground at Bordello Bar. Lights dim and the curtains open as the Legend of Zelda's Link heroically takes the stage scantily clad in a green tunic, armed with a slingshot, sword and shield, ready to defeat evil forces. But before he can embark on his quest, Link gender-morphs into Princess Zelda and begins a striptease that could make any G4 executive blush. Your favorite, old-school Nintendo game just became R-rated. If the city is in the midst of a burlesque revival, then Devil's Playground is at the forefront, giving it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Beyond traditional fan dancing and martini bathing, Devil's Playground integrates pop culture and niche fan favorites with the classic art of the striptease, modernizing burlesque with cleverly themed, character-driven performances like Video Game Girls, Comic Book Vixens and the upcoming Tails From the Crypt on October 10. As a producer and performer, Cruz insists that nothing is off-limits and her inspiration for themes comes from pop culture news (the Burlesque Barbie installment was a response to the public outrage over Mattel's Tattoo Barbie) or from films, video games and comics that influenced her while growing up. For those who enjoy tassel twirling with a unique spin, cozy up with the ladies of Devil's Playground every second Saturday of the month. 901 E. 1st St., L.A. (213) 687-3766, courtneycruz.com.

—Erin Broadley
901 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-687-3766
BEST BUSTING, HANGING, MEETING, LISTENING, WEARING AND CRUISING
Faultline Bar

Tired of the velvet ropes, the snotty attitudes (which are only a mask to cover up some kind of insecurity), the perfect hairstyles, clothes and bodies? Well, maybe not tired of the bodies. Try the Faultline Bar in Silver Lake, which holds a good, old-fashioned beer bust Sunday afternoon through evening that's fun, cost-friendly and a little wild. Bears and leather aficionados meet up with cute Silver Lake hipsters to drink cheap beers, listen to loud rock and tear up the place, while also cruising for a special friend or two. People hang out inside and outside, with a lot of guys wearing crew cuts and leather apparel. It's a different kind of scene, and there's no VIP line or cover charge. 4216 Melrose Ave., L.A. (323) 660-0889, faultlinebar.com. Sun., 2-8 p.m.

—Patrick Range McDonald
4216 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 90029
MAP
323-660-0889
BEST CHEAP MOVIE MOVIE THEATER
Laemmle Grande 4 Plex

The Laemmle Grande 4 Plex is a hole-in-the-wall movie theater that offers no perks, the popcorn is mediocre, the floors are sticky from mystery goo, there's no free, nearby parking, and we've seen cleaner bathrooms in bus stations in New Delhi. But what makes this movie house our No. 1 place to watch a new release is simply its lack of lines or crowds. It's also much cheaper than most fancier theaters around town, at $8.50 ($7 with student ID) per ticket. Regularly, even on the weekends, we arrive 10 minutes before the new release begins, walk right up to the counter for our mediocre popcorn and soda, and then plant ourselves down in any of their many rickety old seats, usually wherever we like. On rare occasions the theater is full. It was bursting for Indiana Jones last spring but quiet for The Hangover during the summer, with only seven people seated. If you hate crowds, don't mind paying a small fee to park and are willing to hold the bathroom stall door shut because it doesn't close right, this place is for you. Actually it's just for us, and the few other daredevils who don't mind its aforementioned, very minor, drawbacks, all without the throngs who line up at ArcLight or Mann's Chinese on weekend nights. 345 S. Figueroa St., L.A. (213) 617-0268.

—Christine Pelisek
345 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 90071
MAP
213-617-0268
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BEST ESCAPE FROM WEST HOLLYWOOD: Roosterfish

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