Best of L.A.

Best Of 2010

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Bars & Clubs

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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs

All Singing, All Dancing, All Made Up on the Spot

On Friday nights, when you need cheering up, go see Opening Night: The Improvised Musical (now in its 12th year) at IOWest. Guaranteed laughs. An upper. For only $10 (and you can use your ticket next time for a $5 admission), the cast improvises an hourlong Broadway-style musical. They’re so adept at this complex form that you’ll swear it’s not improvised. But it is. Come back again and again — you’ll laugh every time. You might see a rock musical, a Sondheim-style show, a historical epic; it all depends on the title the audience suggests and the piano accompanist’s whim. Valet park at the corner of Cosmo and Hollywood (between Cahuenga and Vine). Ten steps to the theater and you’re in. Full bar and free popcorn. Your date, your friends, even your visiting uncle will love it. 6366 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 962-7560, west.ioimprov.com. —Ann Hall

Ye Best Pineapple-Festooned Groggery of Rosemead (1967)
Bahooka Family Restaurant

Tiki- and Polynesian-themed eateries and bars were once the height of fashion. Today, they are a tragically nigh-extinct breed. (Beloved cocktail shack Tiki-Ti continues to thrive on Sunset by remaining small and retaining demand; even flagship behemoth Trader Vic’s finally shuttered its legendary Beverly Hills location, though a modern-looking location opened at L.A. Live.) They simply don’t make ’em like Bahooka Family Restaurant anymore, and the city of Rosemead east of downtown along the 10 freeway is a perfect out-of-the-way excursion for a taste of suburban tiki cool. None of the taste treats at Bahooka (which opened in 1967) are going to blow your mind; the big platters of ribs, corn on the cob and coleslaw are tasty if not singular, and the mai tais and scorpion bowls aren’t as finessed as some. (This grog will get you good and tipsy, though.) What’s brilliant about Bahooka is the atmosphere — a dimly lit nautical theme with the classic blowfish-and-glass-floats tiki decor and its famous 100-plus fish tanks, with one separating virtually every table in the house. A real throwback to groovier times. 4501 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead. (626) 285-1241; bahooka.com. —Nicole Campos

4501 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, 91770
MAP
626-285-1241
Best Beefcake(s) in Weho
Hamburger Mary’s

Bingo, boy toys, beer and beef, anyone? Hamburger Mary’s may be the only place on earth where you can enjoy all of these at once. Its “Legendary Bingo” nights on Wednesdays and Sundays ain’t your grandma’s game scene, but if you took her here, we bet she’d never want to leave. Fab prizes, fabber getups and celeb guests calling out numbers make this one a winner whether your card gets filled or not. Other nights, Mary’s hammy hostess roster features some of the finest drag and trans personalities in town: Calpernia Addams’ seductive “Unreal” cabaret show, Saturday’s saucy Wendy Ho Ho Show, the big-voiced Boofant Sisters, the rockin’ vox of Detox on Friday. Mary’s may be a chain restaurant (the menu is packed with notch-above-TGIFriday’s artery-clogging fare and monstrous fruity cocktails), but the WeHo location is more club than café: studly waiters and bartenders, pumping dance beats on the speakers, disco balls in the bathroom and the coolest check tray ever: a silver sequined high-heeled shoe. Size 12, natch. 8288 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. (323) 654-3800. —Lina Lecaro

8288 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 90046
MAP
323-654-3800
Best Rock Bar of Fame (1957)
The Troubadour

It’s been a long time since comedian Lenny Bruce performed and got arrested on obscenity charges at The Troubadour in 1957, but the West Hollywood live-music venue on Santa Monica Boulevard still packs ’em in and pours drinks freely with a sense, to quote an old Neil Young song, that it’s better to burn out than fade away. Patrons and rockers hang out at the wood-paneled bar in front, maybe grab a seat at a black leather booth, and wait their turn to perform or to catch the band in the surprisingly small and intimate showroom. Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young and Stephen Stills made their live debuts at the Troubadour in 1966, and comedy legend Richard Pryor recorded a live album there in 1968. The list of debuts and historic moments is long: Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Neil Young, Elton John, Billy Joel, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Joe Strummer, The Strokes and many others have a connection to this 53-year-old establishment. If there’s a Hall of Fame for rock venues, the Troubadour, founded by the late Doug Weston, would be inducted. 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. (310) 276-1158, troubadour.com. —Patrick Range McDonald

9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069
MAP
310-276-6168
Best Punky Time
Part Time Punks
Carl Pocket

Before indie acts du jour score a headlining spot at Spaceland or the Echo or blog-beloved FYF, you’re likely to catch ’em on Part Time Punks’ stage, Sundays at the Echo. Five years strong, the live music and DJ dance party from Michael Stock (manning Punks solo since his partner split last year) remains both a big new-band breaker (No Age, Mika Miko, Abe Vigoda, Warpaint, Dum Dum Girls, Yacht, etc., all played PTP when they were unknowns) and one of the best spots to celebrate musical innovators of yore (the Slits, the Chameleons, the Homosexuals, the Nightingales, the Urinals and countless more reunited or re-formed to play here). Tribute nights celebrating better known artists like the Smiths and the Cure bring out new wave/Goth geeks, too. Post-punk, no-wave, Indie-pop — essentially the seminal sound swell that emerged from 1978 to1984 — is boldly and lovingly put into context here with emerging art-rock and dance acts, a combo that has also made Stock’s KXLU radio show — shamelessly inspired by John Peel’s “Peel Sessions” — revered among music heads. Clearly, the appeal of punk you can dance to has gone beyond any one ’hood or clique or style, and PTP is a big reason why. 1822 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. parttimepunks.com. —Lina Lecaro

1822 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026
MAP
213-413-8200
Best bit of Chinese Kitsch (1941)
Hop Louie

We’re not gonna bullshit ya. Hop Louie is not a destination for great Chinese food, especially in a city that actually does have great Chinese food. But Hop Louie is an experience, a trip, a cultural artifact. And in the right state of mind, it’s just plain fun. In the middle of Chinatown since 1941, Hop Louie has atmosphere to spare: a black lacquered-wood bar and formidable hanging-lantern lighting fixtures; a wall of signed celebrity headshots and a cast of eccentric regulars; a bartender whose encyclopedic mixology skills blend with an acidic wit and a comically imposing, multitiered pagoda structure over the entrance, Hop Louie is what you want in a comfortable, old-school, kitschy/loungey Chinese restaurant. Drinks are cheap and strong; the food — of the crab rangoon/egg roll/fried rice variety — is decent; classic pop oldies fill the jukebox. Not only that, but it’s got two floors, which means even more Hop Louie. 950 Mei Ling Way, Chinatown. (213) 628-4244. —Adam Gropman

950 Mei Ling Way, Los Angeles, 90012
MAP
213-628-4244
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All Singing, All Dancing, All Made Up on the Spot: Opening Night: The Improvised Musical

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