Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
The word "dive bar" gets thrown around a lot, but to gaze upon the real deal, pull up a stool at Pasadena's 1881 Club. What you'll find are pool tables, darts, stiff drinks, lots of bottled beer (though only Bud on tap) and witty slogans on the wall — our favorite is "Hangovers Installed and Serviced." It's the perfect spot to tie one on with friends, and if you don't have friends, never fear! Colorful characters populate the place, and the crowd tends to be outgoing and unpretentious. (Considering it's a 'Niners bar, however, it helps if you're a San Francisco football fan.) A universal jukebox sets whatever mood you want without taking away from any of the delicious squalor. The bathrooms, meanwhile, offer a peek into the spot's architectural past — it doesn't appear that anything has been changed on them since the joint opened. Los Angeles proper wishes it had a bar this cool. —Nicholas Pell
1881 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena, 91104. (626) 794-3068, facebook.com/pages/1881-Club/127784844383.
Zinque is the Diane Von Fürstenberg wrap dress of restaurants. During the day, its airy interior resembles an Apple store, considering how many Mac laptops are in use. But at night it's a different story: Wine glasses, oysters and occasionally live music make you feel as if you're in a European bistro. (The din of customer conversation doesn't hurt the illusion, considering it often includes snippets of French and Italian.) Zinque offers bites for every hour of the day: pastries, breakfast sandwiches, paninis, healthy salads, happy-hour snacks, flatbreads and "plates." With indoor and outdoor seating, outlets and Wi-Fi, there's not really an occasion or meeting that Zinque can't accommodate. It's tempting to arrive early for coffee and stay for wine, but if you'd rather change locations, Zinque now boasts two — one near Abbot Kinney, and one near the Pacific Design Center in WeHo. —Eve Weston
600 Venice Blvd., Venice, 90291. (310) 437-0970, lezinque.com. Also 8684 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd., 90069. (424) 284-3930.
Unlike what you might imagine an adult arcade to be like, EightyTwo is not the sweaty domain of grown-up nerds. Rather, it's a video game paradise that's as sleek as it is chic. Housed in a metallic, 2,000-square-foot warehouse, this Arts District cocktail bar boasts 15 pinball machines — which date from 1977's Ed Krynski–designed Jungle Queen to last year's uber-badass Metallica pinball. It also has 25 video games, from Atari's 1978 classic Space Invaders to 1993's NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat II. Nightly DJ sets transform the game room into a late-night dance party, and a tree-lined courtyard with communal high-top tables offers sweet refuge from even the most grueling round of Pac-Man. There's nothing quite as electrifying as getting your game on at EightyTwo, even if much of its clientele isn't old enough to remember the year (an amazing one for video games) for which it's named. —Jennifer Swann
707 E. Fourth Place, Little Tokyo, 90013. (213) 626-8200, eightytwo.la.
Though some see disco as a blight on American pop music that will hopefully not be resuscitated, others consider it our country's pinnacle of dance music. L.A. types who fall into the latter camp are likely to be seen at Giorgio's, a Saturday night party at the Hollywood Standard. Though only a year old, it has been attended by such stars as Mick Jagger, Diddy, Billy Idol and Leonardo DiCaprio. Named after famed Italian producer Giorgio Moroder — who basically invented disco — it was founded by longtime party promoter Bryan Rabin and Adam Bravin, who serves from time to time as President Obama's DJ. Oh, and as for the event itself? You enter through a kitchen. The room is dark and filled with smoke. And, most importantly, the dance floor stays packed until closing time. —Hillel Aron
Hollywood Standard Hotel, 8300 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd., 90069. (323) 650-9090, facebook.com/giorgiosdisco.
Lots of people can tell you that the Three Clubs has been featured in Mad Men, but it bears repeating, if only to give you a mental picture of what you can expect inside this Hollywood spot, especially on quieter days. You'll come in, sit down in a dark, quiet corner and order up a cocktail (we recommend the rye Manhattan) expertly made by a man who has never self-identified as a "mixologist" (although he possesses the skills of one). The appeal of the Three Clubs is in its refreshingly unpretentious take on the classic American cocktail bar, one that's equal parts 1964 and 2014. While we'd recommend trying out the spot during off-hours, there's certainly plenty going on in the evenings, most notably Monday Night Tease, one of the oldest and most venerated burlesque nights in all of L.A. County. All told, the Three Clubs is a great spot for a date, or just to drown your sorrows in the sweet, neon glow of Hollywood's past. —Nicholas Pell
1123 N. Vine St., Hlywd., 90038. (323) 462-6441, threeclubs.com.
Were the Flintridge Proper to have an official song, it might go something like this: "220 bottles of gin on the wall, 220 bottles of gin. Take one down, pass it around. 219 bottles of gin on the wall." At this watering hole located in the northern suburb of La Cañada Flintridge, these numbers are no exaggeration. Calling itself "the world's largest gin bar," this drinkery and restaurant features a vast collection of gin sourced from all around the world, and even some in-house varieties produced with locally grown ingredients, such as wild sage and rosemary. "We have a gin for every taste," says Brady Caverly, who co-owns the Proper with his wife, Mary Elizabeth. Customers who would like to sample multiple kinds of gin can choose from the Proper's "flights," which include three 0.75-ounce tastings. (The popular Bartenders' Favorite, for $15, includes choices picked by the staff.) Under chef Kevin Napier, the Proper also has an extensive food menu, highlighted by its popular chicken pot pies and burgers. —Chris Walker
464 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge, 91011. (818) 790-4888, theproper.com.