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Best Bars in Los Angeles

Best Bars in Los Angeles
Colin Young-Wolff

Our Best Of L.A. issue this year runs down everything that makes L.A., well, the best. A big part of that is our diverse bar scene, which features first-rate watering holes as far as your blurred vision can see! Here are our favorites by neighborhood, as well as our favorite dive bar.

See also: Best Bars to Break Out of Your Rut

Basement Tavern
Basement Tavern
Colin Young-Wolff

Best Santa Monica Bar: Basement Tavern

There is no shortage of chandeliers, taxidermied wildlife and comfortable lounge spots from which to view a Turner Classic Movie at Basement Tavern, an inti-mate, subterranean bar below Main Street's The Victorian event space. A selective list of craft beer and cocktails, written colorfully on a chalkboard-painted wall, is improved upon only by the discounted prices during happy hour (5 to 8 p.m. daily). The crowds that show up for live music at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays will assure you that word has gotten out on the best kept secret in Santa Monica. 2640 Main St., Santa Monica. (310) 396-2469. More info here. --Erika Bolden

See also: Top 10 Bars in Santa Monica

Hinano Cafe
Hinano Cafe
Colin Young-Wolff

Best Venice Bar: Hinano Cafe

Classic Venice dive Hinano Cafe was beloved by locals long before gentrification swept through the area. Just steps from the Venice Pier, the peak summer season is predictably busy, but it's more manageable during other seasons. A visit in the late afternoon -- or, for that matter, early morning for the $5 breakfast -- will have you forgetting you were supposed to be somewhere, prioritizing a pitcher of beer and the mechanics of your pool game. 15 Washington Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-3902, hinanocafevenice.com. --Erika Bolden

See also: Top 10 Bars in Venice

Dwit Gol Mok
Dwit Gol Mok
Farley Elliot

Best Koreatown Bar: Dwit Gol Mok

You may not stumble upon Dwit Gol Mok (DGM to the locals) easily, and that's by design. The behind-the-scenes bar technically is located on Wilshire Boulevard, but the entrance is around the corner, on Berendo, through a parking lot and an open courtyard, then up a few stairs. Inside you'll find marker graffiti on all of the bare, cement walls, small wooden tables under faux hut roofs and noise -- lots of noise. The Cass beers are cheap and frequent to complement the seafood pancakes, the Korean chicken wings and the plentiful, pungent gochujang, which smothers lots of the other dishes. The party lasts long into the night at DGM, and about every 10 minutes it's someone's birthday, so be prepared to endure the most pop-synth version of "The Birthday Song" you've ever heard. If you'd like to sing along next time, there's a karaoke bar back across the courtyard. 3275 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 382-8432. --Farley Elliott

 

Cha Cha Lounge
Cha Cha Lounge
Flickr Commons - Skampy

Best Silver Lake Bar: Cha Cha Lounge

If you're saying, "But I went on a Friday and it was full of girls/guys who wouldn't talk to me," or "I had to wait in line, so it sucks," then you're going to Cha Cha Lounge on the wrong nights (or you're just not that cool). During the week, Kevin Willis' Seattle-based outpost on Glendale has the best dive bartenders, music and kitschy wall crap in L.A. Hands down. Sure, it's packed to the crevices on Fridays and Saturdays with kids who can't identify the '70s and '80s references in the wall art, but that hardly detracts from its charm. This is what you want your local east-of-Hollywood watering hole to be -- cheap, fun and flexible. 2375 Glen-dale Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 660-7595, chachalounge.com/losangeles. --Paul T. Bradley

See also: The 10 Best Bars in Silver Lake

Gold Room
Gold Room
Kai Flanders

Best Echo Park Bar: Gold Room

Seeing that it's walking distance from the stadium, the best place to be before or after a Dodgers game is the Gold Room with a shot of tequila in your hand. And you won't have to sell your soul to enjoy that devil's water; a shot-and-a-beer combo is an unmatched four bucks. (That's, like, two dollars a drink.) Also: free tacos, a policy we believe should be implemented citywide. The jukebox blares banda music, the floor is covered in empty peanut shells, and when the boys in blue win, there is no rowdier bar in Echo Park, or anywhere else for that matter. 1558 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (213) 482-5259. --Kai Flanders

See also: Top 10 Bars in Echo Park

The Roger Room
The Roger Room
therubadu

Best West Hollywood Bar: The Roger Room

The Roger Room probably isn't what pops to mind when you think of a WeHo bar. There's no velvet rope, no half-dressed hotties, no hordes of beautiful people texting that they'd rather be somewhere else. Instead, it is nearly the perfect place to drink. Behind that barely marked doorway -- thick red curtains, with a gentle breeze suggesting hidden wonders beyond -- is a dark, slightly tatty saloon with an excellent list of craft cocktails, solicitous bartenders and the happy buzz of real conversation. There are murals on the walls, cozy booths if you're lucky and a few shadowy corners for canoodling. And those cocktails! Try the Flim Flam, an intoxicating mix of gin, Cynar artichoke liqueur and maraschino, washed down with a swish of Sambuca, and just try not to ogle the attractive young man in old-timey garb delivering it. This may be West Hollywood, but this is not a meat market. 370 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd. (310) 854-1300, therogerroom.com. --Sarah Fenske

 

Stark Bar
Stark Bar
Patina Restaurant Group

Best Miracle Mile Bar: Stark Bar

For those days when you need a cultural excuse to day-drink, we present Stark Bar, geographically located between the antiquities and modern art exhibits at LACMA. Most museums give you the bare (but overpriced) minimum when it comes to food and drink, but here you'll get an expertly mixed cocktail like the Lemon Balla (gin, Moscatel wine, muddled lemon wedges, basil) for the same price you'd pay in a less provocative location. There's an impressive list of spirits to pick from (we recommend the Barbancourt rum), wine, beer and small bites to fortify you, and a bench of talent working the gorgeous bar. So pull up a red banquette, contemplate "Levitated Mass" and watch your quick little trip to art-peep turn into an all-day affair. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile. (323) 857-6197. More info here. --Erin Lyall

See also: Top 10 Miracle Mile Bars

A cocktail at Far Bar
A cocktail at Far Bar
Mary Carreon

Best Downtown L.A. Bar: Far Bar

Located in Little Tokyo, Far Bar's dynamic setting and talented bartenders make it the best of the bunch. The main bar offers 400 different types of whiskeys -- some of which aren't otherwise available in the U.S. In the back of the bar is a smaller room with TV screens and 37 beers on tap. On top of the extensive booze list are their delicious wasabi fries. But perhaps what most sets Far Bar apart? The service. Hospitable doesn't even begin to describe it. 347 E 1st St.; 213-617-9990 --Mary Carreon

See also: Top 10 Bars In Downtown L.A.

Seventy 7
Seventy 7
Mary Carreon

Best Culver City Bar: Seventy 7

Tucked in an alley behind the Bank of America on Culver Boulevard lies Seventy 7, a small, candlelit lounge that makes you feel as if you're in an underground club far, far away from these parts. The bar's trendy yet oddly seductive ambience makes all concept of time fly out the window. Meanwhile, the folks behind the bar really know what they're doing, with an emphasis on making a strong drink taste great. Cocktails come fast, the bartenders are down to earth, there's live music and the food is tasty. What else is there to ask for? 3843 Main St., Culver City. (310) 559-7077, seventy7lounge.com. --Mary Carreon

See also: The 10 Best Bars in Culver City

 

Gasser Lounge
Gasser Lounge
Photo courtesy of Gasser Lounge

Best South Bay Bar: Gasser Lounge

There are tons of South Bay bars but few that offer the perfect "rock & roll-meets-biker dude-meets Jack Kerouac wannabe" experience. Gasser Lounge has a laid-back environment, classic vinyl records on the walls and a fully stocked bar. For Los Angeles Kings fans, it's heaven: The bar shows Kings games (and only Kings games) at full volume. And when the home team scores, a buzzer right next to the TV goes off. You know what that means -- free shots for all! Our advice? Come for the Kings matches, stay for the cool cats and tipsy conversation. 1500 Aviation Blvd., Redondo Beach. info@gasserlounge.com, gasserlounge.com. --Juan Gutierrez

Acapulco Inn
Acapulco Inn
Photo courtesy of Acapulco Inn

Best Long Beach Bar: Acapulco Inn

When it comes to a great, unpretentious spot in Long Beach, the Acapulco Inn can't be beat. Featuring not just cheap happy hour specials but also cool and random arcade games (prepare to meet your death, video deer) and two pool tables, the spot is spacious enough to offer some elbow room but also filled with people you'd actually like to talk to. During the day it's pretty mellow, but at night the young crowd comes out here to Belmont Shore -- particularly the ladies -- and the party really gets started. It's well worth the gas money you'll spend getting here. 5283 E. Second St., Long Beach. (562) 439-3517, ailongbeach.com. --Juan Gutierrez

Oyster House Saloon
Oyster House Saloon
Photo courtesy of Oyster House Saloon

Best San Fernando Valley Bar: Oyster House Saloon

The Oyster House Saloon's back patio is a very down-home, charming scene, dimly lit with Jameson-bottle lamps, as well as comfy benches enclosed within faux brick walls and open-sky beamed ceilings. Inside and out, the Studio City seafood spot has an eclectic mix of customers -- including plenty of rock and jazz musicians. The narrow space is half restaurant, half bar, and its stage features live jazz. The drinks are cheap, and the bar fare revolves around steaming bowls of clam chowder and oyster shooters. It's an excellent place to get a drink and some good food, and maybe even meet a musically inclined friend. 12446 Moorpark St., Studio City. (818) 761-8686. More info here. --Norm Jenssen

 

St. Nick's Pub
St. Nick's Pub
Photo courtesy of St. Nick's Pub

Best Neighborhood Bar: St. Nick's

Were you to blindfold a Midwesterner, fly him cross-country, and remove his blindfold to reveal St. Nick's, he likely would swear he was on his hometown block, at his neighborhood bar. And that's a good thing! California may have perfected healthy living, the farm-to-table restaurant and the yoga studio, but it's in the nation's cold, Rust Belt cities that bars have reached Platonic perfection. At St. Nick's, as at any good neighborhood bar, the clientele is as friendly as it is random (umm, have you seen the dude in the Old West sheriff's garb? Hang out here long enough, and you will). The drinks aren't cheap, per se, but they're poured with a heavy hand. And the atmosphere is as unpretentious and fun as they come. Throw some classic rock on the jukebox, sink back into that worn, velour-lined booth and have another. In the Midwest, no one gets up early to salute the sun. 8450 W. Third St., Beverly Grove. (323) 655-6917. --Sarah Fenske

Smog Cutter
Smog Cutter
Lina Lecaro

Best Dive Bar: Smog Cutter

OK, so Smog Cutter has been hipsterized a bit, what with all the karaoke and facial hair. But it's still the real deal, part of a circuit of area dive bars, including Gold Diggers and Monte Carlo, run by Thais. If you like your female bartenders mean and surly (the way bartenders should be), this is your place. Well drinks are relatively affordable, and the wood paneling and year-round holiday lights are a throwback to your drunk uncle's den. The cash-only Cutter has one of the worst bathrooms in the greater Virgil Village, which is saying a lot. If you're a ninja who can use your feet to open doors and operate handles, more power to you. But as a rumored haunt of Charles Bukowski, Smog Cutter is the perfect place to get a double shot of real. 864 N. Virgil Ave., Virgil Village. (323) 660-4626. --Dennis Romero

See also: Best Bars to Break Out of Your Rut

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