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Best Bars to Break Out of Your Rut

38 Degrees Ale House
38 Degrees Ale House
Erika Bolden

Our Best Of L.A. issue is out. Word!

It's full of all sorts of great, out-of-the-box activity suggestions, as well as tons of awesome, slightly-strange bars, many of which we're guessing you probably haven't imbibed at.

Wanna break out of your rut? Give your corner dive a rest, and try out these wild and wacky spots to get sauced.

See also: Best L.A. Musicians By Genre

Sidebar at Covell
Sidebar at Covell
Eve Weston

Best Bar Behind a Bookcase: Sidebar at Covell

You know how people use "literally" when they mean "figuratively," and how it pisses you off? If you also balk at the use of "speakeasy" when the speaker means "bar," then Sidebar at Covell is the place for you. Because when you enter Covell, you walk to the back and coolly whisper your password to a bartender. He'll point you to the bookcase, which opens into a speakeasy that actually feels like a speakeasy. Stylish and laid-back, this reservation-only private room is perfect for intimate events. Enjoy the luxury of having your own bartender and, generally, no wait at the bar for the well-curated selection of boutique wines and craft beers. But if by chance someone should be ahead of you, no worries, because this bookcase bar also has a self-serve beer tap. Yes, you read that correctly. It protrudes from a brick-laid doorway as if emerging from Harry Potter's Platform 9¾ and sits adjacent to a chalkboard that helps you abide by the honor system when tracking your drinks. It might just literally be genius. 4628 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz. (323) 660-4400, barcovell.com. —Eve Weston

HMS Bounty
HMS Bounty

Best Noir Bar: HMS Bounty

Stalwart watering hole HMS Bounty, located in the 1920s Gaylord apartment building, is also a restaurant, but its throwback saloon status is second to none. It features dark interiors, faux-nautical decor and tuck-and-roll booths with plaques informing you that the spot has played host to Winston Churchill, William Randolph Hearst and Jack Webb. No specialty-cocktail menu here — no cocktail menu at all, in fact, just a not-bad bill of fare that can include sand dabs and filet mignon. But it's the bar scene you're here for, and it's no accident that writer Judith Freeman has come by to channel the spirit of Raymond Chandler. If it weren't for the flat-screen TVs above the bar, you'd swear you could be sipping your gin gimlet next to Chandler himself, or anyone else dating back to the Truman administration. 3357 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 385-7275, thehmsbounty.com. ?—Jeffrey Burbank

Sports Harbour
Sports Harbour
JJ Strong

Best Bar Games: Sports Harbour

Three pool tables. Two pinball machines. Darts. Foosball. Shuffleboard. Ms. Pac-Man. Galaga. Air hockey. Pop-a-Shot. Sports Harbour in Marina del Rey is like a rec center with a liquor license. (Or perhaps a Dave & Buster's without all the stuff that makes Dave & Buster's the worst.) When you're not playing a game, you can watch one from anywhere in the bar, including a bench that's the port side of an old boat. The place was remodeled a few years ago and now offers a menu of standard pub fare, but make no mistake, it's still very much a dive. There's almost always a fun, friendly crowd of regulars and drop-ins hanging around — each of whom is solid competition for your game of choice. 13484 W. Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey. (310) 823-0933, thesportsharbour.com. —JJ Strong

See also: The Best of Los Angeles 2013

Golden Gopher
Golden Gopher

Best Bar That Doubles as a Liquor Store: Golden Gopher

With a punk rock-filled jukebox, a photo booth and vintage arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man, this downtown dive bar may well be one of the best in Los Angeles. But what makes the Golden Gopher truly remarkable is its special liquor license, which was grandfathered in from 1905 and still allows the sale of beer, wine and liquor as takeout. Hence the bar's slogan: "Liquor here, liquor to go." At its counter, not only does the Golden Gopher sell six-packs of local and craft beers and a huge selection of Scotch and Irish whisky — you also can pick up condoms, mints and soaps in preparation for the wild night you might have after Golden Gopher closes at 2 a.m. Not feeling so lucky? As a $50 consolation prize, you can take home your own golden-gopher statuette. 417 W. Eighth St., dwntwn. (213) 614-8001, golden?gopher?bar.com. —Jennifer Swann

38 Degrees Ale House
38 Degrees Ale House
Erika Bolden

Best Bar for Beer Tasting: 38 Degrees Ale House

If you are overwhelmed by choices when confronted with a textbook-sized craft beer menu, whose tap handles are so vast in number that you suddenly feel nearsighted, the tasting pours at 38 Degrees Ale House in Alhambra are for you. All 38 draft selections are available in a 4.5-ounce pour, making it the perfect location for you to indulge your indecision or to enjoy a beer tasting with friends. Suggested flights of Belgian-style or hoppy beers are great for those in need of guidance, but the more informed beer lovers will have a field day selecting from the rare local and regional pours and impressive bottle selection. Bring a prized selection to the monthly bottle-share meeting and find camaraderie in the beer community. For those seeking out new releases from local favorites or coveted kegs from distant, acclaimed brewers, or for those who just can't leave without a little of everything, this bar and its short pours shine. 100 W. Main St., Alhambra. (626) 282-2038, 38degreesalhambra.com. —Erika Bolden

Bar at the Original Farmers Market
Bar at the Original Farmers Market
Ali Trachta

Best Respite From the Grove: Bars at the Original Farmers Market

Everyone knows that feeling when you snap at the Grove. You just blew the rent at Nordstrom, and the slow-walking tourists begin to feel as if they're caging you in. You need a calm oasis, and a beer. Thankfully, the bars at the Original Farmers Market provide both. Hop onto a stool at one of the building's two watering holes, and life suddenly seems a lot simpler. Maybe that's because, despite all the businesses that have come and gone in the last 80 years, the Farmers Market still exudes an old-timey spirit. Watching folks sniff produce and rap with the butcher is somehow soothing over a pint. The drinker next to you looks like he's been a regular since 1952, and even if he's sipping his same old domestic, the bar offers a great craft-beer selection and wine list, too. The vibe says "stay all day," and you just might. 6333 W. Third St., Fairfax District. (323) 933-9211, farmersmarketla.com. —Ali Trachta

See also: The Best of Los Angeles 2013

New Wave Bar
New Wave Bar
Derek Thomas

Best '80s Music Bar: New Wave Restaurant & Bar

Miss the days of Rubik's cubes, Donkey Kong and John Hughes movies? Yearn for the bygone era of Flock of Seagulls and Morrissey-esque solipsism? If you wish the '80s were permanently back, then welcome to New Wave Restaurant & Bar, which transports the hopelessly nostalgic back in time to the "I Want My MTV" decade. It serves up retro kitsch on a full-restaurant menu: cocktails like the Richard Blade Rum Runner and Devo martini; appetizers like Bill and Ted's Excellent Cheesy Tater Tots and Bosom Buddies Sliders; sandwiches like the Culture Club and salads like the Full House. And don't forget apple pie served Depeche à la Mode. Girls (and boys) just want to have fun at the weekend dance parties, with a roster of DJs, cover bands and actual live performers of early-'80s vintage sure to tickle you fluorescent pink. 17847 Lakewood Blvd., Bellflower. (562) 790-8274, newwavebar.com. —Derek Thomas

Redwood Bar & Grill
Redwood Bar & Grill

Best Unintentionally ?Goonies-Themed Bar: Redwood Bar and Grill

There are so many reasons to love the shit out of the Redwood Bar and Grill — from the endless stream of nightly punk acts, to the whiskey-sodden dark wood, to the nearly perfect happy hour. But let's be honest, this place is pretty much the only Goonies-themed bar in existence. Now, the folks who run the Redwood probably never thought of it as a place that would channel "One-Eyed" Willie, they probably just collected a beautiful mess of nautical antiques and buccaneer paraphernalia. There are skulls on the bar holding up candles and crossbones behind it, but there aren't played-out pirates like lame-ass Jack Sparrow. Instead, there's the specter of Willie's gang and his ship, the Inferno, just waiting for the washed-up, 35-year-old Mikey Walsh and Chunk to puke somewhere on the tiles. 316 W. Second St., dwntwn. (213) 680-2600, theredwoodbar.com. ?—Paul T. Bradley

See also: Best L.A. Musicians By Genre

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