Drink Up: California Is a Top State for Historic Bars

An old-fashioned at the Valley Inn
An old-fashioned at the Valley Inn
Photo by Ben Mesirow

California might be known for its picture-perfect weather, unaffordable real estate and massively influential entertainment industry, but a new ranking adds yet another, far more unlikely distinction to the Golden State's reputation: most historic bars. 

That's according to the list compiled by the travel site Trippy.com, which counted 29 historic bars within the state of California — or nearly twice the amount of bars compared with runner-up Illinois, which boasted 16. 

What exactly is considered a historic bar? Trippy judged establishments based on three criteria: It was founded prior to 1978, it serves alcohol and it's still in operation today. 

See Also: 3 Bars Offer a Taste of Vintage L.A. 

The finding may come as a surprise considering that Illinois is home to famed watering holes such as the Green Mill, which bills itself as the oldest continuously operating jazz club in the country, and the Village Tavern, which was established a full three years before California became a state in 1850. But landmarks like Smiley's Schooner Saloon in Bolinas, founded during the Gold Rush of 1851, and the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland, which calls itself the state's oldest continuously operating drinking establishment, helped boost California's ranking. 

It's worth noting, of course, that this survey is far from scientific. The travel site pulled its research from a combination of online articles, bar websites and reviews from TripAdvisor to determine nearly 200 historic bars across the country, which simply means they were founded before 1978.  So while California boasts the most historic bars of any state, at least by this estimate, these aren't necessarily the oldest bars in the country. 

Of the 29 Golden State bars named, nine are in Los Angeles, including a 1960s tiki bar in the Valley, a Hollywood Boulevard dive that the Black Dahlia was rumored to have visited and a downtown L.A. hole-in-the-wall that Charles Bukowski made famous. Scroll down for the full list below. 

Drink Up: California Is a Top State for Historic Bars (2)
Graphic via Trippy

Here are the nine L.A. watering holes that made the cut: 

1) Alhambra Cocktail Lounge 
Established: 1904 
216 W. 11th St., San Pedro; (310) 548-4000

2) Golden Gopher 
Established: 1905 
417 W. Eighth St., downtown; (213) 614-8001, goldengophertogo.com 

3) Cole's 
Established: 1908 
118 E. Sixth St., downtown; (213) 622-4090, colesfrenchdip.com 

4) The King Eddy Saloon 
Established: 1933 
131 E. Fifth St., downtown; (213) 629-2023, kingeddysaloon.com 

5) The Frolic Room 
Established: 1934 
6245 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 462-5890 

6) Tom Bergin's 
Established: 1936 
840 S. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; (323) 936-7151, tombergins.com 

7) The Mint 
Established: 1937 
6010 W. Pico Blvd.; Mid-City; (323) 954-9400, themintla.com 

8) Formosa Cafe 
Established: 1939 
7156 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 850-9050, theformosacafe.com 

9) The Tonga Hut 
Established: 1958
12808 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 769-0708, tongahut.com 


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