The Place: El Prado, 1805 W. Sunset Boulevard, Echo Park; 213-483-8609.
The Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun. 2:30 p.m.-2 a.m.
The Digs: Classy yet understated, the interior of El Prado, at least what you can see of it through the shadows, is dominated by the long wooden bar and the broad chalkboard peering down from the wall behind the bar advertising tasty things like Delirium Tremens and St. Bernardus. El Prado focuses on wine and craft beers but its menu is blessedly no model of consistency. The taps and bottles seem to change more frequently than the records spinning on the turntable.
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The turntable is behind the bar too, but the 'tenders here are more than capable of sliding vinyl out of sleeves and topping off pints at the same time. There is no food beyond nibbles -- salami, goat cheese, olives, and so forth -- but you can have an iffy pizza slice across the street for a third of the price of a tasting plate. Or a solid taco for even less. Come on a Tuesday, when the dudes from Origami Vinyl preside over Record Club Night.
The Verdict: When you're of a certain age, you're willing to skate across beer-slicked floors and squeeze through crowds of big glasses and aggressively asymmetrical haircuts for a good jukebox, cheap cans, and possibility: the promise of people you might meet, moments the city out there humming and shimmering in the night could deliver.
Then at some point you change. You start going to dive bars to read and watch sports, not close them down. When you want to see friends, to be out, you go to a place like El Prado. You've developed a taste for micro-brews, and when you drink now, you're prone to inserting terms like "bouquet" and "mouthfeel" into barroom conversation. I'm a hophead, you say, tipping back a Green Flash I.P.A., not caring in the slightest that your younger self, the one who did whiskey shots at 2 a.m. on Monday nights, would be revolted. On weekends, El Prado teems with humanity, and while you don't love the crowds, bathroom lines, or occasional wafts of cigarette smoke drifting in from the tiny outdoor patio, you're philosophical. After all, you came early and you'll be be leaving early too. Someone has to pay the babysitter.
Overall Grade: A-