The 10 Best New Bars in Los Angeles 2015
The Fiscal Agent
Raise a glass to 2015. The past year has been kind to cocktail, wine and beer drinkers alike (for the latter, see also 5 Best L.A. Breweries of 2015) — thanks to the debut of excellent bars that are pushing the boundaries of how we drink and socialize in our vast city. We’ve hand-selected 10 destinations where it's worth opening a tab. Some are exploring the bartender omakase format, some are creating elegant concoctions that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris or London, and some just want to be that divey joint around the corner where you’ll be welcomed with a shot and a beer. Los Angeles, of course, has room of all of them.
Chris Day at General Lee's
10. General Lee’s Cocktail House
It might technically be incorrect to label General’s Lee a new business, considering the space in Old Chinatown it occupies was known as General Lee's restaurant as far back as 1878. It wasn't until recently, however, that the former Mountain Bar space was revamped and revived as a tropical/Orient-inspired, two-story cocktail lounge complete with bamboo barstools and palm tree wallpaper. Bar director Chris Day's current menu is themed around the eight elements of Daoist cosmology, which might seem cerebral but really just means killer drinks like the Mountain, made with mezcal, sherry and pineapple-sesame gomme. —Garrett Snyder 475 Gin Ling Way, Chinatown; (213) 625-7500.
9. Now Boarding
Now Boarding opened its doors at the end of December last year, touching down in West Hollywood with a ‘60s-era, air-travel aesthetic. The glamorous frills of a bygone era permeate everything from the walls lined with booths (the seats themselves are inspired by an old-school flight cabin) to a large mural depicting flight routes across the globe. Aviation-themed cocktails like the Fog Cutter weave zesty citrus into a rum drink spiked with orgeat, while the D.B. Cooper uses muddled watermelon and jalapeño to combat the vegetal twang of a tequila blanco. The bar's sheer commitment to its theme makes for an enjoyable, if kitschy, evening out, but bar manager Wil Figueroa’s devotion to craft cocktails is what distinguishes this spot as L.A.'s true mile-high club. —Brad Japhe 7746 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 848-8447, nowboardingla.com.
Wade Design Co.
8. Bar Bandini
Echo Park is home to many bars, but few have struck a better balance between accessible and fashionable than the recently opened Bar Bandini. Bare and intimate, the interior’s exposed wooden framing lends the feeling of a garage pop-up, albeit one where you’ll find natural wines offered by the glass or on tap (there’s a good chance you’ll find an orange wine or pet-nat on the rotating list) and a solid roster of local beers. We love Bandini in part because it offers such underrated service; it's a place to chill with a glass of Gamay and hold a conversation at normal volume. —G.S. 2150 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park.
With the addition of bars like the barrel-shaped Idle Hour and the literary-themed Catcher in the Rye, the boom of North Hollywood’s craft cocktail scene was one of the year’s major developments. The most pleasant surprise, though, was bartender Aidan Demarest’s partnership with old-school Italian restaurant Little Toni’s to launch a cozy, 10-stool setup in the restaurant’s neglected bar space. BarToni’s pays tribute to overlooked '70s cocktails like the Grasshopper and Harvey Wallbanger’s, but they know how to craft a killer Manhattan, too. —G.S. 4745 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 763-0131.
6. Southland Beer
Koreatown’s Southland Beer is a little difficult to find given there's no street signage, and even when you pull into the lot, the door is barely marked and hiding between a beauty salon and a popular Korean blood-sausage restaurant. Once inside, however, your search is rewarded with a drinking space so intimate and dimly lit, it could easily get away with being a cozy neighborhood wine bar. Instead, the focus here is craft beer, with taps that rotate through special releases from Southern California breweries like Three Weavers, Monkish, Bottle Logic and Barley Forge. The expertly curated selection of uncommon IPAs, saisons, ciders and sours at Southland is a refreshing change of pace, especially in a city where stocking major craft beer titles is now all but a requirement of most beer bars. —Sarah Bennett 740 S. Western Ave., #112, Koreatown; (213) 908-5104, southlandbeer.com.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Los Angeles dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.