There's a thin red line -- or perhaps a fuzzy purple one -- between restaurants with good bar programs, and bars with good food. This is a list of the latter: The following are drinking establishments in which you don't feel guilty pulling up a chair just to have a drink, but where the food is much better than it needs to be. These are the perfect places to head after work when you're starving -- to meet up with your friend who already ate. No one's going to look down their nose at you if you just order a glass of wine and pick at your friend's fries.
There are a gazillion bars in town that serve a good burger. But on this list you'll find burgers and dogs and nachos -- as well as salads, sushi, mole and charcuterie. It's bar food, elevated. And there's a nice bonus when you eat dinner in bars: Happy Hour. Many places will slash prices on booze and bites, potables and provisions, spirits and snacks. Keep reading for the best of the bunch. We know there are more bars in town than days in the year, so if we've missed your favorite, add it to the comments section!
10. El Carmen
El Carmen is a tequila bar serving stick-to-your-ribs Mexican fare. The tables are bar-sized; the lighting is dim-to-dark; and the menu, a thick little booklet of 16 pages, only dedicates two of those to food (the rest is the tequila list). But the guacamole is top-notch, the tamales are rich and creamy, and the tacos (particularly the pork taco) more than serviceable.
During Happy Hour here (Monday thru Friday, 5-7 p.m.) eleven bucks will get you a freshly squeezed margarita and a platter of tacos with rice and beans. Plus, this place is just cool. There are Mexican wrestling masks on the ceiling and Mexican wrestler portraits on the walls and you have to walk through a velvet bordello curtain to get in. It's fun. You want to be there. So go. 8138 W 3rd St., Los Angeles; (323) 852-1552.
Tucked into the Warehouse District, just beyond the bistro fare of Church & State, you'll find an industrial little wine bar serving food that's filling and flavorful and far better than you'd expect from their teeny little kitchen. During Happy Hour (4-7 p.m. daily) there are six food options for five bucks: bruschetta, oxtail tacos, white flatbread pizza topped with artichokes and olives, papitas bravas (roast baby potatoes with aioli), a grilled vegetable sandwich, and the insanely addictive Greek nachos.
Crispy pita chips are topped with melted feta, roast eggplant, tomatoes, olives and a tangy tzatziki sauce; you'll wonder why no one thought of these before. Pour Haus serves beer and wine, including generously poured $10 wine flights, and every patron gets a bowl of truffled popcorn to start their evening. Come for a bottle, stay for a plate -- the Mediterranean-influenced menu pairs beautifully with fermented grapes. 1820 Industrial St., Los Angeles; (213) 327-0304.
Compared to so many East Coast cities, Los Angeles is woefully short on delis. Good news, meatball sub fans -- one of our better delis is located inside a bar! Take that, New York! At Spring Street Bar, a high-ceilinged, casual spot of bar stools and communal high-tops, the back corner is dedicated to a cold cuts case and a toaster oven. From that humble spot emerge warm, crusty sandwiches like prosciutto and burrata, Cubano, roast beef, and a killer veggie melt of smoked cheese and avocado.
You may not think you're hungry but once the table next to you puts in an order, the smell alone will inspire you to get one of your own. Don't worry, they're big enough to share -- but be aware, you need to order at the bar, and keep an ear out for the bell meaning your meal's up. Wine, booze, and a good rotation of interesting draught beers will round out the experience. Ding! 626-B S Spring St., Los Angeles; (213) 622-5859.