A truly great dive bar is like a successful horror movie: it's a little gross, maybe a bit scary, but always a fun adventure, and filled with an eclectic cast of characters. Some dives are time machines, frozen in forgotten eras, while others make for the perfect spot to lose an hour or three or ten. But finding a good dive can be a daunting task when you're trying to navigate L.A.'s galaxy of nondescript strip malls, with so many questionable doors labeled with small black-and-white cocktail signs. So, as a premier to all that is great and grimy, we present 5 truly fine dives. (And please do tell us about your favorite corner dive in the comments: think of it, if appropriate, as a short short story commission.)
1. The King Eddy Saloon, on the corner of 5th and Main street, for better or worse, captures the feeling of the downtown of 10 years ago. Although the neighborhood has gotten a multi-million dollar make over, the King Eddy still maintains that delectably slimy feeling of L.A's underbelly. Bukowski called the Eddy's bar stools home, and a real speakeasy bustled in the cellar during prohibition, complete with secret tunnels that connected the liquor cellars of many downtown establishments (watch the video above for more). The underground speakeasy is closed today, but some of the bar's antique residents may remember when it was open. Year-round Christmas decorations adorn the area above the bar, and like Charlie O's and the Original Cole's at the turn of the millennium, Eddy's has a mixed crowd of Skid Row residents, artists, and a cyclist or two. To call this bar rough-around-the-edges would be an understatement, but for the most adventurous barhoppers, King Eddy's always provides a night with a story to tell.
King Eddy Saloon: 131 W 5th St Los Angeles.
2. Across the street from the Whole Foods in the Mar Vista area, it's easy to miss the Lost and Found. By no fault of its own, a strip mall seems to have arisen around this dive, camouflaging it in stucco. But inside, the Lost and Found is a dive, through and through. A bizarrely stocked jukebox, surly dudes playing pool, and an indoor gas fireplace come standard on this bar seemingly for Alice Cooper roadies. Cheap drinks, interesting (smelling) people, and stale popcorn make the Lost & Found a west side guilty pleasure.
Lost and Found: 11700 National Blvd, Los Angeles.
3. Let's just get this out there. The Wild Goose is a strip club, but that doesn't mean it isn't a great dive. The Wild Goose lurks beneath the 105 freeway, next to a motel called “Motel” and literally on the other side of the tracks from the airport. With its Swiss ski lodge exterior and somewhat intricate stained glass window (which has yet to have someone thrown through it), the Wild Goose reveals its 40 years as an institution for thirsty pilots, hungry international business travelers, contractors with large cell phones on their belts, and frat guys from El Segundo. Much to the chagrin of the ladies working the stage, most patrons (both men and women) are there just to hang out, grab a cheap beer, and maybe try the lunch buffet.
The Wild Goose: 11604 Aviation Blvd, Inglewood.
4. The Foxfire Room in North Hollywood is a picture perfect dive so good, it was even featured in the film Magnolia (the neighborhood haunt for a brace-faced, former child-genius played by William H. Macy). With a long stretch of red vinyl booths that hug the wood paneled wall, Christmas lights, and an expansive liquor selection, the Foxfire is a place to lay low. The eclectic music selection ranges from classic Credence to crappy Creed, and doesn't encourage dancing (except one mature woman in a captain's hat, provocatively getting down with the bar itself). The small TV's scattered around the bar aren't good for watching the game (the local barflies just absorb the television glow by osmosis). The Foxfire cultivates a cozy Midwest vibe, a great place for gaffers and grips to get away from it all.
Foxfire Room: 12516 Magnolia Blvd, Valley Village.
5. Dear John's is the Dresden Room of the westside, complete a live keyboardist pumping out the jams. Strike that. Pumping out the Billy Joel. An hour of it. But despite the onslaught of the piano man playing “The Piano Man,” Dear John's encompasses the feeling of an old school classy joint. Steaks, martinis, and a bartender who has seen it all. Don't feel ashamed if you get the stink eye from the locals snacking on surf and turf in corner booths. A bar named after a break up letter is a serious place to get a stiff drink.
Dear John's:11208 Culver Blvd., Culver City.