Now that we’ve finally sobered up from our Metro Gold Line bar crawl, we decided it was time to fire up the ol’ TAP card and find another set of bars within
walking stumbling distance of L.A.’s growing network of light rail stations. On the agenda this time: The Metro system’s youngest line, the Expo, which extends from downtown to Culver City, with eventual plans to reach Santa Monica.
With only 12 stops completed, the Expo Line is one of the system’s shortest. That, combined with the fact that its Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw/West Adams core travels through mostly residential neighborhoods, means fewer drinking options, though the Santa Monica extension should eventually rectify that.
Still, with a little help from our friends at Thrillist and their Metro rail bar map, we managed to find six watering holes within easy reach of existing Expo stations. Total transportation cost: $7 for a TAP card day pass. Beat that, Uber!
Metro station: Culver City
The bar: Father’s Office
Minutes from Metro: 9
What to get: Office Burger and a Hemingway (Rhum J.M Agricole Blanc white rum, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, lime, grapefruit)
To properly pace a good bar crawl, it’s best to start during daylight hours. And you’ll want to pick a starting point with decent food, so you can lay down a protein-and-carbs bulwark against all that impending alcohol.
Father’s Office fits the bill on both counts. With its bright, high-ceilinged bar and ample patio seating, it’s the perfect spot for day-drinking. And the Westside has yet to invent a better booze sponge than the Office Burger, an addictive combination of dry-aged ground beef, blue cheese, arugula and caramelized onions served on a sandwich roll, because it’s too damned big for a regular burger bun.
F.O.’s is best-known for its craft beer selection, but remember the liquor-before-beer rule and resist the siren call of those 36 taps. Fortunately, they also have a small but solid cocktail menu, of which the refreshing Hemingway is your best daytime option.
Metro station: Expo/Crenshaw
The bar: Living Room
Minutes from Metro: 12
What to get: Jack and Coke
This one’s a bit of a hike from the Metro, but it’s worth the walk. A stylish oasis on an otherwise desolate stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard, the Living Room got its start as a hole-in-the-wall blues and jazz dive, but was recently renovated and reimagined as a more upscale cocktail joint. The main entrance is around back, but for the full speakeasy experience, ring the bell on the sidewalk entrance and they’ll buzz you in.
Inside, you’ll find a shotgun-shaped room with a gray marble bar running along one side and black bench seating running along the other. It’s more of a late-night spot, so if it’s still light out (the walk to and from the Metro is better in daylight), don’t be surprised if you have the place to yourself. At most, there may be one or two middle-aged regulars occupying the chrome barstools, providing loud running commentary for whatever sporting event is on one of three widescreen TVs.
Before you’re halfway through your $6 Jack and Coke, you may find yourself joining in the sports talk. It’s that kind of place; after five minutes here, everyone’s a regular.
Metro station: Jefferson/USC
The bar: The Lab Gastropub
Minutes from Metro: 5
What to get: Angel City “Trojan” blonde ale
Every bar within stumbling distance of USC campus is a college bar, but The Lab is one of the few where not every surface feels like it was recently covered in frat bro vomit. Sleek and modern, with lots of polished wood and white subway tile, The Lab succeeds in feeling more like a hip downtown gastropub than a Bud-Lite-and-shots hookup spot.
The bartenders can talk intelligently about everything they have on tap, including the Angel City “Trojan” beers brewed especially for The Lab. Go for the Angel City blonde ale if you’ve worked up a thirst from all that walking, or try the heartier Oktoberfest if it’s still in season. Then sit back and reminisce about your misspent college days.
Metro station: Pico
The bar: Rivera
Minutes from Metro: 4
What to get: The Donaji (mezcal, citrus, agave, pomegranate, chapulin salt) and the pastrami tacos
One of the nice things about the Expo line’s shortage of bars is that even well into your crawl, you’ll probably still be sober enough to stagger into a classy establishment without causing a scene. Which is good news, because in addition to being classy in the extreme, Rivera is also home to one of the most ingenious pieces of drunk food ever concocted: Chef John Sedlar’s pastrami tacos.
After ordering at the bar, sink into one of the ‘70s airport lounge chairs and savor Rivera’s delicious spin on a margarita, the Donaji, made with “single village” mezcal (pretentious? a little) and rimmed with black chapulin salt, a Oaxacan delicacy made from crushed-up grasshoppers (not so pretentious now, is it?). Then prepare to inhale your four single-bite tacos, served with mustard, sauerkraut and jalapeños on blue-corn hard tortillas.
Metro station: 7th Street/Metro Center
The bar: Seven Grand
Minutes from Metro: 4
What to get: Highland Park single malt, neat
There’s no better way to conclude a bar crawl than by savoring a fine single malt Scotch. Seven Grand’s selection of these smoky beauties is among the city’s best. They also have dim lighting and a cozy atmosphere, which you’re probably in need of by now. And if you’re like us, and pool sharking is one of your drunk superpowers, you can usually find some willing victims at one of several tables.
You can pick your poison from over 100 single malts, and hundreds more blended Scotch, American and Irish whiskies. We like the Highland Park because it’s the perfect mix of smoky and sweet, and also because it’s named after one of our favorite L.A. neighborhoods. But tell the bartenders what you like and you can’t go wrong.
Bonus bar: Monty Bar
Minutes from Metro: 11
What to get: $10 old-fashioned and a $3 can of Highlife
Since this was a short crawl, we’ll give the boozier among you one extra stop. Walk back up 7th Street, over the 110 freeway, and you’ll arrive at Monty Bar, the watering hole of choice for the up-and-coming Westlake section of downtown. With high ceilings, huge booths for large parties, and a gorgeous, Victorian-style bar of carved, dark wood, it’s got great atmosphere. A $10 craft cocktail menu, plus a good selection of draft and canned beers, completes the scene.
Now are you ready to swerve your way back to the Metro and catch the last train home? Yeah, us too. Good crawling, people!