Best of L.A.

Best Of 2010


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Best Of :: Bars & Clubs


With an eerie knack for predicting the next terrifying hit, the Screamfest Horror Film Festival has been called the “Sundance of Horror.” Known for discovering cult favorite Paranormal Activity long before it became a box-office hit, the largest horror film festival in the U.S. screens the latest films from independent filmmakers from around the world. The festival has introduced several indie sensations, including Hatchet, The House of the Devil and Human Centipede. Founder Rachel Belofsky (producer of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film) started the festival in 2001. Now housed at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood & Highland, with guests including Wes Craven, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and David Arquette, Screamfest has become recognized as a determining showcase for the latest in horror, fantasy and sci-fi. 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (310) 358-3273, —Deidre Crawford

Ye Best Pineapple-Festooned Groggery of Rosemead (1967)
Bahooka Family Restaurant

Tiki- and Polynesian-themed eateries and bars were once the height of fashion. Today, they are a tragically nigh-extinct breed. (Beloved cocktail shack Tiki-Ti continues to thrive on Sunset by remaining small and retaining demand; even flagship behemoth Trader Vic’s finally shuttered its legendary Beverly Hills location, though a modern-looking location opened at L.A. Live.) They simply don’t make ’em like Bahooka Family Restaurant anymore, and the city of Rosemead east of downtown along the 10 freeway is a perfect out-of-the-way excursion for a taste of suburban tiki cool. None of the taste treats at Bahooka (which opened in 1967) are going to blow your mind; the big platters of ribs, corn on the cob and coleslaw are tasty if not singular, and the mai tais and scorpion bowls aren’t as finessed as some. (This grog will get you good and tipsy, though.) What’s brilliant about Bahooka is the atmosphere — a dimly lit nautical theme with the classic blowfish-and-glass-floats tiki decor and its famous 100-plus fish tanks, with one separating virtually every table in the house. A real throwback to groovier times. 4501 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead. (626) 285-1241; —Nicole Campos

4501 Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, 91770
Best Beefcake(s) in Weho
Hamburger Mary’s

Bingo, boy toys, beer and beef, anyone? Hamburger Mary’s may be the only place on earth where you can enjoy all of these at once. Its “Legendary Bingo” nights on Wednesdays and Sundays ain’t your grandma’s game scene, but if you took her here, we bet she’d never want to leave. Fab prizes, fabber getups and celeb guests calling out numbers make this one a winner whether your card gets filled or not. Other nights, Mary’s hammy hostess roster features some of the finest drag and trans personalities in town: Calpernia Addams’ seductive “Unreal” cabaret show, Saturday’s saucy Wendy Ho Ho Show, the big-voiced Boofant Sisters, the rockin’ vox of Detox on Friday. Mary’s may be a chain restaurant (the menu is packed with notch-above-TGIFriday’s artery-clogging fare and monstrous fruity cocktails), but the WeHo location is more club than café: studly waiters and bartenders, pumping dance beats on the speakers, disco balls in the bathroom and the coolest check tray ever: a silver sequined high-heeled shoe. Size 12, natch. 8288 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. (323) 654-3800. —Lina Lecaro

8288 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 90046
Best Rock Bar of Fame (1957)
The Troubadour

It’s been a long time since comedian Lenny Bruce performed and got arrested on obscenity charges at The Troubadour in 1957, but the West Hollywood live-music venue on Santa Monica Boulevard still packs ’em in and pours drinks freely with a sense, to quote an old Neil Young song, that it’s better to burn out than fade away. Patrons and rockers hang out at the wood-paneled bar in front, maybe grab a seat at a black leather booth, and wait their turn to perform or to catch the band in the surprisingly small and intimate showroom. Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young and Stephen Stills made their live debuts at the Troubadour in 1966, and comedy legend Richard Pryor recorded a live album there in 1968. The list of debuts and historic moments is long: Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Neil Young, Elton John, Billy Joel, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Joe Strummer, The Strokes and many others have a connection to this 53-year-old establishment. If there’s a Hall of Fame for rock venues, the Troubadour, founded by the late Doug Weston, would be inducted. 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. (310) 276-1158, —Patrick Range McDonald

9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069
Best Punky Time
Part Time Punks
Carl Pocket

Before indie acts du jour score a headlining spot at Spaceland or the Echo or blog-beloved FYF, you’re likely to catch ’em on Part Time Punks’ stage, Sundays at the Echo. Five years strong, the live music and DJ dance party from Michael Stock (manning Punks solo since his partner split last year) remains both a big new-band breaker (No Age, Mika Miko, Abe Vigoda, Warpaint, Dum Dum Girls, Yacht, etc., all played PTP when they were unknowns) and one of the best spots to celebrate musical innovators of yore (the Slits, the Chameleons, the Homosexuals, the Nightingales, the Urinals and countless more reunited or re-formed to play here). Tribute nights celebrating better known artists like the Smiths and the Cure bring out new wave/Goth geeks, too. Post-punk, no-wave, Indie-pop — essentially the seminal sound swell that emerged from 1978 to1984 — is boldly and lovingly put into context here with emerging art-rock and dance acts, a combo that has also made Stock’s KXLU radio show — shamelessly inspired by John Peel’s “Peel Sessions” — revered among music heads. Clearly, the appeal of punk you can dance to has gone beyond any one ’hood or clique or style, and PTP is a big reason why. 1822 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. —Lina Lecaro

1822 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026
Best bit of Chinese Kitsch (1941)
Hop Louie

We’re not gonna bullshit ya. Hop Louie is not a destination for great Chinese food, especially in a city that actually does have great Chinese food. But Hop Louie is an experience, a trip, a cultural artifact. And in the right state of mind, it’s just plain fun. In the middle of Chinatown since 1941, Hop Louie has atmosphere to spare: a black lacquered-wood bar and formidable hanging-lantern lighting fixtures; a wall of signed celebrity headshots and a cast of eccentric regulars; a bartender whose encyclopedic mixology skills blend with an acidic wit and a comically imposing, multitiered pagoda structure over the entrance, Hop Louie is what you want in a comfortable, old-school, kitschy/loungey Chinese restaurant. Drinks are cheap and strong; the food — of the crab rangoon/egg roll/fried rice variety — is decent; classic pop oldies fill the jukebox. Not only that, but it’s got two floors, which means even more Hop Louie. 950 Mei Ling Way, Chinatown. (213) 628-4244. —Adam Gropman

950 Mei Ling Way, Los Angeles, 90012
405 Reasons to Love This Bar
West Lounge & Restaurant

You’ve driven past the cylindrical Angeleno Hotel on the 405 at Sunset Boulevard a thousand times without realizing the penthouse is the West Lounge & Restaurant, which offers a “Wow!” view in a sleek, dark setting catering to stylish European travelers as well as locals who love its happy hour Monday through Thursday. Lounge manager Michael Burnett brags, rightly, that every seat has a great view: downtown’s skyscrapers, Century City, Catalina on a clear day. The curving lounge and bar have floor-to-ceiling windows, looped, blown-glass chandeliers, and “sofa boxes” to fit 20 of your best friends. “Un-rushed” hour means $7 mojitos, $4 beer, $5 wine and $4 appetizers. Standout regular bands are Ouí 3 (alternate Wednesdays), whose funk jazz and world music quietly drifts through, and Cross Heart Project (Thursdays), whose cabaret standards often feature well-known guests. Strip Down Tuesdays is open mike. No cover. Park free on the street, or $7 with bar validation. 170 N. Church Lane, W.L.A. (310) 481-7878 or (310) 476-6411, —N. Jenssen

170 Church Lane, Los Angeles, 90049
Best Strip Club to Bring Your Girlfriend (1970)
Jumbo’s Clown Room
Lina Lecaro

Many women don’t enjoy strip clubs. This can be an issue for guys who enjoy seeing their girlfriend face-to-chest with another woman’s boobs. In this perverted dilemma, the answer is Jumbo’s Clown Room, an intimate venue that for more than four decades has allowed its female employees to call themselves “dancers” without patrons rolling our eyes behind their backs. These talented and seductive — but non-nude — dancers attack the on-stage pole with attitude more akin to grrrl-power rock stars than plastic Hollywood hustlers. Strip club naysayers may say female dancers don’t look “real” and project an unattainable sexual fantasy. But not at Jumbo’s. Here the girls embrace and flaunt their individuality. Female patrons are attracted to the dancers’ down-to-earth sexual empowerment and male customers are hooked because their punk-rock, girl-next-door beauty makes us think we could actually get them (we can’t). In truth, Jumbo’s is less a strip club than a risqué dive bar. It’s a locals-only bikini joint for hipsters, bikers, off-duty celebrities, couples, co-workers and, most of all, chicks. And since the music the dancers perform to is straight out of your record collection and not Kid Rock’s greatest hits, your girlfriend won’t even notice how hard you’re staring at other women because she’s doing it, too. 5153 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 666-1187, —Ryan Ritchie

5153 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 90027
Best Chinatown Cool (1946)
Grand Star Jazz Club

A crucial scene in the movie Collateral features Tom Cruise taking his de facto hostage, Jamie Foxx, to a cool, laid-back jazz club, where they listen to an authentic, tastefully smooth combo before Cruise invites the band leader over to their table for conversation, and then calmly blows him away. That scene was shot at Quon Bros. Grand Star Jazz Club, which occupies the same Chinatown pedestrian plaza as Mountain Bar and Hop Louie. While cold-blooded assassinations do not actually occur at Grand Star, fine music does. The first floor features strong, seasoned jazz players while the second level is where ace hip-hop and R&B deejays work kids into a dancing frenzy. The delightfully diverse city crowd is known for its generally good vibes and the DJs, with their specific theme nights, have developed devoted followings. The decor is understated, vintage lounge, appropriate for a place that has been around since 1946. Drinks are strong and cheap. 943 N. Broadway, Chinatown. (213) 626-2285, —Adam Gropman

943 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, 90012
Best Venue to Explore the Fringes of the Underground
Show Cave

Run by curators Eric Nordhauser and Hazel Hill McCarthy, Show Cave is easily one of this city’s most eclectic and imaginative venues, hosting everything from obscure performance-art videos to deafening hardcore bands. The one thing Show Cave’s bookings have in common is uninhibited experimentation — the kind of free-for-all, get-yer-freak-on weirdness encouraged by a long line of great art enthusiasts. Nordhauser and McCarthy take their cues from folks like Andy Warhol and George Kuchar, adopting a legacy of open-armed acceptance of the art world’s more raggedy fringe. The result is always thrilling, a schedule of events where one is guaranteed to be, at the very least, gape-mouthed, if not elated. Show Cave is the first stop for artists from both L.A. and around the globe seeking a venue that doesn’t limit its productions to the straight and narrow. Their newish Eagle Rock space, housed in a historic building and enhanced by Nordhauser/McCarthy’s reimagined interior, is the spot to go if you’re looking for something you’ve never seen before — but will most definitely want to see again. 3501 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock. —Jessica Hundley

3501 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, 90065

We all know that Santa Monica and the Far Westside ain’t got no soul, right? That everything west of Centinela has traded its authentic funkiness for safety, comfort and that overrated sea breeze? Harvelle’s in Santa Monica torpedoes that impression. Harvelle’s is a speakeasy-ish old club decorated in mostly black and red and dripping with cool-cat, “uptown” fanciness from another time. This Westside institution, which dates to 1931, has some of the rawest, heaviest, most soulful R&B, jazz and blues-related sounds anywhere in SoCal. Those include “The Toledo Show,” a smoky, surreal music/cabaret/dance revue in which a very dapper, captivating cat named Toledo leads an ace band and oversees a small troupe of sexily clad “dancers” who writhe on the floor while he alternates between crooning and reciting Beat-style poetry, all with Miles Davis–like intensity. If that ain’t soul, nothin’ is. 1432 4th St., Santa Monica. (310) 395-1676, —Adam Gropman

1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica, 90401
Best Queer Stand-Up Night
Drunk on Stage

There is a plethora of stand-up nights in L.A., but few cater to the queer crowd like the weekly show Drunk on Stage. Located inside a small space in Akbar, a laid-back, unpretentious bar in Silver Lake, talented queer and queer-friendly comics perform every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. before a welcoming crowd. The dimly lit, Arabian-themed room makes you feel like you’re watching comedy in some intimate dive in Dubai. Bruce Daniels hosts the show and often mentions, during his opening set, the trials of hooking up with “straight” men. He says the men insist they’re not gay while still making out with him. Past esteemed alums of the show include Margaret Cho, Maria Bamford and Kathleen Madigan. So if Comedy Death Ray is sold out at the Upright Citizens Brigade, head a few miles east to catch some real alternative comics try their best to tickle your funny bone — or boner, as some of these comics might say. 4356 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 665-6810. —Steve La

4356 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90029



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