For some Angelenos, the San Fernando Valley is a far more relaxing place to work, live or drink. These days, though, with its many bars — ranging from retro to tiki to modern — the Valley is a drinking destination worth driving to. Ventura Boulevard tends to be the center of the action, which makes for easy barhopping, but the old-school joints are off the beaten path.
Boneyard Bistro, Sherman Oaks
Boneyard Bistro aims to please with one early and one late-night happy hour. This is the place to go if you're in the mood for barbecue and beer. Well drinks are $5, instead of $7; draft beer and wines by the glass are 25 percent off. There isn't a discount on bar food, but there are some tasty offerings that are not available during the dinner hour. Come on, how do you resist a cold one and bacon skewers? Happy hour Mon.-Fri, 4:30-6:30 p.m.; Sun.-Thu., 10 p.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.-1 a.m. 13539 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 906-RIBS (7424), boneyardbistro.com.
NEAT Bar, Glendale
NEAT Bar might not be in the center of the San Fernando Valley, but it's still kind of part of the Valley and well worth the drive. When the rough-around-the-edges spot opened in Glendale, people raised a doubtful eyebrow. Focusing on straight spirits with a chaser sounded crazy at the time. Yet the spot is still going strong and, in doing so, has brought classic drinking to the far reaches of the L.A. Basin. As owner Aidan Demarest says, you can “get a quality whiskey beat with a chaser for $5, a beer for $3, a Guinness for $4 or a decent Scotch for $6. Add cheap Chinese and you're out the door with a tip for bartender and delivery for only $20.” Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 5-7 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.-midnight. 1114 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale; neatbarglendale.com.
The Smokehouse, Burbank
Can't get to Musso and Frank, but feeling a little retro? Flashback to the old days at the Smokehouse, which has changed little since it opened in 1946. Red vinyl booths, crisp white tablecloths and a bar that is actually called “the Lounge” complete the picture. During happy hour, well drinks, wine, and beer, as well as appetizers are 25 percent off. Try the Deep Dish Martini — a double dose (almost three ounces) of gin or vodka, plus dry vermouth and your choice of olive or onion. If you listen closely, regulars may be reminiscing about the good old days. The Rat Pack would be proud. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m. (in the Lounge). 4420 Lakeside Drive, Burbank; (818) 845-3731, smokehouse1946.com.
Tiki No, North Hollywood
How can you resist a bar with puffer fish lamps? After a rough day, just stepping inside Tiki No can make all your troubles right as rain. When you say “tiki,” most people think of Silver Lake's Tiki Ti, but North Hollywood has its own island secret in Tiki No. The bar feels as if it has been there much longer than its years, but in an authentic, not ragged, way. During happy hour, signature drinks — think rum, fruit juice and happiness — are $6, well cocktails are $5, and PBR is $3. Yup, even on the islands, they drink Pabst. Happy hour daily, 5-7 p.m. 4657 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 766-0116, facebook.com/tikinobar.
Tipple & Brine, Sherman Oaks
Social hour at Tipple & Brine brings a classic cocktail aesthetic and $5 oyster shooters to the Valley. Order $7 old-fashioneds or Moscow mules, $6 wine and $5 craft beer and well drinks. Other food includes marinated olives, crispy bacon toast, and mussels and fries, ranging from $4 to $7. The stylishly modern room — dark wood, exposed beam ceilings — is inviting in the way only a gastropub can be. An added bonus is Tipple's Tunnel Bar in the back alley, built for more serious imbibing later. Happy hour Tue.-Fri., 4:30-6:30 p.m. 14633 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 528-2550, tippleandbrine.com.
Tonga Hut, North Hollywood
If one tiki bar in the Valley is good, then two tiki bars in the Valley is divine, especially if both are in North Hollywood for easy one-two access. L.A.'s oldest tiki bar (1958), Tonga Hut offers happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m.. With extended hours like this, plus classic drinks such as the mai tai and zombie, you'll be saying maika'i loa (awesome) in no time. If happy hour isn't enough, get a head start on being a member of the Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard. In order to attain this prestigious honor, you must consume every drink in Jeff “Beachbum” Berry's Grog Log within a year's time at Tonga Hut. Your reward? A handsome plaque, $1 off premium cocktails and bragging rights forever. Maika'i loa indeed. Happy hour daily, 4-8 p.m. 12808 Victory Blvd., N. Hlywd.; (818) 769-0708, tongahut.com.
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book Gin: A Global History. Her book The 12 Bottle Bar, co-written with David Solmonson, was released July 29. Email her at email@example.com. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.