Remember when a cigar was just a cigar? These days, firing up a stogie in public can seem like a radical political statement rather than a few minutes of quiet reflection. If dirty looks could kill, you’d be doomed every time you smoked one.
But there are still a precious few places where you can puff with impunity, surrounded by like-minded fans of fine tobacco, expertly rolled. Here are 10 of L.A.’s best places to enjoy a cigar.
2nd Street Cigar Lounge & Gallery
A group of lived-in leather chairs lined up along a tobacco-hued wall practically beg you to sit back and light one up. The atmosphere in the high-ceilinged room is convivial, casual and bohemian, and the work of local artists will pull you away from your smartphone. You’ll find a well-stocked humidor and a captivating collection of eccentric downtown denizens. It’s not licensed, but you can always get a libation at the nearby Edison.
124 W. Second St. at Spring Street, downtown; (213) 452-4416, 2ndstreetcigars.com.
A quintessentially Beverly Hills setting on the patio of chef José Andrés’ the Bazaar, Bar Blanca shares the hyperactive yet elegant buzz of its parent restaurant, especially on weekends. The cigar inventory is small but high-quality. Feeling extravagant? Try a Gurhka HMR, infused in an entire bottle of Louis XIII cognac, for $2,000. It’s on the menu.
465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 246-5555, thebazaar.com.
The Buena Vista Cigar Club
Not the Bar Blanca type? Try this down-home place, which has reached cult status with locals and cigar-hankering visitors alike. Cuban-born owner Rigo Fernandez is a cigar junkie, which explains the decor – let’s call it rustic hunting lodge. It’s fun to let them choose a cigar for you, based on your preferences and tastes. There are two floors to choose from; upstairs is more clubby and classy. Smoking is allowed indoors because Fernandez runs the place with practically no staff, thus skirting the statewide smoking ban.
9715 Little Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 273-8100.
The Copper Lounge at InterContinental Los Angeles Century City
This outdoor smoking lounge in the garden of a suave hotel is one of the best-kept secrets of the Los Angeles cigar world. The cocktails are excellent, too — many enthusiasts have singled out the classic Sazerac, made with blueberry-anise bitters, and the Tokyo Cruise, which consists of lwai whiskey, rosemary simple syrup, yuzu, orange, lemon and lemon peel. Happily, the lounge's tobacco license recently was reinstated, and cigars can be purchased in-house.
2151 Avenue of the Stars, Century City. (310) 284-6500, intercontinentallosangeles.com.
Better make a reservation at this sultry, speakeasy-like Cuban club with a dedicated cigar room. And be warned: They’re serious about their dress code. If you can’t go out without your hoodie or flip-flops, avoid this place. But La Descarga's over-the-top charms make dressing up a necessity. If you pass muster with the guard, you’ll ascend to what looks like a run-down hotel room. From there you eventually enter a dark and moody club with a long menu of rum-based cocktails and — the object of your desire — a ventilated smoking room. The cigar menu is small but excellent in quality, and you can always bring your own.
1159 N. Western Ave., Hollywood; (323) 466-1324, ladescargala.com.
Lobby Bar at Terranea Resort
Enjoy the comforts of scotch and cigars on a terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean in one of the most spectacular locations in Southern California, the vertiginous edge of the rugged Palos Verdes Peninsula. Cigar and spirits pairings highlight the characteristics of specific labels, matching them with cigars that have complementary qualities. The Balvenie Flight, surely a favorite among Scotch fans, includes 14-, 17- and 21-year-old old single malts from a beloved Speyside distiller. A small but decent inventory of premium cigars is available.
100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes; (310) 494-7891, terranea.com.
Lock and Key
From the outside, it’s … well, “nondescript” doesn’t really do justice to the sheer drab anonymity of this Koreatown speakeasy. But inside it’s a dramatically different story: a backlit bar, marble walls, artsy barstools and an air of imaginative sophistication. Keep an eye peeled for Whisky Cigars & Jazz events here. It’s the right setting for a cigar, and you can smoke one on the patio, although they don’t sell them on the premises. Venerable El Leon Cigars at Sixth and Western isn’t far, and it’s worth a separate visit.
239 S. Vermont Ave., Koreatown; (213) 389-5625, lockandkey.la.
Mr. C Beverly Hills
Imagine this 1-percenter moment: You’re kicking back on a teak-decked poolside patio at one of Beverly Hills’ uber-swank hotels. In one hand is an ultra-premium cigar. In the other is a glass of Hennessey’s very best. That sums up the experience at Mr. C Beverly Hills, a place where Westside money comes to get ridiculous. The small humidor at the Lobby Lounge Bar inside the hotel offers only the highest-ranked TABAC cigars — Montecristo, Caldwell, Maya Selva, Padron and My Father, among others — which will pair perfectly with a top-shelf spirit or one of the bar’s craft cocktails.
1224 Beverwil, Pico-Robertson; (213) 291-8322, mrcbeverlyhills.com.
Onyx at Hotel Shangri-La
The sumptuously decorated Onyx, created by Shangri-La owner Tamie Adaya, is the only indoor-outdoor rooftop bar in Santa Monica, and its whimsical decor references several eras. Outside is where you’ll find the stogie crowd — it’s one of the few outdoor bars that allow smoking in Santa Monica. Pick up a cigar at the Lone Wolf Cigar Company nearby (223-B Broadway) and take a stroll over to this hip rooftop. It crowds up on weekends, so get situated early if you want a seat.
1301 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 394-2791.
State Social House
This Sunset Strip pub is a weatherbeaten pseudo-Tudor monstrosity from the outside, but it’s well stocked with the right high-quality spirits, and its cigar menu, while not huge, includes some good bang-for-the-buck choices that start at $11. Hookahs also are available ($25, $10 for a refill), but really, must you go there when there are great cigars to be enjoyed? A Cohiba Black Supremo ($22) caught my eye among the 15 currently offered. The cocktails aren’t going to impress the mixologists in your crowd, but the craft beer choices are decent.
8782 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (310) 657-8100, statesocialhouse.com.