Miracle Mile is pretty much smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles. It got its name for its improbable rise from a dirt farm road to a mid-century shopping destination, one of the most desirable areas in L.A. in the 1950's. That distinction diminished as other neighborhoods developed "downtowns" of their own, and over the decades Miracle Mile's glamour has faded a bit -- as knows anyone who's traveled the pot-holey stretch of Wilshire.
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But it's still got tons of great spots, from the museums to the ornate old theaters. When it comes to watering holes, locals will tell you there aren't as many as there could be. Never fear, however -- we sought out the best bars for you. And so here are the best places to pull up a stool and grab a shot of tequila, an Irish coffee, or whatever's your pleasure.
While The Original Farmers Market is an L.A. landmark, the two bars inside (formally named 326 and EB's) are easily missed on your hunt for Loteria tacos or a cone at Bennett's. They both serve approximately the same assortment of beer (drafts and bottles) and wine by the glass, but of the two, 326 wins for location -- right in the middle of the hustle and bustle, the perfect place to sit with a pitcher of beer while you people-watch. Go during happy hour (4-7pm, Monday through Friday) for $1 off all pints and $4 glasses of wine. It's a great place in early evening for a casual supper, though of course it's BYOF (Bring Your Own Food). 6333 W. Third Street; 326 Phone: 323-549-2156, EB's Phone: 323-549-2157
As one of the few live music venues in the Miracle Mile, Molly Malone's has been a mainstay for 40 years... evolving from an Irish pub with Irish music to a dive bar with a steady supply of good local rock bands. The groups play in the large back room, and up front there are darts, TVs, a nice long bar and moderately priced stiff drinks. It's dark, it's loud, it's grungy and it's an excellent place to hide. Some nights will have a cover, some won't, so be sure to call ahead. 575 S Fairfax Ave.; 323-935-1577
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There's so much about to love about Little Bar: the '80s rock blaring from the juke box. The enormous wooden stools that could easily host a Weight Watchers meeting for long-haul truckers. Darts. The hodge-podge on the walls (a plane here, some license plates there, a mermaid, a rocket ship, a shamrock). It's a place that feels familiar, like a well-worn Boston institution. So, what's not to love? The cocktails, which generally aren't given the attention they deserve. So pull up one of those massive stools to a wagon-wheel table and order a PBR on draft. And if you do it before 8pm Monday thru Friday, domestic beers are $3. 757 S La Brea Ave.; 323-937-9210
Located on one of the "side streets" in The Grove, Whisper Lounge feels hidden and private with a loose, mid-century vibe. Since tourists tend to follow the streetcar tracks to cheesier locales, it tends to be mostly locals who populate this bar/lounge off the beaten path, a great place for a bite and a cocktail -- and even better from 4-6pm, when beer is $3, well cocktails and wine are $6, and calamari is $7.50 (normally $14). They make a fine Manhattan, a crystal clear martini, and have an extensive cocktail list including the very successful "Zinger": Knob Creek bourbon, honey water, bitters and ginger beer. Grab a seat on the heated patio, tap your toes to Sinatra, and settle in. Shhh... it's our little secret. 189 The Grove Dr. (across from Barneys Co-op); 323-931-0202
It's almost two bars in one: a front area with a dark bar and a small stage (more on that later), and a back area emitting a bordello-ish red glow, lined with banquettes and curtains and candles. Sheddy's, hiding in a strip mall near Whole Foods, is a slightly elevated dive bar: the design is long and narrow (best for small groups), and they serve only beer, wine and soju. They have a pretty decent Happy Hour every day from 5-7pm with $3 American beers, $4 merlot and chardonnay, and a $6 cheese platter. Plus free popcorn, all the time. It's got a lot of character without trying too hard, and feels like some kind of Chicago transplant. Oh and that stage? They've got a trivia night, a karaoke night, a pseudo-comedy night, and live music, packing a helluva lot of entertainment in one intimate little package. 361 S Fairfax Ave.; 323-651-1442
Some places have gimmicks for gimmicks' sake -- thankfully, 3Twenty has one with a purpose. They offer wines by the bottle (priced from $26 to $280), and by the glass, but the whole reason to go here is to get your wine by the taste. They've got more than two dozen wines hooked up to a nifty machine: you insert a plastic card, select your wine, and it gives you a perfect pour (1.75oz). Go to the tasting stations as often as you want -- your "credit card" will keep a running tally and you just pay it at the end. The cheapest pour was a white for $1.75 and the most expensive was a red for about $10. All in all a great way to try out new wines without making a huge financial commitment, and the food here is well-portioned, tasty, and also won't break the bank. 320 S La Brea Ave.; 323-932-9500
Bustling even on a Wednesday night, Rascal is one of those great neighborhood spots that satisfies without trying too hard. Boxes of wine are stacked against the wall, low tables are mixed with high tops mixed with communal seating, the servers have that overworked-yet-totally-friendly air that makes you happy to be there, and they've got a healthy pour with their drinks. Granted, they only serve beer, wine and cocktails made with soju or wine (think: sangria and a soju margarita), but from 5-7pm every day, and all night on Monday you can have a drink for $5, and a burger, chicken or po' boy for $5. Tough to beat that -- why would you want to? 801 S La Brea Ave.; 323-933-3229
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It's a pool bar perched on the roof of the Hotel Wilshire -- a hidden gem in a strip of banks and high-rises. Sitting in a cabana with a house margarita, sun glinting down through the gauzy overhang, you could be forgiven for thinking you're in Santa Monica... without the marine layer. This is a crowded spot on nice weekend evenings, and is more stilettos than flip-flops, but the servers are charming, the drinks balanced and creative, and the view spectacular. It's a full restaurant too, so come for a drink and stay for dinner. 6317 Wilshire Blvd; 323-852-6002
2. Stark Bar
For those days when you need a cultural excuse to day-drink, may I present Stark Bar, geographically located between the antiquities and modern art exhibits at LACMA. Most museums give you the bare (but overpriced) minimum when it comes to food and drink, but here you'll get an expertly mixed cocktail like the Lemon Balla (gin, moscatel, muddled lemon wedges, basil) for the same price you'd pay in a less provocative location. They have an impressive list of spirits from which to play with (I recommend the Barbancourt rum) and a bench of talent working the gorgeous bar... the sky's the limit. They have wine, beer, and small bites to fortify you. Pull up a red banquette, contemplate "Levitated Mass," and watch your quick little trip to art-peep turn into an all-day affair. 5905 Wilshire Blvd.; 323-857-6197
If you're driving by, the giant neon shamrock outside advertising Irish Coffee will grab your attention, and the quaint cottage-style building is hilariously out of place for this strip of Fairfax. But this institution, built in 1936, is the best kind of throwback -- it has a great horseshoe bar in front filled with regulars, smiley bartenders, and a ceiling full of shamrocks. Also: a wood-paneled dining room in back that's anchored by a roaring fireplace. The place got a cleaning and the menu a revamp a couple years ago; with their truly excellent whiskey and scotch cocktails you'll be eating some of the best corned beef in the city. Prices are low enough that you can actually afford to be a regular, and even if it's not quite the place where everybody knows your name, the vibe in there is so familiar that it feels like walking in your own front door. 840 S Fairfax Ave.; 323-936-7151
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See also: *Top 10 Bars in Culver City
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