Read about this year's Best of L.A. Food & Drink issue here.
When I wrote the book Los Angeles' Best Dive Bars — Drinking & Diving in the City of Angels back in 2010, the trusty, dusty dive bar was already becoming an endangered entity. Basic barflies don't really stay loyal to one watering hole; they get bored and move on to the next trendy spot, and then hypocritically bemoan their “old hangout” shutting down. You stopped going there, so what did you expect? Some are still with us but under new ownership and not at all like they were (the Powerhouse, Gold Diggers, White Horse, King Eddy's), but most are just gone — nothing more than fuzzy backdrops to distant drunken memories.
RIP (rest in puke): Smog Cutter, Bar 107, Big Fish, Cat Club, Crane's Hollywood Tavern, Hop Louie, the Joker, Le Barcito, M House, Sardo's, Coach & Horses and Spikes, to name a few of our favorites.
Look, the city's aged and austere drinking locales are landmarks, landmarks that must be supported consistently. Some deserve our patronage more than others, though.
Here are the 10 best L.A. dive bars that are still with us and why you should go to them right now, and often. Our city just may lose its soul if any of these close, too!
10. Ye Rustic Inn
Antler light fixtures, lots o' sports on lots o' TV screens and rock on the juke make the Rustic one of the best no-frills bars in L.A. The front bar is one of the friendliest, sometimes flirtiest, you can chug in. But it's the food (namely the spicy, crispy chicken wings) that'll make you a regular. Enjoy them in the back seated area if you care more about getting full than getting seen. 1831 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 662-5757.
9. Frank N Hank
This K-town alky cave has been called Frank N Hank since the 1950s, when Frank purchased the place from his brother, and named it after himself and his son Hank. They owned and operated it until the '90s, when they sold it to a woman named Snow, who was a longtime employee. She ran the joint until the end of 2015, when she sold it to Jimmy Han of Beer Belly. Frank N Hank may lack the thematic amusements of some bars in the area but it has retained its old-school authenticity (that sign!) and strong cheap drinks no matter who's been in charge. 518 S. Western Ave., Koreatown; (213) 383-2087.
8. The Dresden
Still-sequined lounge duo Marty and Elayne are alive and swinging here, and that's all you need to know. 1760 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 665-4294.
7. The Blue Room
Like something out of a Tarantino flick, with groovy aqua-hued booths and retro decor, the Blue Room has a relaxing feel even when it gets loud and lively on weekends. With unique vintage decor and vintage prices, it's easy to see why this one's regulars are true blue. 916 S. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank; (323) 849-2779.
6. Chimneysweep Lounge
Sometimes popcorn, a dartboard and a barkeep with attitude and a strong pour are all you need for a great night. When you want to escape the Hollywood body-con crowd and Silver Lake skinny jeans scene, head to this Valley mini-mall dive, but don't drive (of course). 4354 Woodman Ave., Sherman Oaks; (818) 783-3348.
5. The Kibitz Room
Stiff drinks as reliable as the pastrami on rye next door at Canter's, plus live music from all-star jammers (F.O.C.K.R's on Tuesdays are the night to go) make Kibitz a still-killer, still-kosher locale to imbibe after all these years. 419 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District; (323) 651-2030.
4. Embers Lounge
It's kinda dirty and maybe even a little sketchy, but the Embers is all about the art. California painter Frank Bowers' eerie/sexy work adorns the walls here, and it's something else. His mural depicting topless Old Hollywood movie stars in hell is worth the drive to this Whittier watering hole. 11332 Washington Blvd., Whittier; (562) 699-4138.
3. Burgundy Room
The quintessential rock & roll bar, the Burg is a beacon of badassness that also happens to be one of the oldest bars in Hollywood. It's actually worth battling the Cahuenga clusterfuck to join the punks, rockers and neo-glamsters who call this dark space their hell-raising home. And as long as legendary doorman Torrance Jackson remains out front, all is right with the world. 1621 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 465-7530.
The oldest tiki bar in L.A., this tiny tropical oasis is a local treasure with many precious fruity potions within. You'll almost always encounter a line to get into the family-owned liquor hut, but it's worth the wait. Note: It's never a mistake to order a Ray's Mistake! 4427 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 669-9381.
1. The Frolic Room
The Frolic is the ultimate place to swill and chill and people watch. Its proximity to the Pantages Theatre and bodaciousness of Hollywood Boulevard make for an unpredictable crowd (old men, young couples, foreigners, freaks), which always gets more interesting the longer you hang. Strong cheap booze, cool layout and wall art, and distinguished bartenders in ties are all part of its charm. And if it was good enough for Bukowski, it's good enough for us all. 6245 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 462-5890.
CORRECTION: This story incorrectly stated that Frank N Hanks once was owned by the mother of the Houston Brothers of Houston Hospitality. In fact, their mother owned another dive bar in the area. Frank N Hanks has a liquor license that dates to 1933 and has had different owners over that span. It is owned currently by Jimmy Han of Beer Belly. We apologize for the error.