From the glossy, international beach dream of tobacco titan Abbot Kinney, to an oilfield slum for half a century, Venice's history has been turbulent. Because of its affordability the neighborhood attracted a diverse counterculture population in the '60s, followed by the skateboarding Z-Boys who used derelict elements of Venice as a foundation for sport. Some of that colorful population remains today but is now contrasted by an influx of affluent residents.
Some of the diviest watering holes of bygone years have been replaced by trendy haberdashers and high-end baby couture. Still, some remain, and our picks below are the best of what Venice bar culture has to offer, both old and new.
See also: The Top 10 Bars in Santa Monica
For the week between paychecks, Nikki's has your back with the best budget buzz in town. $3 beer, house wine and well drinks wash down weekday food specials — the three-cheese nachos will feed a crowd. With ample TVs, it's a great place to watch the game, college football especially. A DJ comes on at 10 p.m. and the kitchen is open late. 72 Market St., Venice; (310) 450-3010.
9. The Brig
You may not start out your night at The Brig but you may well end it here. This longstanding Venice establishment has a retro space age vibe. The drink list is familiar, the lighting is moody, and the jukebox plays loud. No one is taking themselves too seriously — a refreshing change from the rest of Abbot Kinney. 1515 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 399-7537.
See also: A photo tour of Venice's best bars
The Venice Whaler is a wild card bar. There's no way to anticipate what the crowd is going to be like, or how the night will end — which is part of the fun. From the downstairs bar, bear witness to rollerbladers, skateboarders and the many eccentrics of Venice converging. Upstairs is its own beast, with a rowdy crowd taking down pitchers of beer and working the smoking patio. 10 Washington Blvd., Venice (310) 821-8737.
See also: The 10 Best Bars in Culver City
Great views from High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin look out over the coast and all the way to Catalina on a clear day. You can also rub elbows with international tourists, hotel patrons and neighborhood residents as everyone tries to out-instagram each other's sunset pics. Perch on a lounge chair with a plate of sliders or just show up for a quick Strawberry Mule while the sun tucks behind the Santa Monica mountains. 1697 Pacific Ave., Venice; (424) 214-1062.
6. The Otheroom
On Abbot Kinney, The Otheroom is the place to see and be seen. The wine and beer aren't the cheapest in town but you don't come here just to drink. It's a great place for a first date — flattering light and even amplified music (in case your match is a miss). It's a treat to have a room that breathes in a neighborhood that holds each square foot so dearly. 1201 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 396-6230.
Think of Wurstkuche as a modern interpretation of a German beer hall — long communal tables and traditional Bavarian beers, but with exotic sausages (rattlesnake and rabbit, duck and bacon) and a DJ. By dark it will be loud and take on a nightclub vibe; on a weekend afternoon it's the perfect place to peruse the 24 beers on tap, the extensive mustard lineup and dipping sauce for fries. Let the Gemutlichkeit (and beer) wash over you. 625 Lincoln Blvd., Venice; (213) 687-4444.
No Venice bar list is complete without a Rose Avenue representative. Venice Beach Wines took a chance opening doors and offering a reliable selection of wine to thirsty locals almost eight years ago, on what was then a transient superhighway. It has become a casual-chic gem where there's always a seat for folks stopping in for a quick happy hour drink and charcuterie plate, before heading to one of the numerous neighboring restaurants. 529 Rose Ave., Venice; (310) 606-2529.
If suspenders and the 21st Amendment get your heart racing, go no further than Townhouse and the Del Monte Speakeasy on Windward Avenue. After just one happy hour Old Fashioned, you'll wonder if ghosts of the Volstead Act still haunt the 1915 building smelling of bathtub gin and hip flasks. Between 5- 8 p.m. the alluring 2 oz. classic whiskey cocktails made with single-barrel Buffalo Trace bourbon are only $5. Come later for live jazz, DJs and burlesque. 52 Windward Ave., Venice; (310) 392-4040.
Beachfront bars rely so heavily on location that food and drink typically become an afterthought. Not so at Venice Ale House, where the beer list is of such high calibre that the ocean view and boardwalk people-watching are secondary. No other Venice bar comes close to the 32 taps of West Coast craft beer, making it the only destination in town for beer lovers. Try the grass-fed burger and request a “Skate” of beer or wine. 2 Rose Ave., Venice; (310) 314-8253.
1. Hinano Cafe
This classic Venice dive has been beloved by locals long before gentrification. Just steps from the Venice Pier, peak summer season is predictably busy. A visit in the late afternoon (or early morning for $5 breakfast) will have you forgetting you were supposed to be somewhere, prioritizing a pitcher of beer and the mechanics of your pool game. 15 Washington Blvd., Venice; (310) 822-3902.
See also: A photo tour of Venice's best bars
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