These days, it seems the hotter a new bar is, the harder it can be to find. Low-key exteriors and lack of signage help keep undesirables out, sure, but many new establishments choose to stay hidden because they genuinely don’t care about advertising their presence. Good word of mouth ensures they don’t need to. Though many opt for this hidden cachet when they first open, they soon learn they can’t count on it forever. (Geisha House and CineSpace, for example, eventually made their presences known.) Still, some have managed to keep the mystery — and the booze-fueled mayhem — going while maintaining their outta-sight outsides. You don’t need a treasure map to find these rip-roarin’ drinkin’ holes; just look for traffic, choppy haircuts and/or a big scary dude out front.
The Room. Cahuenga Boulevard is cluttered with an excess of flashy entrances beckoning barhoppers into their exultant establishments — Velvet Margarita’s pink-and-black monstrosity, Beauty Bar’s retro-parlor winky-drink style, that awful sports bar Big Wangs on the corner of Selma Avenue. But amidst it all is the Room, which has quietly been going strong for eons, virtually veiled from the bustling beer-chugger set with a rear entrance, a dark, divey, even dangerous vibe, and DJs spinning everything from rock to hip-hop. Despite its locale, it still feels like it’s a world away from the hoopla of nu-Hollywood. 1626 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 462-7196.
Little Joy. The Eastside’s across-the-block alternative to the slightly more trendy Short Stop, Little Joy is the hang of choice for locals thanks to its stubbly mix of band dudes and eccentric drunkards. Its shabby, nondescript outer walls — and gay past — seem to establish its position off the Westside wanker radar for now, at least. 1477 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, (213) 250-3417.
Falcon. Speaking of Westsiders, if you’re into showing off your wad and your pricey, shitty-gas-mileage-gettin’ ride, this swanky eating joint, which uses only a Batman-like projection of its namesake bird outside, is still where ya wanna be. Of course, the Hummers and Mercedes SUVs that congest Sunset Boulevard out front give its location away before you even get near it. 7213 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 850-5350.
The Bar. With an obvious name like “The Bar,” you don’t really need a sign out front, now do ya? This cozy and cool spot, which has just an awning with its address out front, offers the liveliest word-of-mouth-only Monday-night gathering we know, Bent, featuring wild and crazy ’80s tunes and a crowd to match. 5851 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 468-9154.
Coda. Its dark alley entrance and dim-lit ambiance make this Valley hang a great place for a secret rendezvous. But locals from surrounding Sherman Oaks, Studio City and North Hollywood haven’t had any trouble finding it on a regular basis. Backed by the same people from the Room (and its Santa Monica sister), this one is decidedly more upscale, with a small VIP area, dance floor and Valley vamps who aren’t afraid to make good use of both. 5248 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 783-7518.
Hyde. Okay, this one actually does have a sign out front, but its entrance next to the Laugh Factory (and the flurry of fashion billboards that draw the eye upward as you enter the mouth of the Strip) makes it easy to miss. Even if you do find it, don’t count on getting in. This SBE/Brent Bolthouse hang (formerly North) is the room of choice for the celeb set, so much so that the owners really don’t want press (they asked us not to write about it when it first opened). Still, you can’t flip through a tabloid or TV entertainment show without hearing about some starlet spat or hookup here. Alas, once the haughty-hip buzz starts on an exclusive space like this one, there really is no hiding. 8029 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 655-8000.