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Bar-hopping in Los Angeles
Experiencing top bars in five Los Angeles neighborhoods
It pays to have done your homework before visiting Los Angeles. The city is spread out over 500 square miles with hidden gems throughout. That’s a lot to choose from. And that’s why I have you covered here with top local bars and gastropubs in five parts of town.
The guidelines: These are select venues where you can chill out and enjoy excellent drinks in Los Angeles. Each place captures the vibes of its local neighborhood. You may also nosh on some good eats. And you might just strike up a conversation with those around you and see where the night takes you. Here goes.
By the beach
As your beach day turns into night in Santa Monica or Venice, and you want to experience a slice of local life, head over to any of these three bars. First up is The Misfit Restaurant + Bar, a gastropub in Santa Monica. It is a casual but lively place to sip on signature cocktails, like the Basil Gimlet, Pimms Punch, and their white sangria. Dig in to standout comfort food like the ahi burger or the crispy lobster nik niks. This place gets packed during happy hour and beyond.
Looking for something more sophisticated in Santa Monica? Bar Chloe may be more your style. The space is candlelit with plush red velvet booths serving up comfort food with a Euro twist and signature drinks.
There is no Venice watering hole more classic than the Venice Ale House. It sits just north of iconic stretches of the Venice Beach Boardwalk next to the sand. Great from breakfast to late night, the Venice Ale House serves beers and ales on tap as well as wine, wine cocktails, and sake. Order a flight of beer served on a skateboard while taking in the California beach vibes. The food menu is all organic and varied with items that range from ceviche to cobb salad to cioppino.
In Culver City
Heading east of the beach to a neighborhood that has recently become an evening destination for foodies, and those looking for a relaxed small-town vibe, The Alibi Room feels like an extension of the living room. It is a minimalist venue housing a large bar with ample stools and couch seating. For drink, there is a stout, IPA, and a blonde on draft with a hefty list of specialty beers by the bottle and a handful of wines by the glass. By way of cocktails, choose from the menu of jazzily named drinks like the Spiced Daisy, the Oaxacan Mule, and the Breaking Bad. And finally, order off a menu stocked with items from the Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck by famed chef Roy Choi.
In Downtown Los Angeles
We are jumping across town now to the bar and gastropub epicenter of Los Angeles. A longtime local favorite of the area is The Varnish. It is a speakeasy with a hidden entrance in the back of the French dip sandwich restaurant and bar, Cole’s. Once inside, the brick and wood-paneled walls, dim lighting, and jazz music may make you utter, “I am never leaving.” An impressive list of high-quality spirits and a curated cocktail menu also await. If you are not quite sure what to order, ask the bartender for a “Bartender’s Choice,” and he or she will craft your beverage with only your tastes in mind. Get here earlier in the night so there isn’t too much of a wait.
As a plan B (and a darn good one), you can’t go wrong with Spring St. Bar, which is a more casual venue than the last with nearly 30 beers on tap and a menu of filling eats like a meatball sub and a veggie melt.
Viewfinder Tip: In Los Angeles, bars close at 2 a.m., so pace yourself accordingly!
By Silverlake and Echo Park
In Silverlake, known to be home to hipsters and creatives, you’ll find a unique venue for the curious beer drinker: Sunset Beer Company. It is both a liquor store stocked with an outrageous number of obscure and hard-to-find bottled beers, and a bar where you can enjoy those beers with friends. Casual. Super local. A great start to a night.
For more on the Sunset Beer Company and other bars in the general area, check out my Travel with Kate episode here, where a local rock band takes me around to their favorite bars.
In West Hollywood
This neighborhood is known for being a hub of the Los Angeles entertainment scene. And Laurel Hardware, a former hardware store converted into a trendy bar and restaurant, will take you right to the epicenter of the scene. Imaginative craft cocktails and healthy yet decadent fare are quite indulgent. For more of a bar ambiance, head to the back room where a large bar awaits—or find a table in the garden. Be sure to make a reservation if you plan to dine.
For a more low-key, budget-friendly, and beer-centric bar in West Hollywood, check out The Surly Goat. There you will find a killer craft beer selection on tap and a big goat’s head mounted on the wall.
What are some of your favorite bars and gastropubs?
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