In recent years, whole districts of new nightlife options have popped up all over the City of Angels, especially in Hollywood and downtown, where tourism east of the beach is centered. Even for an intrepid weekend warrior, it can be hard to find the right balance among ambience, innovative libations, affordability and comfort in this ever-expanding after-hours landscape. Stepping into the bars in LA is like love at first sight. Meet your new crushes.
Good Times at Davey Wayne's
GTDW, which is nestled below the Hollywood Hills on El Centro Avenue, is the perfect place to spend a lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon. Passing through its trademark vintage refrigerator door is like taking a time machine back to the '70s. Owned and operated by brothers Mark and Jonnie Houston, the bar was founded as a tribute to their late father, and the intimate atmosphere makes GTDW as familiar as your own living room. In addition to the House Beer and frozen tropical drinks available on the back patio, the long-haired bartender behind the fully stocked bar makes a mean cocktail. Try the Cisco Kid, a powerful concoction based on homemade jalapeno-infused tequila with absinthe and lemon juice, rounded off by a glob of agave syrup.
If you're looking for the authentic Southern California cantina experience, La Cita — along with its subsidiary, El Patio — is the place you want to be. Located in downtown LA, right across the street from the iconic Angels Flight funicular railway, La Cita is really 2 bars in 1. The interior looks like a crazy mariachi carnival ride, complete with a bullfighting mural, Day-Glo lighting and an exciting events schedule that features everything from punk-rock reggae to Wednesday’s hip-hop happy hour. If the music in the main room is too loud, El Patio out back has a fully stocked bar, but it’s the cheap Modelos straight out of the cooler that sell like hotcakes here.
Whiskey and bourbon connoisseurs will feel right at home in Silver Lake’s fashionable Thirsty Crow, which is conveniently located on Sunset Boulevard, just a few blocks from the hip neighborhood’s main drag. With more than 100 different whiskeys and bourbons, even the pickiest drinkers will find something to love on the expansive menu. The Thirsty Crow makes all of its numerous infusions, jams, purees, liquor-laced sherbets and juices in house. Don’t miss the Jocasta’s Horchata, which sports a healthy mix of Zaya rum, Licor 43, maraschino and rice milk, topped with cinnamon.
Charles Bukowski, the poet/sage of Los Angeles and patron saint of barflies everywhere, once wrote, “I don’t like jail; they got the wrong kind of bars in there.” Among the right kind of bars, the writer’s personal favorite was the historic Frolic Room, which dates back to the speakeasy days and is located on the outskirts of Old Hollywood, near the famous intersection of Hollywood Avenue and Vine Street. The Frolic Room remains such an authentic dive that you halfway expect to see Bukowski himself hunched over a beer in a corner. There’s a basic lineup on tap (the most artisanal it gets is PBR), but the bartender’s forte is the classics — think Old-Fashioneds, whiskey sours and Tom Collins.
Spacecraft Group Richmond Knight
Complete with a fireplace, large leather sofas and chairs, wood paneling, a library and a game room, the Wellesbourne is more like a Victorian social club than a bar. Classy atmosphere aside, this welcoming gathering spot is manned by a crew of expert mixologists, who would just as soon concoct a custom cocktail as they would one of the many excellent drinks on the formal menu. Even that selection includes vintage drinks that you don’t see everywhere, chief among them the Harvey Wallbanger and the grasshopper. The latter, a vicious delight containing equal parts green creme de menthe, white creme de cacao and cream, is sure to put you in your happy place.
The Red Lion, a German restaurant and bar located in Silver Lake, updates the timeless bierstube style in a raucous environment that will appeal to grannies and hipsters alike. Every weekend, Eastside artist types, Hollywood industry folks and schnitzel connoisseurs enjoy the upstairs open-air beer garden, which looks as though it’s straight out of Bavaria. Don’t miss impromptu piano-bar moments in the homey downstairs bar, too. Fill up on delicious house schnitzel with spaetzle or a sausage platter with buttery mashed potatoes and sauerkraut before settling in for a long night of drinking weissbier out of barrel-size steins.