14 L.A. Bars the Locals Don’t Want You to Know About
If you find yourself in the City of Angels, you’ll no doubt run into a long line if you hit up the city’s most popular bars on the weekend. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take advice from 14 locals, and visit these under-the-radar watering holes instead. Not only will you have a more authentic L.A. experience, but you won’t have to wait 30 minutes for a drink.
“As someone who grew up on the Westside, I always love The Daily Pint in Santa Monica. It’s L.A.’s version of a neighborhood English pub and has always been a weird mix of Westside locals, 6 a.m. career drinkers and young professionals. It was always the place where I would end up meeting buddies when I came home from college, and I’m pretty sure it’s the bar where I learned to love the taste of Guinness. You still have to line up your quarters to reserve the pool table and shuffleboard.” — Dimitri Komarov, 1933 Group
“The Other Door in North Hollywood is my secret gem in L.A. that most people (even Angelenos!) don’t know about. It’s a bit off-the-beaten path and hidden from the more popular spots in Ventura / NoHo Arts, so it’s never too crowded. They specialize in absinthe, and the bartenders are super quick and great at making classic cocktails, as well as some super interesting ‘potions.’ They feature live music, billiards and the decor is also unique—a mixture of black and pink goth—so it’s all around always a great time.” — Oliver Goldsmith, The Garland
“Genever is a gin-based cocktail bar in Historic Filipinotown with a beautiful lounge area. [It’s a] smaller space, so don't tell anyone or I won't be able to find a seat.” — Jonathan Michael McClune, APL Restaurant
“I love the speakeasy vibe and bespoke cocktails at The Chestnut Club. The low lighting, big leather booths, exposed brick and elegant fixtures add to the turn of the century feel. It’s my go-to spot for an upscale but still low-key bar experience.” — Sharon Coombs, E.P & L.P
“Interestingly enough, because of the intense regulations and bureaucracy involved in opening a bar in Los Angeles, there are a lot of actual underground speakeasies opening, especially in Downtown. I'd never say where or who are behind them, but those are truly where the locals drink into all hours of the night. That 4 a.m. or even 6 a.m. last call in Los Angeles has been a thing for a long time now. And if you can find it, La Casa Negra is a site to behold. On the more legal side of the stick, Blacksmiths and Hotel Figueroa are excellent places to find a great drink on the weekends without battling the normal Downtown weekend crowds.” — David King, Baldoria
“There’s a laser floor at Lazer Kat in West Hollywood where you can get your dance on. You can find Prince playing on the stereo in the middle of the day with views of the Hollywood Hills on the second floor. From complex cocktails to Piña Coladas, they have everything from the classics to unique, extravagant drinks. The best part: You can take selfies with cats in the bathroom. Oh yeah, and they sell homemade pizza by the slice. Just make sure you take it all in.” — Raphael Cordova, Filifera
“I love The New Jalisco Bar in Downtown Los Angeles. Not sure why it’s called ‘New’ because the first time I went there, it was many, many years ago, and it certainly wasn’t new back then. They proclaim themselves to be the first gay bar in Downtown, and I believe it! They cater to a predominately LGBTQ Latino crowd, but they are super welcoming to whoever wanders through their matte black doors. Sometimes you get extra lucky and can catch an extremely authentic drag show complete with a fabulous JLo impersonator and two matching thong clad go-go boys to boot! I mean, dive bar and a show—The New Jalisco is insanely amazing.” — Coly Den Haan, Vinovore
“I love going to Tabula Rasa because they have an insane natural wine selection. I always walk in there and ask for the most minerally, mushroomiest, nastiest natural wines they have, and they do not disappoint. Their staff is well educated as well—I feel like I learn something new every time I go in.” — Luis Ulloa, Blackbird Pizza Shop
“Right on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, surrounded by ALL the most touristy destinations, there is the ancient Frolic Room—it’s legendary. It is quite possibly the only spot where you can drink shots of whiskey at 3 p.m. on a weekday without running into anyone who will judge. There’s an incredible mural with all the old 1930s actors and actresses, which is a nice flashback into Hollywood history that even the locals appreciate.” — Adam Weisblatt, Last Word Hospitality
“The Prince in Koreatown has been featured in so many TV shows, including Mad Men. As soon as you walk in, you instantly recognize it. However, it’s interesting because it is a more of a local hang, and not a tourist trap. My go-to order is Crown Royal on the rocks or with soda. Be careful with the soju—it’s super sugary.” — Ricki Kline, Ricki Kline Design + Build
“The HMS Bounty in The Gaylord Apartments in Koreatown has been a historical drinking hole institution since the ‘60s. This is where the regulars don’t get any more regular. ‘Scotch on the rocks, in a bucket’ is quite common. Take your drink over to the jukebox—not the one that plays CDs, the one that pays records. Put on the Ink Spots’ ‘If I Didn't Care’ and rest your elbows with a whiskey. It’s hard to find a good jukebox anymore. Here you'll find it.” — Eddie Navarrette, FE Design & Consulting
“My go-to, under-the-radar bars that are my fav are the Joao bar in the Jeremy Hotel and the Ever Bar at The Kimpton Everly Hotel in Hollywood. Both of the bars always have a chill atmosphere, and I know that I can get a lovely cocktail or two there. They are bars where I want to stay for a while.” — Dee Ann Quinones, Employees Only LA
“The Wallace in Culver City has a great bar program mixed with high-quality food and ambiance. Also a great wine list. This place always seems to not get noticed, which works great for me.” — Kim Stodel, Providence
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