Best dive bars: Hip local watering holes in LA

Whether its PBRs on draft in a Santa Monica pub or a Hollywood bar with tiki kitsch, here are LA's best dive bars.

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

LA's dive bars are as varied as its neighborhoods. From a tiki theme in Hollywood to a whiskey-lover's haven in Santa Monica, we've got your guide to the city's best (and hippest) watering holes.


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Daily Pint

  • Price band: 2/4

At first glance, this might look like your standard dive, but step inside and take a closer look—there are hundreds of bottles of whiskey cluttering the shelves and an impressive, ever-changing line-up of craft brews on tap, from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Cocoa Mole to Firestone Double DBA. Grab a bottle or glass, then head to the next door room for a game of pool.

  1. Santa Monica
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Golden Gopher

  • Price band: 2/4

Mr. Downtown, aka Cedd Moses of the Varnish and Seven Grand, is behind this Downtown haunt that’s a perfect mix of high and low where you can come for a quick PBR or stay for a fancy, well-made cocktail. Prices are reasonable, the jukebox is stocked with oldies-meets-Coachella, and an old school arcade (think Pac-Man) allows for friendly drinking games. Do note, however, that dress code is enforced. A dive with a dress code, how very LA.

  1. Downtown
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HMS Bounty

  • Price band: 1/4

Naturally enough, LA's best nautical-themed bar sits fully 15 miles from the water. Located in Koreatown, this agreeably egalitarian bar is famed for the warmth of its welcome and the cheapness of its drinks, characteristics that are embraced by everyone from visiting rockers to residents of the Gaylord apartment hotel directly above the taproom. Saddle up to the bar or stake out a red leather booth where well-seasoned waitresses serve up dishes—don't miss the Famous Baseball steak—from a traditional American menu.

  1. Koreatown
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Renée's Courtyard Café & Bar

  • Price band: 2/4

It’s likely that you’ve walked past this lesser known Santa Monica dive. But once inside, a cluttered cross between an old enchanted forest meets your crazy aunt’s home at this kitschy, knick-knack filled café and bar. Disjointed between several indoor/outdoor drinking/dining rooms, Christmas lights deck trees and dolls suspended from the ceiling. On offer is pub-like fare of burgers and buffalo wings, a basic beer and wine selection, and a not so special “specialty” drinks list (think Lemon Drops and Mai Tais).

  1. Santa Monica
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Tiki-Ti

  • Price band: 2/4

In Los Angeles, with its year-round warm weather, the Polynesian-themed tiki bar never goes out of season. Jam-packed (like an episode of Hoarders) with blowfish, tribal masks and faux tropical foliage, entering Tiki-Ti is like taking a tropical vacation without the plane ticket. As one would expect, the kitschy bar serves brightly-colored tropical drinks—Mai Tai or Blue Hawaiian does the trick—with the requisite pineapple and maraschino cherry skewer. Surprisingly, this place generally packs a long line, not because there’s a red velvet rope out front, but because of the dive’s miniscule size.

  1. Hollywood
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The Dime

  • Price band: 2/4

Amid the craft cocktail bars sprouting up on, seemingly, every corner, the Dime stays true to its roots, offering Angelenos a sip of the unpretentious with its cheap drinks and hip-hop beats. There's no door policy and no fancy drinks; nonetheless (or consequently), hipsters flock to this tiny Fairfax dive that’s got nightly DJs and the convenience of Canter’s 24-hour eats across the street.

  1. Mid-City West
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Short Stop

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Past the pupusa and hot dog street stands sits a black box of a bar, with a blazing red "cocktails" sign as its only marker. Enter beyond the big guy at the door, into a scene from Dazed & Confused—clearly, management hasn't updated the grungy aesthetic in forever. This retro, hipster hangout is most known for its popular, disco ball-bedecked dance room and, depending on the night, you’ll find '70s-era disco to New Age pop. Either way, this is the neighborhood spot for cheap drinks; you're most likely to pound back your standard brews (Bud, Coors), but there's also local, craft brews like Bear Republic Brewing's Racer 5 and made-in-LA Revolution from Eagle Rock Brewery.

  1. Echo Park
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The Woods

  • Price band: 2/4

Both of LA's greats, sushi and bars, can be found (surprisingly) in strip malls, and the Woods is no exception. Next door to exotic ice creamery Mashti Malone’s, the cozy bar looks like a modern hunting lodge with its antler chandeliers, tree stump tables and geometric, wooden-block walls. A long snaking bar spans much of the venue’s length, behind which bartenders pour cheapie well drinks, wine and domestic brews for $5 and under. Though the place is more of a locals hangout than schmancy cocktail bar, it’s nonetheless owned by Vintage Bar Group (El Bar, No Bar), so a cocktail of Old Fashioned to SEXX in the Woods can also be found.

  1. Mid-City West
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Cha Cha Lounge

  • Price band: 1/4

Hipsters pack into this Tijuana-themed, Silver Lake bar illuminated by a lone "Lounge" sign out front. Inside, the thatched roof bar serves Pacifico by the bottle or PBR on tap. Join the party, decked in the festive, Mexican knick knacks from sombreros and colorful flowers dangling overhead to portraits of drag queens and blacklight paintings on the walls. The bar's décor is a confusing conundrum, which makes the bar and appeals to the local nabe folk. Photo booth, foosball, and oversized, shiny black booths—all in check.

  1. Silver Lake
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Verdugo

  • Price band: 2/4

Owner Ryan Sweeney knows his beer, probably better than anyone else in Los Angeles. So, don't be surprised to find one of the most comprehensive beer collections in the city, from rare bottles—drink in or take home—to 22 brews usually not found on tap. Though the aesthetic isn’t especially exciting—a simple wooden bar plus stools sit behind a few loungey tables—the outdoor back patio might be your best bet. Check the bar’s Twitter for local food trucks in the mix.

  1. Glassell Park
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