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CicLAvia 2012: Where to booze and cruise in Downtown LA

Gearing up for CicLAvia 2012? We've got your guide to Downtown's bars and restaurants to pit stop.

Now that your bike is fixed, you've found a group to meet up with and you've printed out your CicLAvia route map—where are you going to quench your thirst? We suggest you check out these bars along the route. From Downtown's Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Pershing Square to Boyle Heights and MacArthur Park, you'll be wheelin' from dive bars and cocktail dens to karaoke bars and dance clubs. Bikes + brews = booze cruise.

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The Edison

Critics' pick

This 11,000-square-foot power-plant-turned-Downtown hot spot deftly melds industrial architecture and Art Deco chic. Restored artifacts are casually displayed; silent video montages, projected on the wall, revisit the early work of film legends; bartenders handcraft classic cocktails. But nothing's stuffy here—it's a scene almost every night of the week—with DJ's, a live band on Thursdays and party lounges with names like Tesla and Generator, paying homage to the building's past. The dress is "Old-World style," code for look smart—no flip flops, tennis shoes, baseball caps, T-shirts...you get the idea.

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Downtown

Wurstküche

Cousins Tyler Wilson and Joseph Pitruzzelli have the uncanny ability to transform a triangular space into a Wurstküche, contemporary "sausage kitchen," each one outfitted in industrial, geometric furniture—crafted by Pitruzzelli himself—and a DJ booth. The cousins' crew will gladly grill sausages like Polish-style Kielbasa or more adventurous Rattlesnake & Rabbit to pair with a "groot" worth of skin-on frites. In case you didn't know, that amounts to a lot of fries. Wurstküche primarily pours Belgian and German beers from (surprisingly) brand-free tap handles. Try the notoriously tart Duchesse de Bourgogne or sweet Aventinus Eisbock that packs a punch.

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Downtown

The Varnish

Classic craft cocktail aficionado Sasha Petraske is a big deal in New York—he opened one of the city’s first serious cocktail bars Milk & Honey—so when he teamed up with downtown nightlife operator Cedd Moses (Golden Gopher, Broadway Bar, Seven Grand) and barman Eric Alperin in 2009, he launched one of Los Angeles' first sophisticated bars, now considered the godfather of LA's craft cocktail movement. The Downtown speakeasy sits inside Cole's, past a discrete rear door, marked only by a drawing of a coupe glass. Standing at the bar is not permitted, so snag a vintage booth and take in the live piano music; but, of course, the main draw here is the drinks. You can't go wrong with a classic Old-Fashioned or Aviation.

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Downtown

Honda-Ya Izakaya

You know you're in for a good night when you enter the smoky room filled with platters of yakitori grilled over an open flame and bottles of Kirin crowding the table. The Japanese pub offers sushi rolls, tempura and dozens of other bar eats to soak up all that beer.

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Downtown

Eastside Luv Wine Bar y Queso

Less wine bar than Eastside party, this Boyle Heights bar across from Mariachi Plaza pays homage to the nabe's Chicano roots with Mexican-themed movie posters, regularly featured and rotating art from local Latino artists and live mariachi. There's also a live DJ and burlesque show every week.

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Boyle Heights

Golden Gopher

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 with 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.

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Downtown

Mas Malo

The follow-up to Silver Lake's Malo, the Downtown sibling is decked out in a sleek Art Deco room that serves an all-day brunch of updated Mexican-American comfort foods like chicken pozole, vegan menudo and the signature ground beef and pickles taco. Drop in for happy hour during the week from 3-7pm for $4 bar snacks and margaritas. Night owls can linger in the downstairs bar outfitted in swingin' '60's style.

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Downtown

The Grand Star Jazz Club

A jazz club in Downtown's Chinatown? A neighborhood fixture since 1946, the bi-level restaurant turns into a karaoke bar and disco party almost every night of the week. Check the calendar for special live DJs and regularly featured karaoke.

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Downtown

La Fonda on Wilshire

If dive bars and cocktail dens bore you or if you're looking for a special night out, head over to MacArthur Park's La Fonda for a live mariachi show while dining on fine dining Mexican food and drink. Mariachi perform Wednesdays to Sundays, while Fridays and Saturdays see post-show dancing to Latin beats like merengue and salsa.

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Eastside

Tapas and Wine Bar C

Grab a posse of revealers and head to this unassuming Little Tokyo bar where the pours are strong—watch out for the potent Galvatron which will instantly grow hair on your chest—and the bartenders are dressed in maid outfits. Yes, the bar has a fetish costume-theme, so leave your inhibitions at the door...or take another shot.

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Downtown
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