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Everson Royce Bar
Photograph: Rozette Rago

The 16 best bars in Los Angeles

With all these wine bars, cocktail dens and the city’s best beers, you’ll never need to see your “friend” from college sober again.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo
Contributor
Stephanie Breijo
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L.A.’s bars are still reemerging after a year of turmoil for the city’s entertainment and nightlife scenes—both hit especially hard in 2020—but as of this fall, many have already reopened, in some form or another. And thank god for that. Bars, like restaurants and public parks, give rise to the sought-after sense of belonging and community that characterizes what sociologist Ray Oldenburg called “third spaces.”

Right now, it feels like the thirst has never been more real for connection—a collective frenetic mood that works out well for purveyors of humanity’s favorite social lubricant (sorry, cannabis). L.A. might have cozy dives near the beach, rooftop happy hours with a view of the Hollywood hills, and pricey but delicious concoctions in the swankiest Downtown hotels, but if you’re really asking us, here are the 16 top bars in Los Angeles—for every occasion.

October 2021: While most of our favorite bars are back in action, a number of the city’s best spots are still temporarily closed. With its Hollywood Roosevelt summer pop-up over, we’ve temporarily removed the Spare Room—but eagerly await the reopening of its permanent location. It’s also worth mentioning that all bars, lounges, distilleries and wineries in L.A. County now require proof of vaccination for entry indoors.

The best bars in L.A., ranked

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Virgil Village

This breezy spot with one of our favorite patios is a wine bar, yes, but it’s also a hub for some of L.A.'s best food pop-ups, an occasional DJ and event space, and perhaps, above all, a reopening era nexus for wine-and-food loving aesthetes from all over the city. As of summer, it's become a "full on scene," in the words of comedy writer Dave Schilling. "Guys I'm serious. Melody is popping off. It's 90 percent horny," he tweeted as follow-up in June. With a rotating menu full of small-producer and organic wines, it's also one of the best ways to taste your way through some of L.A.’s best new culinary concepts. Depending on the night and pop-up, the crowd can get kind of hectic, so plan accordingly (Melody only takes walk-ins).

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

New York City’s lauded cocktail bar—and one of the most influential bars of the last two decades, period—brought its moody setting and stellar seasonal cocktails to L.A., landing in the Arts District with a menu that nails the classics but still runs the creative gamut. Cocktails are divided into flavor profiles and vibes such as “light and playful,” “elegant and timeless” and “boozy and honest,” and while the technique and the reverence are real, the team always manages to have fun; the Virginia Beach Vanity Plate, for instance, involves rosé, overproof armagnac, strawberry, aloe and cid phosphate, like a grown-up take on a summery, beachy cheap wine. Not to be outdone by the drinks, Death & Co. also serves seasonal small plates to snack on, plus larger plates and desserts, for a full experience that’s big on aesthetics, balance and flavor.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Echo Park
  • price 1 of 4

We expected great bar bites—after all, the food menu’s brought to us by the team at Filipino BBQ mecca the Park’s Finest next door—but Thunderbolt more than delivers on cocktails, too. An ample madeira collection and playful concoctions such as the clarified take on a piña colada (Tropipop) and the signature, peachy Thunderbolt put fruit and Southern flavor at the forefront, and they just so happen to pair perfectly with those slow-smoked brisket plates and little bowls of shrimp and grits with peanuts. But the bar team isn’t just about the South; Thunderbolt also pays homage to Historic Filipinotown with sleek, creative and so-good-you-can’t-put-them-down options like the P-Town Boxing Club, made with pandan and coconut-washed rye. Throw in those comfy leather sofas, a lively front patio and the top-notch playlists and it’s no surprise we stay all night.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Downtown Arts District
  • price 2 of 4

You enter beneath the neon sign hanging over the door—it just reads “BAR,” you can’t miss it—and the second you’re in, you’ll probably agree with the second neon you see: “My, that’s better.” Stepping into Everson Royce Bar is like heaving a sigh of relief, a boozy boon to the Arts District that feels part elegant cocktail den, part raucous patio party. No matter which experience you choose (based on where you choose to sit), you’ll be ordering some of L.A.’s best cocktails. They come inspired by Los Angeles and seasonal produce—we recommend the long-time favorite Yo LA Tengo, which comes packed with mezcal, grapefruit, Aperol, ginger and lime, or the You’ll Rhubarb the Day, which involves, you guessed it, rhubarb—and the food follows suit. Don’t skip the bar bites, which include some of the most flaky biscuits and one of the best burgers in town.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Koreatown
  • price 2 of 4

The best place to flick soju bottle caps and chat over anju (Korean bar bites) with friends in L.A., Dan Sung Sa is a quintessential Koreatown drinking spot with wood panel interiors, dim lighting and no-nonsense service. Stepping through its doors can make you feel like you’ve been transported back to a late-20th-century Seoul pojangmacha—according to Eater, owner Caroline Cho constructed the bar based on her own memories of South Korea’s tented street pubs when she first opened it in 1997. Wooden block menus present an array of over 90 food items, all of which are meant to be eaten alongside bottles of sake, fruit and yogurt-flavored soju, baekseju (an herb-infused rice wine) and makgeolli, a lightly sparkling, off-white rice wine that manages to read on the palate as sweet, tangy and bitter all at once. Pro-tip: Order the corn cheese.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Historic Filipinotown
  • price 2 of 4

Blink and you’ll miss Historic Filipinotown’s near-hidden cocktail gem marked only by a lit-up coupe-glass sign out front—and you don’t want to miss Genever, an intimate, Filipina-run Art Deco den specializing in gin-based drinks. Mezcal and rum may make a brief appearance, but even the most gin-averse visitors should at least sample a few of the infused juniper libations here, which incorporate green tea and even butterfly pea flower into gin for light, herbaceous and complex notes in your cocktails. Indoors, there are delicate, feminine touches in the gold-accented decor, creating a scene that practically glows. Since Genever’s cocktail menu changes regularly, check their Instagram for their newest drinks. A recent favorite is the Happy Happy Joy Joy: served in a panda mug, it features gin, Sichuan baiju, passionfruit, adaptogenic soda and house-made bitters flavored with mango and jasmine—the national fruit and flower of the Philippines, respectively.

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  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Los Feliz
  • price 2 of 4

This wine den seems traditional—Edison bulbs, cheese boards, a draft list on the chalkboard—but ask for a menu and things take a turn. Despite offering a staggering list of 150 wines by the glass, the preferred menu is all verbal. Owners Dustin Lancaster and Matthew Kaner devised a way to make wine recommendations based on a few simple questions about your preferences and maybe an adjective or two (think: “fruity,” “clean,” “funky”). Then, your drink-slinger is off, pouring samples and drawing in the most serious of customers until they crack a smile and get something that’s just to their liking. Want to drink at home? They recently expanded the experience with dealer's-choice to-go mystery packs, where three, six or 12 wine bottles can be yours, still tailored to your adjectives. This year the wine bar also launched a meatball pop-up, so be sure to stop by on weekends at brunch for some delectable meatball subs—which, you already know, they can pair with wines perfectly.

  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • East Hollywood

With limited seating and absolutely no reservations, Lolo Wine Bar in East Hollywood is a hard sell for anyone trying to corral a group of friends who live across the city. For neighborhood locals, those willing to show up early and people who don’t mind having to wait, this gold-tinged natural wine bar with a small, chic checkered floor patio and excellent food menu is yours for the taking. Lolo’s house-made pastas, market-fresh vegetables and other small plates rise beyond the standard wine bar charcuterie fare, all while paired with an extensive list of wine bottles and a few choice wines by the glass. They also operate a wine shop (pickup only), including 6-bottle and 12-bottle variety packs for the regular at-home drinker.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

The renowned Employees Only first made waves in New York City, but it's also a WeHo cocktail destination that’s home to some extremely satisfying bites—because the Prohibition-inspired spot with artful cocktails also happens to serve a full dinner menu where you might find seasonal arancini, 30-day–aged rib-eye steaks, and oysters with burnt-honey mignonette to pair with those well-balanced cocktails. Previously, Employees Only shuttered indoor service and ran solely as the outdoor-only Summer Social Club, but indoor service returned and so is the bar's moody ambiance: You step inside through the psychic’s storefront—yes, there are actual tarot readings, though they haven't returned post-Covid just yet—and find yourself in this Deco-inspired dining room and curved bar. Look closely and you might even spot the entrance to the hidden Henry’s Room, a sort of speakeasy accessed through a back wall. It's all fun, sleek and exactly the kind of low-lit space you can lose hours in.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Culver City
  • price 2 of 4

The crown jewel of Culver City’s long-awaited food hall, Bar Bohemien is probably the most low-key rooftop bar in the city. This can partially be attributed to its small size, as well as to the byzantine downtown Culver City streets (courtesy of closures for outdoor dining), but for those who find their way up Citizen Public Market’s winding stairs, this intimate, mostly outdoor watering hole provides everyday good vibes and even better cocktails. With a bush-lined patio that’s beautiful at sunset, it’s the perfect spot to meet an online date or a group of old friends. Featuring unique distillers like locally made Amass Botanicals and non-alcoholic spirits maker Seedlip, Bar Bohemien’s cocktail menu is full of pleasant surprises. Their La Bohéme cocktail combines gin or vodka with dry vermouth, maraschino cherry and orange bitters for a strong but sweet brew that’ll put hair on your chest. Note: Walk-ins only.

 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

If the name looks familiar, the extremely stylish apothecary-themed bar at the edge of Chinatown’s warehouse district is the sibling to New York City’s Apothéke, which racked up acclaim through detail-driven, botanical-toned drinks in a dimly-lit setting. Here in L.A., the vibe, atmosphere and menu are all similar, with a few unique drinks for good measure. True to the apothecary theme, cocktails are paired off into cures for what ails ya: stress relievers, stimulants, pain killers, euphorics and more, and they might include produce, tinctures or bitters such as cantaloupe, bee pollen, bell pepper, sage, coconut charcoal, or a honeyed chamomile cordial. Don’t miss out on the side patio—one of the cutest in the city—nor the live programming, which has included bands, DJ sets, burlesque and even private cocktail classes.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Los Feliz
  • price 2 of 4

This charming spot is the Los Feliz equivalent of Cheers, where everybody knows your name, but it gets even better: This repurposed Craftsman home also sports a café, a bakery and one of the best patios in the city. The bar team whips up house-made syrups, oft-rotating concoctions and some of the most cheeky, fun-loving menus L.A. has ever seen, not to mention the occasional home cocktail kit that's filled with more consideration and creativity than many bars’ usual menus. Puns, drink accessories and seasonal ingredients abound, but don’t think they can’t do classics; the martinis, margs and spritzes here are some of the best in town—and all the better on that gorgeous patio.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • La Cienega
  • price 2 of 4

You see it on the coasters, you see it atop the foam on your drink: “YES.” It’s the unofficial ethos of Jared Meisler and Sean MacPherson’s high-minded cocktail bar, where it’s best to just go with the flow because everything off that order-by-the-spirit menu is going to be good. But first, you have to find it: Look for the neon “PSYCHIC” sign on La Cienega, then enter through a curtain to find a handful of seasonal cocktails in addition to classics-leaning drinks split into categories of sparkling, rum, tequila, whiskey, gin, vodka and even absinthe. The place fills up fast, so stop by early or late. The lights are low and the drinks are spot-on, making it a perfect place to bring a date—or go solo and bring yourself on one.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Echo Park
  • price 2 of 4

Designated sake bars are few and far between in L.A. but OTOTO wants to change this, all while changing the way we think about sake. Tsubaki’s literal sibling concept—“Ototo” translates to “little brother”—doesn’t just offer a menu of rice wines: It makes the Japanese classic as accessible as wine at a wine bar, and it makes it clear that sake is much more versatile than you’ve ever imagined. Organized primarily by tasting notes such as Fruit & Flowers, Earth & Umami, Rice & Minerals, and Delicious Weirdos, the pours are approachable and varied, and pair with the bar’s limited menu of Japanese drinking food (karaage, okonomiyaki, tempura) and less traditional items (truffle cheese, chili burger). Co-owner and operator Courtney Kaplan lovingly scrawls the tasting notes onto wooden planks behind the bar, happy to talk shop, fermentation and common misconceptions with first-timers and sake aficionados alike.

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  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Eagle Rock
  • price 1 of 4

What happens when a dive meets pinball meets meticulous throwback touches and a great craft-drink list to match? You get Walt’s Bar, Eagle Rock’s pinball spot and watering hole serving local beer and cider, natural wine and eternal classics like cans of ice-cold Hamm’s. The mood is casual and the vibe is immaculate, and there’s almost nowhere in town we’d rather haunt. Giant pretzels, hot dogs, vegan dogs and chips are all on offer, too, with appearances by Café Wednesday and other pop-ups for more gourmet bites. When the indoor pinball is up and running again, stop by on Wednesdays for $5 tournament nights—and don’t forget to bring some cash; while there’s a change machine, it only takes $1s and $5s.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Long Beach
  • price 1 of 4

The city of L.A. has its fair share of tiki bars but it doesn’t have Bamboo Club, Long Beach’s prime tiki destination, which is home to killer tropical cocktails and some of the best vinyl nights in the area. While you’re enjoying all that surf punk and those games of pool, you’ll be sipping on some of the most affordable tiki concoctions we’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting; most drinks run around $12, and even the punch bowl for two is only $18. There are tiki classics, new classics, tiki drinks without rum, and a section of the menu devoted to coconut, which includes our favorite drink on offer here: the Piña Verde, where a classic piña colada gets an upgrade from green chartreuse. We also like the bar bites, which include equally breezy and tropical fare such as Hawaiian macaroni salad, huli chicken, five-spice spare ribs, freshly shucked oysters, and a craveable Thai-tea–brined fried chicken sandwich

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Best bars by neighborhood

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