You’ve dined at the best restaurants and stalked celebrity hangouts like a champ. Now, it’s time to paint the town red, bust a move and scream Mamma Mia tunes at the top of your lungs. Destination? Hollywood. Forget clichéd tourist spots and velvet-rope attitude—instead, check out our top spots, including some of the city’s best cocktail bars and the best dives in Hollywood.
RECOMMENDED: Best bars in Los Angeles
Hollywood’s best bars
Tucked away on the second floor of Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, the Spare Room is like stepping into another era: one where classic cocktails, tiki-leaning concoctions and punch bowls pour freely, and people make merry all night long. The big draw here, beyond the expertly made drinks, is the gaming. This bar sports an antique two-lane bowling alley, which looks great with those George Esquivel–designed bowling shoes and argyle socks. Those not looking to bowl can simply chill in the lounge and cozy up to their neighbors with a friendly game of dominoes, Monopoly, Connect Four or Battleship.
Whether you’re lured in by the sound of showtunes or you’re simply taken with the tattooed mannequins in the front windows, there’s no way you can’t fall prey to Tramp Stamp Granny’s gravitational pull. Glee and The Assassination of Gianni Versace star Darren Criss; his fiancée, Mia Swier; and their friend, Danny Massare, bring nightly singalongs, debaughery and glittery tabletops to the heart of Hollywood with their glam piano bar. Cheekily-named cocktails, frequent queer cabaret and burlesque shows, and bar bites like rainbow Lucky Charms popcorn make this one of the neighborhood’s most colorful, energetic and just-plain-fun spots to wet your whistle—all the better to lubricate your throat before your favorite song gets played.
This is a bar that looks like Hollywood but doesn’t feel like it. Sidle up to the gorgeous curved, wooden bar and take in the general 1930s aesthetic—which makes it feel old-school glamorous, but the vibe and its clientele are distinctly casual and modern. This is where you go to escape the neighborhood. Occasional live music, tiki specials and a rotating cast of pop-ups all make this an escape worth seeking out, and often.
Don’t let this bar's Ivy League name, austere vibe lights and ski-lodge den deceive you into thinking it’s a place for the aspiring E.E. Cummings or next Norman Mailer. The draw here is live music and dancing—mostly blues and rock ’n’ roll with some burlesque nights for good measure—and a big front bar featuring craft cocktails shaken and stirred by tattooed and torn-jeans-sporting bartenders. Smokers are welcome to indulge their vice in an enclosed outdoor alley accessible through a back entrance, while high rollers can reserve tables and private areas. Serious cocktail connoisseurs should head to the back R&D Bar to sample a curated list of drinks designed by a rotating brigade of mixologists.
This sprawling tiki-inspired bar and restaurant from Umbrella Hospitality Group (think: Melrose Umbrella Co.) brings Far East and Polynesian flavor to the heart of Hollywood. The décor is second to none, and you’ll find yourself staring at the vintage trinkets as you sip through the extensive menu of mai tais, scorpion bowls and zombies. Outside, there’re a gorgeous enclosed patio where private parties and DJs feel right at home, plus a shrimp-shack pop-up on weekends. If all that rum’s got you feeling hungry, opt for tropical bar bites like fried chicken with huli-huli sauce—there’s even a full-on luau menu, for large groups who like to plan ahead.
Bar-goers can expect the trademark Houston Brothers touches at No Vacancy: over-the-top speakeasy entrances, extreme attention to detail, excellent cocktails, and live performances of DJs, dancers and old-timey band porch sessions. This bar, an entire house outfitted with antique touches, acts as an old hotel that you need to, well, discover the entrance to in one of the rooms. Come dressed to impress and settle into the main bar, decked out with a bitters bar, house-made seasonal syrups and tonic water, and an extensive selection of spirits for creative cocktailing.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s takes us back to the 1970s via garage. Walk past the knick-knacks to find the portal to this booze-fueled time machine: an old refrigerator. Step through its door and you’re instantly transported to a house party in the era of hard rock, sideburns and shag carpeting. Vintage beer cans and retro tchotchkes surround the tufted bar, where staff whip up craft cocktails with forgotten spirits and draught beer is served in cans and novelty mugs. Outside, sno-cones, tiki drinks and tacos get doled out from a repurposed trailer and food stand in the “backyard,” where you'll find seating and the occasional rooftop roller show. Dig it.
On the ground floor of the Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel is the aptly named MiniBar. Borne of the brains that brought us Dominick’s and Little Dom’s, this 32-seat hideaway offers a sanctuary for the pensive imbiber; a place to get out without the usual chaos that accompanies going “out”—and with parking validation, to boot. The moment we enter the bar, we’re captivated: Every square inch of the space is thoughtfully designed, with accordion-style warm wood paneling, retro brass light fixtures and white leather swivel chairs. Our favorite drink here, the Fuzzy del Navel, is refreshing, colorful and garnished with a cute little cocktail umbrella.
To enter this reservations-only bar, patrons must pass through a secret closet, which leads them down a spiral staircase and straight into a Havana-inspired speakeasy, offering rum-based cocktails, a selection of cigars—though it’s OK to bring your own, too—and regular burlesque performances. This bar comes by way of Houston Hospitality (they of Davey Wayne’s and No Vacancy fame), so you know the vibe is fun and sexy, and the setting is totally decked out.
We were already big fans of Mama Shelter as a hotel and a restaurant—there’s a downstairs bar, too—but ever since that rooftop bar opened, we’ve wondered just what it might take to move in for good. The colorful space is splattered with multicolored sofas and chairs where the something-for-everyone menus run the gamut, from the Middle East to the middle of the American South. Cocktails are also totally diverse and delicious, with a focus on margaritas and Moscow mule variations. On warm nights, you can dance under the stars while DJs spin an eclectic mix of music, or take in a classic movie on the outdoor screen.
Hollywood’s notorious pole dancing club, this small laid-back dive has dancers of all body types shaking it onstage to music past and present. It’s not a “strip club” per se; pierced, inked and totally rock ’n’ roll, these chicks don’t get naked, but perform some serious acrobatics onstage in their underwear. The crowd is eclectic and the vibe is welcoming: Men, women, old-timers and newbies come to witness the sexy skills of these badass alternative beauties. Tips for the dancers are always encouraged, but if guests don’t have the funds to make it rain for the girls, they can sit farther away from the stage, order some drinks and enjoy the show.
A sleek, stylish bar hidden off the bustle of Hollywood and Vine? We’re so there, and you should be, too. Ever Bar comes complete with a view of the iconic Capitol Records building, but it won’t steal the scene from the bar’s rotating themed menus, which churn out some of the most fun and colorful cocktails in the neighborhood. Weekly DJ sets and acoustic acts set the mood, while bar bites from the neighboring Jane Q kitchen—like the duck confit monkey bread—fuel you for a game of pool or simply lounging around that gorgeous lobby.
This is the Hollywood good old boy’s pub, a slice of the U.K. that’s gone from dive to spacious country tavern. Grand iron chandeliers and wall lamps illuminate British paraphernalia on the walls, red leather booths and two dark wood-paneled bars and dining room, and a friendly and helpful staff serve up a full bar of beer, wine, spirits and a stellar selection of specialty cocktails. Feeling peckish? There’s elevated pub fare for vegans, locavores and omnivores alike, such as fish and chips with tartar sauce, or a worcestershire aioli-smothered burger. Stop by at week’s end for a classic Sunday roast, complete with Yorkshire pudding.
With trendy clientele and a low-key vibe, this rooftop spot carries a little of the flavor of its sibling concept, Hinoki and the Bird. You can also spot the similarities on the menu, where Japanese flavor gets worked into Californian, Mexican and Chinese dishes—but Sorra's also got all the glamour of Hollywood: plenty of greenery and sky-high views of what feels like the whole city. Drinks are fruity and fun, and designed to be easy sippers for taking in the sights on breezy days and nights.
In business since the ’30s and with one of the finest neon signs in all of L.A., the Frolic Room remains what it’s always been: a straightforward, friendly little room in which to get loaded with others of a similar mindset. It’s also a neighborhood hangout in a neighborhood without many of them, and a bar not for dilettantes but drinkers. Look out for the beautiful Al Hirschfeld cartoon mural on the wall facing the bar, just one of many nods to the old-timey Hollywood elite who helped make this bar an institution.
Bartenders are easygoing, drinks are wholly original, and unclaimed property is free—and you quickly forget that you’re in Tinseltown or, at least, in a room attached to the most touristy beer hall in Hollywood (33 Taps). Dark wood, old-timey vibes and a solid whiskey selection make this a crucial, comfortable hideaway from the Hollywood madness.
The city-spanning 1933 Group brings barrel-aged cocktails front and center at this throwback to the Old South. Though in the middle of Hollywood, once inside, it’s easy to imagine Tennessee Williams as a regular here. Walk past what looks like a patio on the Bayou to the long bar framed by family heirlooms, and dangling bottles of barrel-aged cocktails in constant rotation. Behind the bar sits a Savannah townhouse—an actual building that was dismantled in Georgia and reconstructed down to the moldings and fireplace. If the scenery is too much for you, focus on the menu: oak barrel-aged cocktails; house-brewed ginger beer drinks; a killer happy hour; and to eat, Southern grub such as jambalaya or crawfish mac and cheese.
Rising from the ashes of the old Powerhouse—where everyone from The Beatles to Bukowski wet their whistles—is Power House version 2.0, which takes its ever-so-slight name change from the original neon sign remaining out front. The modern-day interior is classic and sexy, with faded brick walls and exposed ceiling beams interplaying with cream hexagonal tiles and vintage fixtures to create a muted decadence. Of course there's nothing muted about the bar's biggest crowd draw: karaoke. Imbibe in some liquid courage before you take the stage with drinks that are delicious—and unique, compared to what other Hollywood bars try to get away with for the same price.
You could call Three Clubs a dive, but that term seems to apply to any establishment that’s been around more than 10 years and doesn’t have a bespoke cocktail program. With its deep red interior compounded by carpeted floors, velvet wallpaper, mahogany paneling, black leather and a sparkly black ceiling, it’s an atmosphere that immediately demands a martini, but will settle for a beer and a shot. During daily happy hour there’s a laid-back, loungey vibe and $5 cocktails; as the evening progresses, you can expect anything from karaoke and live music to burlesque shows, all of which take place on stage in a side room adjacent to the bar.
No, you’re not in a library—in fact, this Hollywood bar and club is anything but quiet. Nightly live music or DJ sets keep the party going, which makes it feel like you’re living it up in a prestigious private study. The chandelier-lit space is littered with moody artifacts, dusty volumes (unreadable, of course, as they’re glued to the walls), and velvety places for guests to park their trendily-clad behinds. The drinks here lean classic, and the bartenders, knowledgeable—and they’ll never tell you to keep your voices down.