Culver City may no longer be up-and-coming—that ship sailed with the furious influx of coffee shops and pricey apartments—but this little metropolis is still worth exploring. The neighborhood is buzzing with great restaurants, shops and, of course, bars; you'll find everything from dives with an excellent karaoke scene to a barbershop sporting a speakeasy. Check out our guide and start planning your very own Culver City bar crawl.
Where to drink in Culver City
For most, the phrase “old man bar” conjures a specific image of worn upholstery, bowls of peanuts on a laminate bar top and crotchety curmudgeons. This is not the Old Man Bar you’ll find at Hatchet Hall. Tucked away in the rear of the elegantly eclectic Culver City restaurant, the intimate space is considerably dark, even slightly spooky, with taxidermy, antlers, animal skulls and black-and-white portraits illuminated only by the low glow of etched antique lamps, candles and an ornate fireplace. You'll find Old Fashioneds here—nine variations, to be exact. The Oaxacan replaces bourbon with Fidencio Clasico mezcal and angostura with Aztec chocolate bitters for a smoky, sweet and slightly spiced finish, while the American Trilogy brings George Dickel rye and Laird's apple brandy to the bourbon party, creating a smooth and utterly patriotic concoction.
Is it a bar or a barber shop? Both, actually. Walk through the Blind Barber's front doors and you'll find a stark white room with barber stations—call ahead for availability. If a cut, shave or trim aren't in the cards, you'll be steered through a nondescript door revealing a spacious speakeasy bathed in dim lighting and adorned with old wood paneling and yellow fading wall-paper. Leather booths line the back walls with ample tables and chairs, but regulars like to congregate at the bar sampling seasonal cocktails. If you’re into something spicy, try the Smoke & Dagger—a mix of Jack Daniels, jalepeño-infused Cointreau, cucumber, ginger and lemon. Also, if you keep missing the Grilled Cheese truck, fret-no-more, because they've got a massive selection of grilled cheese options on the menu that come with house-made chips—go for the Buffalo Mozzarella with Truffle Aioli.
Culver City’s the Corner Door feels like a neighborhood place where everybody knows—or should know—your name. It's a cozy culinary and libation retreat where exposed red brick meets dark wood paneling under Edison-approved lighting, and the drinks and bites are reliable and flavorful. Beau du Bois heads up the beverage program, which sees featured craft cocktail specials as well as a set list of classics, beers on tap and a decent selection of Italian, French, New Zealand and domestic wines. Happy Hour is in swing every day from 5 to 7pm, when cocktails are under $10 and glasses of wine are $6, but be sure to stop by for Burger R&D Nights on Sundays: a burger, fries and a beer go for $17, while bourbon Old Fashioneds are a mere $6.
This Culver City cocktail bar takes its name from "Barney Oldfield," a man who lived a near-mythic life racing cars and starring in automotive-inspired stage and film works and was later buried in the neighborhood. For all the excitement in Barney's life, Oldfield’s offers a subdued, neighborhood-bar experience on the corner of Venice Boulevard. Locals congregate comfortably around a smartly-designed bar with pockets for small groups to mingle over the pared-down cocktail list, representative of 1933 Group's (Thirsty Crow, Big Foot Lodge, La Cuevita) dedication to post-prohibition drinks. Happy hour runs from 5-9pm daily, when cocktails are $7 and wine and beer are $5. Barney was once banned from racing so in his honor try the Outlaw, a refreshing mix of Milagro Reposado, jalapeño, honey, fresh grapefruit, lime and cilantro.
Hollywood gets all the credit for creating movies, but at one time, Culver City is where most of the "lights, camera, action" actually happened. As movie posters and memorabilia dotting the lobby will remind you, the Westside’s historic hotel housed silver screen legends from the Munchkins during filming of the Wizard of Oz to Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin, who allegedly sold the hotel for a dollar to John Wayne in a game of poker. Despite the dramatic outfitting—massive stone fireplace, heavy draping over arched windows—the lobby bar has a low-key, neighborhood feel. Groups can spread out on comfy, velour couches, while tables for two are perfect for date-night, pre-dinner cocktails or night caps. Come after 7:30pm on any night of the week and you'll be treated to live jazz.
Housed behind Fin, an Asian-fusion seafood joint, Alley is not technically in an alley, but rather at the rear of the building. The vibrant blue walls, accented with white molding and trim, evokes Old Hollywood glamor; other elements are decidedly modern, like the industrial metal bar stools and the mirrored minimalist bar. Ceramic antlers and white busts of deer, elk and other horned beasts along with modern chandeliers add a touch of understated elegance to the space. For its relatively small size, Alley has ample seating, with two large booths for groups, a long high top with stools, and a recessed lounge with cozy banquettes for more intimate imbibing. You can’t leave without trying the bartender’s favorite, the Nucky Thompson: a reinterpreted take on a negroni with gin, sweet vermouth, amaro and orange peel.
Starting your morning at a pub may bring the term "alcoholic" to mind, but at Joxer Daly's, there's no better time to sit down at the bar. That's because the Culver City pub's Irish breakfast is a self-proclaimed favorite among the staff. Bangers, Irish bacon, eggs, toast, and white and black pudding (don't ask, just eat) are all part of this balanced meal, along with $5 breakfast cocktails—is there a better reason to get out of bed? If you're more of a night owl, pay a visit on Fridays and Saturdays when there is live music to enjoy. Care to create your own tunes? The bar offers karaoke on Wednesdays, although with all of the quality beer on tap (Boddington's! Guinness!) you just might be singing here every night of the week.
There’s a sultry vibe to this back-alley speakeasy, where antique chandeliers cast dim light on crushed velvet wallpaper and scenes of Paris and scantily-clad femmes. Once your eyes adjust to the dark, scope out the robust menu of craft cocktails; you'll find everything from sweet drinks sporting prosecco and peach bitters to a stiff mezcal libation. There's the High Life, too: a cold Miller High Life paired with a shot of High West Bourye. Beer and wine are also available, as is a small food menu to soak up all that booze.
Every log cabin winter experience you've ever endured will come flooding back when you step through the doors of this engaging spot. From the fireplace to the signage, rendered in that quaint '50s National Park font, you'll feel perfectly at one with nature inside this second outpost by the Bigfoot team. Their flaming marshmallow cocktail is a crowd favorite, but you'll also find staples here—a killer Old Fashioned, perhaps. Be sure to check the calendar for frequent trivia nights and live music performances.
Because karaoke typically requires an acute altered state, you might want to leave Backstage Bar for the end of your night. The cocktails are more akin to a frat party than a speakeasy, the crowd is rowdy and the place has more than 70 years of history. A nightmare for a sober person, but perfect for anyone who wants to end the evening belting out Bon Jovi.
Interested in drinking up at a cocktail bar outside of Culver City?
It's offical: LA has caught up with the rest of the country when it comes to quality cocktails. From bespoke libations made with farmers market-fresh ingredients to the revivial of the classic cocktail worthy of Don Draper, cocktail bars in LA are mixing undeniably phenomenal drinks. And while Hollywood bars make up the majority of this list (what can we say, Tinseltown is driven to drink), there are exceptional places to imbibe all across town.