Perhaps Raymond Chandler put it best: “The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar—that's wonderful.”
He may have been writing pulp fiction, but the sentiment rings true: there’s nothing quite like a good, quiet bar. Such an establishment can be hard to come by in Los Angeles, but it does exist, believe it or not, on the ground floor of the Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel, in the aptly named MiniBar. Born 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 entered the bar, we were captivated. Every square inch of the space is thoughtfully designed, with accordion-style warm wood paneling, grasscloth wall treatments, retro brass light fixtures and white leather swivel chairs creating a funky yet sophisticated fusion of colors, textures and materials. The cocktail menu is simple yet stellar—an eight-drink compendium of classic revivals with subtly genius twists. It’s certainly not the cheapest bar in town, but it feels like a well-deserved treat, one that we, were we not in the business of telling you about, would prefer to keep to ourselves.
Good for: Getting lost in conversation over quality cocktails. It’s a rare thing to be able to hear your drinking companion in an LA bar these days, let alone sustain meaningful dialogue, but MiniBar’s cozy and intimate atmosphere creates the perfect conditions for doing so. It’s a good spot to treat significant others or “getting serious” dates to a mellow night out, or take colleagues or clients for a boozy business meeting. Even lone wolves can find their niche here—not only do the barkeeps mix a mean drink, they also make great company.
The scene: Despite being lodged in the belly of a Best Western, MiniBar is meant more for locals than tourists, and it’s become a de facto watering hole for hill-dwellers lucky enough to live within walking distance. A cool '70s soundtrack amplifies the sexy surroundings, yielding many a Shazam-able tune. While things liven up later on in the night, between 5 and 9pm you could likely have the entire place to yourself—not counting the odd European family wandering in with their suitcases.
Drink this: If you’re after something serious, stiff and straight up, The Bernard ($12) is an improved gin martini with more than one twist; in addition to salt-cured olives, it comes with a pickled mushroom. Similarly strong and smooth is the Godfather 101 ($13), a potent, aromatic combination of scotch, aged rum and amaretto served on the rocks. On the more whimsical side of the spectrum is the Fuzzy del Navel ($14), a doctored take on the '80s Collins that swaps out vodka for pear brandy and peach schnapps for apricot liqueur. It’s refreshing, colorful and not nearly as sweet as you might expect, plus it’s garnished with a cute little cocktail umbrella. As for the bubbly, the Regal Beagle Twinkle Toes ($14), which takes its name from “Three’s Company,” suitably combines three cocktails in one: part Greyhound, part Sloe Gin Fizz and part Kir Royale, it’s well balanced, effervescent and elegant—like Audrey Hepburn in liquid form.
Our tip: If the mushroom in your martini isn't enough sustenance, pop next door to the 101 Coffee Shop, whose retro-inspired interior was conceived by the same designer as MiniBar. Our bartender recommended the smoked chicken salad melt.