It has been said that Hollywood is the West Coast equivalent of Times Square: neon-flashing lights, creepy costumed characters and camera-strapped tourists. But five blocks south of the theme park Hollywood has become is an unassuming stretch home to the bayou-themed Sassafras Saloon. No wait, there’s moss hanging from the ceiling, so we’re in Savannah. And whoa, did someone drop a house in this bar? Sassafras is a bayou-themed, Savannah-esque, Old West saloon that’s got a little bit of everything for everyone: from a new cocktail menu that caters to a wide selection of spirits, to musical and burlesque performances that are guaranteed to entertain.
All of the bars owned by 1933 Group (Highland Park Bowl, La Cuevita, Thirsty Crow) are meticulously decorated, and Sassafras is no exception. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a dolled-up doorman and waved entry into the lanai, where hanging plants generously adorn the walls and windows. Keep it moving—there are about three additional side rooms and lounge areas (all embellished with Southern relics and antiques) for you to explore.
Sassafras Saloon is spacious, and provides plenty of room to watch that night’s live band performance (typically jazz, but sometimes blues and DJ sets). And if you’re really lucky, the unassuming bar-back working Sunday nights will join the band onstage to tap dance, serving us all a reminder that we’re still in Hollywood, where everyone is a star.
Good for: Impressing out-of-town folks that would be turned off by the pretentiousness of Hollywood nightclubs and the barebones service of neighborhood dive bars. Sassafras Saloon is an experience; if you'd rather be listening to top 40 hits or swigging a vodka tonic, this place is not for you. If you like traveling in packs, the space is equipped to hold large groups, so make this your happy hour spot with colleagues if you work on the Eastside ($5 beer and wine, $6 old-fashioned cocktails and $8 selected cocktails). Later in the night, prices are standard for Los Angeles, with cocktails between $12 and $14. Valet is offered on Fridays and Saturdays, otherwise street parking is allowed along Vine.
The scene: For all of its pomp and circumstance, the doorman is welcoming, the bartenders are friendly and the patrons are relaxed and ready for a night of live music and dancing, without a cover charge in sight. Old souls who reminisce of yesteryear will have fun donning not-so ironic fedoras and dressier looks, although jeans are just as acceptable. While the audience skews a little older than certain Hollywood establishments (i.e. Good Times at Davey Wayne’s) the fun factor is just as high, without a line wrapping down the block.
Drink this: If you enjoy fruit-forward cocktails, the latest update to the Hurricane ($13), made with a mix of Barbadian, Panamanian and Jamaican rums, and fruit juices, will remind you of the punch they served at your niece’s second birthday party—it goes down that smooth. The Christopher Oaxacan ($13) mixed with El Silencio mezcal, tequila, cacao a la vanille, habanero, chocolate bitters, and a touch of cream and smoked sea salt, is silky, smooth and slightly sweet. If you’re a traditionalist who doesn’t mind the occasional twist, the Maple Manhattan ($14) made with walnut bitters and walnut and maple liqueurs, harmonizes well with rye whiskey and sweet vermouth. Of course, you can’t leave a bayou-themed bar without trying The Big Easy ($13) made with bourbon, Campari, apricot liqueur, and peach and orange bitters. If the weather is right, drink it on the lanai and pretend you’re in a Tennessee Williams play. And if you’re so inclined to cap off the night in Bourbon Street, Sassafras’s frozen cocktails are back—try the Incredulous Hulk with Remy Martin and housemade Hpnotiq ($12).
Our tip: Don’t arrive on the early side expecting small bites. Sassafras Saloon doesn't have a food menu, but offers a crawfish boil on Tuesdays. It’s best to eat before you arrive, as nearby options are all fast food.