Echo Park is not rife with swanky cocktail bars. Nor is it into over-the-top, themed lounges or speakeasies requiring complex passwords. But while the Eastside nabe may be lacking in buttoned-up mixologists and $14 drinks, it excels in wine bars, beer bars and dives with character, places where everybody really does know your name. Whether you're looking for a place to drink near Dodger Stadium or planning a cozy first date, here are the best Echo Park bars for a carefree night out in the neighborhood.
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Dark, sexy and surprisingly unpretentious, Bar Bandini is the neighborhood wine bar Echo Park didn’t know it needed. A curated selection of natural and organic wines and beers is listed on black letter boards, both legible and imposing in scale. Dark painted walls, suede banquettes and black slate surfaces are balanced with rustic exposed wood, conducive to both date nights and catching up with friends. Bandini’s tap offerings are all produced in California—Zin fans might opt for the Field Recordings Fiction, a robust and brambly blend from Paso Robles, while white wine drinkers should go for the Batterieberg C.A.I. Reisling: dry, crisp, ripe and seriously quaffable.
Housed between a paint store and a tamale shop sits 1642, an affordable, low-key hangout. Inside, a Moorish motif is accentuated by an arched rear doorway, Moroccan tapestries and rugs, and an earth-toned palette. It’s a versatile spot to take a first date, significant other, friend or group to catch up or listen to some old-timey live music (after 9pm, you might hear blues, swing, honky-tonk or ragtime). Draft highlights might include Allagash Odyssey dark ale or Knee Deep Simtra Triple IPA; the Maui Coconut Porter has been a mainstay on the menu since the bar opened. For wine drinkers, 1642 offers a well-tailored selection of reds and whites, like a La Flor Malbec or a Sean Minor Pinot Noir. Feeling hungry? Show up between 6 and 8pm on Thursdays and you’ll get a free tamale with any beer as part of 1642’s Tamale Happy Hour.
This beer store and bar offers a massive selection of brewskies, from West Coast microbrews to rare Belgian ales and small production specialty bottles. (There's also wine, and a pretty good little selection, but we rarely see anyone drinking it here.) There are refrigerated cases from which you can grab bottles to go, or have your bottled opened at the bar—a selection of local brews are on tap as well. The staff is super knowledgeable and friendly—no beer snobs here—and the atmosphere is cozy, with communal benches, comfy plush chairs and a smoking area outside. There's also a decent pizza place next door (Los Angeles Pizza Company), to help you soak up all that delicious booze.
This cozy beer and wine bar offers a well-culled selection of (often local) beers and red, white and sparkling wine, as well as small bites like olives, pita and hummus. Exposed brick, a wood bar and tables, and soft, yellow glass light fixtures give this place a comfortable feel without sacrificing style. The music here comes from an old-school record player and an ever-changing vinyl collection, which adds to that warm, homey feeling. A small patio out back lets smokers do their thing outside. Weekends can get crowded, but weekdays are usually pretty mellow—except for Tuesdays, when Origami Vinyl hosts its Record Club around 9pm.
Past the pupusa and hot dog street stands sits a black box of a bar, with a blazing red "cocktails" sign as its only marker. Enter beyond the big guy at the door into a scene from Dazed & Confused—clearly, management hasn't updated the grungy aesthetic in forever, but this retro, hipster hangout is most known for its pool tables, juke box and popular, disco ball-bedecked dance room. Depending on the night, you’ll find anything from '70s-era disco to New Age pop. Either way, this is the neighborhood spot for cheap drinks; you're most likely to pound back your standard brews (Bud, Coors), but there are also local, craft options like Bear Republic Brewing's Racer 5 and made-in-LA Revolution from Eagle Rock Brewery.
Little Joy's latest revamp brought a newly lacquered parquet wood bar and cleaner bathrooms to the Echo Park staple, though it still maintains its low-key, watering hole vibe. When the bar’s coveted seats (14 in total) are taken and the only two booths in the joint are at capacity, standing room allows for old-fashioned mingling in the fairly small space or perhaps a game of pool—get your name on the signup chalkboard early. The drink menu is straightforward—a full bar with standard bottle selections and eight beers on tap, including a brew called the "Glutenator" for gluten-free imbibers. Don’t ask if they make "cocktails"—you’ll be met with a blank stare before the bartender turns to take someone else’s order.
This mostly-locals dive keeps the neighborhood honest with top-shelf tequilas and Mexican League futbol. The crowd these days is mainly made up of thirtysomethings taking a break over cheap drinks in an atmosphere teeming with casino-waitress hospitality; order a beer and a shot for $6 and you'll get a free taco alongside. The jukebox has amazing Mexican hits mixed with hilarious stateside hammers (think Meatloaf's "I'd Do Anything for Love"), and tiny lights stuck to the ceiling above booth seats make for a kitschy indoor night sky.
Mohawk Bend may be better known as a vegan restaurant, but we wouldn't blame you for going for their selection of beer alone. An impressive fleet of 72 taps—all from California brewers (save for one monthly featured out of state brewery)—are at your beck and call. Beer enthusiasts can grab a seat at the communal table or expansive bar, or you can snag a spot outdoors if you don’t mind the hum of Sunset Boulevard. Wine and hard liquor are plentiful, too. Seasonal cocktails are all made with spirits from California craft distillers; try the Hot Dutchman made with gin, fresh lemon juice, housemade cilantro-chile syrup and egg whites. There are also a few options for wine on tap, like Napa Valley Trefethen Chardonnay.
Whatever you want to call it—restaurant, bar, arcade—Button Mash has created a category all its own in LA. The food, which comes from once-underground-restaurant Starry Kitchen, includes their famous crispy tofu balls along with Vietnamese spring rolls, a decadent double cheeseburger and more to be enjoyed at the bar or in the dining room. The drink menu includes a unique list of beer and wine, including Malbec Invaders, a 2014 Fabien Jouves varietal featuring Space Invaders aliens on the label; and Suiyoubi No Neko, a Japanese witbier. In between sips or beer and wine, take a turn at Button Mash's 100+ arcade games from the '70s to '90s, like Frogger, Tron, Donkey Kong, Food Fight, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker—plus plenty of pinball machines around the corner from the bar.