The 15 Echo Park bars you need to try
Dark, sexy and surprisingly unpretentious, Bar Bandini is the bar of choice for Echo Park’s cool and wine-loving set. 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 California-centric, while owner Jason Piggott keeps the rest of the pours circling the globe; whichever route you go, you can count on your glass to hold something so perfectly curated that it’s either on-trend, ahead of trend, or so flawless and classic the word “trend” won’t ever come to mind.
How do we love sake, let us count the ways: Echo Park’s charming izakaya, Tsubaki, now has a sibling concept—no, really, “OTOTO” translates to “little brother”—and while Tsubaki’s all about delicate small plates and charcoal-grilled yakitori, OTOTO is all about sake and stick-to-your-ribs Japanese drinking food. With a beverage program almost set up like a wine bar’s, sommelier and co-owner Courtney Kaplan and co. can walk you through tasting notes and varietals—making sake so much more accessible and fun to explore. Once you tire of the rice wine (as if you ever could), there’s also California wine, Japenese beer and, of course, prime drinking food such as katsu sandos, okonomiyaki and a Japanese chili burger.
This cozy beer and wine bar offers a well-culled selection of—often local—beers and red, white and sparkling wine. You’ll probably notice the rotating hot dogs lazily rolling in the case, but there are also small bites like olives, pita and hummus. Exposed brick, a wood bar and tables, and soft, yellow lighting 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. Weekends can get crowded, but weekdays are usually pretty mellow—at least toward the first half of the night. Get there early to snag a seat at the bar and perch to your heart’s content.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with Bar Flores, the tasteful, windows-open, patio-buzzing bar from Karla Flores-Mercado. There’s family written all over the space: Her father, a restaurant-industry vet, can even be found serving hefty tamales out back. These vibes only further the casual, breezy, welcoming atmosphere, while the cocktails—by far some of the best in the neighborhood—keep a focus on mezcal and fresh produce. Indoors, outdoors—we’re good with either. The only thing we’re not good with is leaving at the end of the night.
The cool factor of Historic Filipinotown isn’t exactly a secret anymore, but somehow, one of the neighborhood’s coolest hangouts still is. Sitting on the edge of HiFi and Echo Park since 2010, the beer and wine bar has been blessedly flying under the radar with quirky events like old-timey piano ragtime nights (never change), not to mention a beverage list that spotlights California makers and indie global labels alike. Stop by on Thursdays for Tamale Happy Hour with neighboring Tamales Alberto, and most nights of the week for live music. Intimate, candlelit and casual, this is a bar that feels like home—tell your friends, but not too many friends, you know?
Blink and you’ll drive past Echo Park’s stylish mezcaleria, but only because it’s in a corner of a small strip mall—not because you should. The team behind Ostrich Farm brings us a taste of Mexico with spiced-up its cocktails tinged with hibiscus, Chamoy, cumin and farmers-market ingredients. Plantain-infused tequilas and poblano liqueurs only add to the transportive setting: a darling brass-and-velvet lounge and teeny plant-dotted patio. That’s not to say it’s all about the drinks, though: Find shareable plates like roasted-garlic guacamole, crab queso, mushroom tacos, Oaxacan hot chicken, salt-roasted prawns and more.
Mohawk Bend may be better known as a vegan restaurant, but the selection of beer is usually our destination. An impressive fleet of 68 taps—almost entirely from California brewers and cideries—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 get made with spirits from California craft distillers, and some California love even spreads to the wine list, where they’ve got wine on tap (and on special for late night).
Southern charm and the Park’s Finest collide at Thunderbolt, a cocktail bar that’s big on hospitality, madeira, music and, of course, a Southern-leaning food menu from the team next door at Park’s. The bar at the edge of HiFi and Echo Park boasts ample patio space, plus a gorgeous modern interior complete with a wraparound bar and deep leather couches we could spend all night reclining in (and have, for the record). The cocktail menu is brief, but everything’s a knockout—see also: coconut-washed rye with pandan; highballs on tap; the signature peachy, rummy, minty Thunderbolt concoction—and the food menu is killer enough to make you order multiple BBQ brisket sampler plates for the table and fight over the last bite on each plate.
Set apart from Echo Park’s more foot-trafficked bars, Semi-Tropic feels a world away—but that doesn’t stop the crowds. Come early to snag a high-top seat or one of the couches along the wall, because this is one of Echo Park’s most popular hangs. It’s got a full food menu throughout the day, leaning on chia bowls, avocado toast and salads, but the real draw here is the drinks and the scene. Live bands and DJ sets keep the energy up at this brick-walled bar, while the extensive list of craft beers and ciders—plus cocktails featuring the likes of mango and yellow bell pepper—keeps things refreshing as the night heats up.
This is a neighborhood bar, through and through. Unpretentious but elevated, the handful of cocktails lean classic (we’re talking mai tais, old-fashioneds and mules), while there’s always craft beer and Bud Heavy on draft. Of course, the real apple of our eye is the Lowburger, one of the absolute best smashburgers anywhere in town (and available for under 10 bucks). Coupled with a Hall & Oates-heavy playlist, it makes for an ironically sceney (but not too hip) gathering place.
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.
Remember Bar Caló, the mezcaleria tucked into a corner of a strip mall? Well this is right there with it. 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—speaking of drinking there, a selection of local brews are on tap as well. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly—no beer snobs here—and the atmosphere is cozy, with communal benches and comfy plush chairs, so you'll never want to leave.
On a busy corner on one of the neighborhood’s busiest stretches, look for this black box of a bar with a blazing red “cocktails” sign. 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, locals-favorite hango is most known for its pool tables, jukebox and disco ball-bedecked dance room. You’ll find anything from ’70s-era disco to New Age. Either way, this is the spot for cheap drinks; you’re most likely to pound back your standard brews (Bud, Coors), but there are also local, craft and made-in-L.A. options for just a bit more cash.
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. That, or it’s packed with every blue-blooded Angeleno who’s here to watch a Dodgers game. Order a beer and a shot for $8, then hit the jukebox for cumbia hits mixed with hilarious stateside hammers (think Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love”)—all while tiny lights stuck to the ceiling above booth seats make for a kitschy indoor night sky.
This isn’t so much the spot you go for a quiet night and a drink—it’s more where you go for a show and find yourself sipping a local beer right next to a band playing punk, indie, dance or experimental, or maybe you’re there to catch your favorite local comedian. When the bar’s coveted seats—around a dozen, 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 wines, plus a few beers on tap, are the name of the game. Maybe 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.