Drink up at these Highland Park bars
From the street, Block Party—a craft beer concept from Jason Eisner (Gracias Madre)—doesn’t look like much of a party. The clean, minimalist shopfront sports white walls and a blank space reminiscent of an Apple store or a trendy coffee shop. It’s not until you reach the back patio that you feel like you’ve actually arrived. Here is where the large outdoor space, complete with communal picnic tables, candy-striped umbrellas and an oversized shuffleboard court, serves as the heart of Block Party. It's a bit jarring when you have to leave this adult backyard playground to order your drinks back inside, but the blow is softened by a genuinely pleasant and laid-back bar staff. Micheladas, a vast array of local beer and cocktail snow cones make for a fun order.
Formerly known as the Little Cave, Highland Park's dive-turned-Mexican-cocktail-den morphed into La Cuevita. The theme here is Día de los Muertos, where skulls, skeletons and upside-down bats unapologetically swarm mezcal and tequila-lined shelves. A full cocktail list with both spirits is enough to make anyone a convert; show up between 5 and 9pm daily and you'll be able to take advantage of the bar's fantastic happy hour. Classic drinks get a Mexican twist—we like the popular Smokey Margarita, made with Los Javis Silver mezcal, and the Malditos Secretos, spiked with tequila, Jamaica flower, lime and agave.
ETA springs from the creative collective of James Bygrave, Ryan Julio and Matt Glassman, the same party responsible for The Greyhound less than a block away. The brick-walled, modern minimalist interior is accented with midcentury and industrial furnishings, while mural work by local artist Tarajosu greets you at the entrance and seeps into the rest of the design. If you’re after something that's both nostalgic and fresh, go for the Everything's Comin' Up Millhous—made with bourbon, orange cream citrate, gin, vanilla bean, orange, egg whites and cane sugar—an uplifting cooler that'll be gone before you realize it. What's more, you can sip and sway when you stop by on Monday and Tuesday nights when live jazz livens up the space even more.
Good Housekeeping is what happens when you put a classic cocktail lounge in Highland Park. In this ever-changing neighborhood, curious imbibers can find the drinkery from Spirit Animal Group’s Nicholas Krok, Ryan Duffy and Jeremy Simpson inside a converted garage off an alleyway behind Cafe Birdie. Stop right there if you are getting even the teeniest inclination that this is a speakeasy; instead, the twinkle-lit courtyard and homey interior combo conveys a downright neighborly feel. And the best part? No crowds. For real.
On Highland Park's ever-changing York Boulevard, the Hermosillo serves local craft beer and dozens of small-production wines by the glass. Walls sport old Mexican movie posters and a selection of reds and whites, many from Mexico. The Hermosillo also happens to be the taproom of Highland Park Brewery, whose beer is brewed under the same roof. Groups sink into one of the comfy banquettes, while seasoned bar-goers—some sporting sunglasses in the thick of night—spread out among tables and huddle around the bar. Bonus: There’s a shuffleboard for low-profile competitive fun.
There are few L.A. venues more beautiful than Highland Park Bowl at the moment. Formerly a cherished music venue called Mr. T's Bowl, the 1933 Group (La Cuevita, Harlowe, Idle Hour) took over the space in 2015 after the previous owner passed away, and began an extensive renovation process that would ultimately transform the space into a gorgeous, steampunk-esque bowling alley and bar. Yes, the main focus here is on bowling, but the two facing bars offer excellent craft cocktails and a rotating selection of local beers. The Dude Abides is, of course, a take on a White Russian and an ode to the original Dude; for something a little smokier, try the Handsome Not Handless, made with mezcal, giffard banane, luxardo maraschino, and fresh pineapple and lime juices.
This old, divey boozer has been discovered by artsy indie kids, who mix freely with locals and spillover from the York next door. Entertainment from the excellent jukebox is supplemented by semi-regular movie screenings; a pool table provides additional diversion. Sip bourbon alongside the barfly regulars or play foosball and billiards while listening to jams from Sonic Youth to Iggy Pop.
Depending on who you ask, the Offbeat, a retro-fitted mod bar, is either the best or worst thing to happen to 6316 York Boulevard. The bar sits on the former spot of Dusty’s Sports Bar, a long revered and often feared local establishment with a reputation as the diviest dive around. There’s still the casual feeling of a local watering hole, but now with working toilets and an exponentially reduced risk of stabbings. The bartenders make a mean old-fashioned the old fashioned way, with well bourbon and a maraschino cherry. There’s also a decent selection of beers, with something for everyone, from your standard Stella or Trumer Pils to a pint of Guinness. During happy hour (5-8pm daily), there’s $5 Palomas and Gimlets and $1 off all other drinks, which is enough to at least make you crack a smile.
Sonny's Hideaway is a small-ish space, bisected into a dining room with booths of leather burgundy and tufted two-tops, and a handsome dark wood bar lined with leather stools. While drafts are pounded and numbers exchanged at the Hermosillo down the block, a more laid-back (and, dare we say, more mature?) crowd of Eastside cool kids soak in Sonny's craft cocktail program. Crackerjack versions of the classics share the roster with more obscure spirits and unexpected ingredients. Tonics and house-made vinegars are also on the list, to keep designated drivers in the game while wine and four California drafts keep it local. Don't forget the food: L.A. may have had its fill of coffee-braised pork cheeks and piled-high $20 burgers during the city's gastropub explosion, but Sonny's Hideaway always manages to keep it fresh.
This delightful gastropub boasts 12 beers on tap and an extensive wine and bottled-beer list, along with cocktail classics such as aviations and palomas. The decor is industrial chic: Edison bulbs hang on black wires over a long L-shaped bar, and red-brick walls, high ceilings and exposed beams create an East Coast lofty feel. Expect elevated comfort food such as the Sriracha wings with honey and cilantro; truffled mac and cheese; a grilled tofu sandwich with rocket, pickled onion and wasabi mayo; and grilled steak frites.