Walk around the tight-knit community of Los Feliz and you'll pass by a handful of bars that seem to serve more as neighborhood meeting spots than watering holes. You'll find tiki bars—yes, plural—alongside wine bars and cocktail bars, bars with fantastic patios for easy day drinking and dives with a really great jukebox. Mostly, though, you'll find bars where friends and neighbors come to hang—and where, if you're a newcomer, you'll soon fit right in.
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Drink up at these Los Feliz bars
Imagine your grandmother’s house: Warm and inviting, with no shortage of antique knick-knacks. Now add a ton of booze. Welcome to Big Bar which, despite its name, is actually quite small—about 15 people inside feels snug, though more like a friendly hug than a claustrophobic nightmare. Yet somehow this utterly vintage nook adjacent to Alcove Cafe & Bakery hosts inevitably-packed events with utter ease, from weekly bartender takeovers to monthly movie-themed drinks coinciding with a screening on the patio. Add to that an uncomplicated yet whimsical drink program from master mixologist Cari Hah (Clifton’s, Three Clubs, City Tavern DTLA), and you’ve reached neighborhood bar heaven. Sit back, relax and sip a handcrafted swill, all prepared with fine spirits, house-made syrups and, most importantly, a whole lot of love.
Matthew Kaner and Dustin Lancaster, co-owners of this popular Los Feliz bar, are happy to talk beer and wine—the focus on small production, off-the-beaten-path old-world and new-world selections from around the globe. There's also a selection of light-fare snacks and, more recently, brunch on the weekends (11am-3pm). Try Carnivore's Special Flatbread (rosemary, cheese and cured meats) with a glass—note the proper Riedel stemware for optimal sniffing—of something leathery and French. Kaner and Lancaster like to feature wines from obscure and familiar regions, but not arbitrarily—there’s always a story behind the wine, and they're happy to share. Go early with a book and sit beneath ironic bookshelves supporting vintage cameras. Once the bar fills up (and it does), candles and dim Edison bulbs illuminate a well-dressed neighborhood crowd of food and wine buffs.
There's a solid collection of tiki bars in LA, but despite the presence of coconut-infused cocktails, Good Luck Bar seems to straddle the line between tiki bar and straight-up dive. To find the space, look for “Luck” in neon lights along Hillhurst Ave; inside, it’s all shadows and eccentric personalities befitting of a proper tiki bar—except for fluorescent-red Chinese lanterns, wooden dragons overhead and a Buddhist temple that doubles as the bar. Sipping rum-fueled concoctions out of ceramic coconuts in a space that seems more suited for a quiet game of mahjong can be confusing. Loosen up with the deceptively strong house special, aptly named the Potent Potion—spiced rum, fresh pineapple juice and homemade coconut cream all blended together, then sprinkled with nutmeg and toasted coconut. After a few of those, you’ll feel right at home.
This neighborhood bar is home to equal parts regulars and young hipster types. Heck, some of the young hipsters are the regulars now. It's a true dive that's been around for years—the jukebox is old school, the bar is cash only and you'll usually see at least one or two folks downing beers between switching their laundry over next door. The drinks are cheap and strong—which sounds like a good thing, but beware of too much of said good thing. Many a night at the Drawing Room has ended poorly, we're sure.
In Los Angeles, with its year-round warm weather, Sunset’s Polynesian-themed tiki bar never goes out of season. Jam-packed (like an episode of Hoarders) with blowfish, tribal masks and faux tropical foliage, entering Tiki-Ti is like taking a tropical vacation without the plane ticket. As one would expect, the kitschy bar serves brightly-colored tropical drinks—a mai tai or Blue Hawaiian does the trick—with the requisite pineapple and maraschino cherry skewer. This place generally packs a long line—not because there’s a red velvet rope out front, but because of the dive’s miniscule size.
The first thing to know about this dive bar in Los Feliz: The chicken wings are the stuff of legend. Ye Rustic Inn has a full menu of pub grub, as well as a regular rotation of both old-timers and a younger (and rowdier) crowd on the weekends. There's an old school jukebox (no touch screens here), kitschy mood lighting (chandeliers!) and TVs playing the sport of the season. Get here early to score a comfy booth inside, or hang out on the back patio where patrons can smoke—but, inexplicably, can't drink.