Get us in your inbox

Merin McDonald

Merin McDonald

Articles (3)

Where to find the best arcade bars in Los Angeles

Where to find the best arcade bars in Los Angeles

Sipping cocktails while toppling high scores is that beautiful utopia where adulthood meets childhood: You can stay out as late as you want, the retro vibes never cease, the beer flows freely and games cost as little as a quarter. We’ve compiled a list of the best adult-friendly arcade bars in the Los Angeles area, the kinds where you can both order a cocktail, some natural wine or a beer and play some Space Invaders. From a trendy Arts District bar to an Echo Park spot that doubles as a restaurant, here’s where to unleash your inner pinball wizard in L.A., all grown up.

The best fish and chips restaurants in Los Angeles

The best fish and chips restaurants in Los Angeles

Fish and chips seems like simple enough dish: a couple of fish fillets, battered, deep-fried and served with a healthy portion of chips (or fries, as we Yanks say). Yet there’s more to this pub staple than meets the eye, and all too often, diners looking for inexpensive meals in L.A. settle on mediocre fish and chips. Once you’ve had the real deal, though, you’ll never go back. Whether served in paper at a dive bar, prepared in a food truck or plated at one of L.A.’s best seafood restaurants, here are a few places around town that are doing fish and chips right. RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the best restaurants in Los Angeles

The 10 best mai tais in Los Angeles

The 10 best mai tais in Los Angeles

As synonymous with tropical holidays and weekend getaways as it is with hellish hangovers, the unapologetically strong and sweet mai tai first burst onto the LA bar scene with the explosion of tiki culture in the late 1950s. While the mai tai as we know it was invented in 1944 by Trader Vic, cocktail history nerds will point out that the recipe was inspired by (or stolen from, depending who you ask) Don the Beachcomber’s QB Cooler, a 1933 concoction made with two rums, lime juice, honey, falernum, bitters and ginger syrup. A later adaptation by the Royal Hawaiian hotel added pineapple juice, orange juice and lemon juice to the mix. Today, most bartenders use Trader Vic’s recipe as the classic standard: two types of rum, lime juice, orange curacao and orgeat syrup, though not all are willing to divulge their exact formula. Despite their shared ingredients, however, no two bartenders’ mai tais are completely identical, and in LA, you don’t have to go to a tiki bar or a dive bar to find a good one. Whether you’re in the mood for an island rager or an understated imbibing experience, our list will help you find the mai tai that is your tai.  RECOMMENED: A guide to cocktails in Los Angeles

Listings and reviews (14)

Nighthawk Breakfast Bar

Nighthawk Breakfast Bar

3 out of 5 stars

If you’ve ever had a late-night breakfast craving or felt the urge to pour bourbon into the remnants of your cocoa pebbles—friend, Nighthawk Breakfast Bar is the answer to your sugar-laced prayers. Now at a new location in Venice, Nighthawk serves the most important meal of the day well into the night, along with breakfast-inspired booze to bring out the delinquent child in you. With this concept, owner Jeremy Fall could have easily gone with kitschy diner decor, but instead, Nighthawk’s interior is dark, classic and sultry. Vintage globe chandeliers and tin ceilings mix with contemporary wallpaper to create a modern Victorian vibe, which is only enhanced by the presence of a DJ and the faint aroma of bacon in the air. It’s enough to make you wonder—why can’t breakfast always be this sexy? Vitals Good for: Quelling your midnight munchies after a night on the town or indulging your inner-child-meets-grown-up-glutton. If you’re starting your night here, you’re likely to end it here, too, unless gravy-smothered chicken and biscuits ($12) leave you feeling primed for a dance-off. That’s not a knock on the chicken and biscuits—after devouring them along with a shameless serving of Tapatio-infused candied bacon ($8), we had no regrets, but offering some lighter fare might be a good idea for those who want to stay on their feet. The scene: Hungry (and thirsty) Westsiders crowd into communal tables, booths and banquettes to sip cereal milk and nosh on egg-centric dishes to a soundtra

Mr. Furley's Bar

Mr. Furley's Bar

2 out of 5 stars

“Lower your expectations,” reads a quote printed on the rear corner wall of Mr. Furley’s Bar—attributed, apparently, to the great Mr. Furley himself, a mysterious character portrayed only by a top hat, monocle and mustache that comprises the bar’s logo. Some patrons speculate that the cavernous, casual Sherman Oaks bar is named after a character in Three’s Company—a theory stoked by the inclusion of drinks like the Regal Beagle and Dirty Chrissy on its cocktail menu. The bartenders, however, contend that the Mr. Furley in question actually refers to the owner’s former neighbor in Pennsylvania, loosely described as “crazy as shit.” Whoever he is, the important thing is that you heed his advice, because if you expect this place to be anything more than another high-capacity Ventura Boulevard drinking hole, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. For a while, it seemed that the San Fernando Valley was on the up and up, with destination dining and drinking establishments like Tipple & Brine, Tunnel Bar, The Gadarene Swine and The Fiscal Agent riding a wave of innovation and refinement. Sadly, one by one, all of those places have since shuttered—one reason being that local interest couldn’t match the mystique generated by outsiders. It seems that the Valley wants what the Valley wants, and what it wants is more of the same old formula. It doesn’t matter what the name or meaning behind Mr. Furley’s is. It’s a large, unpretentious bar with cheap, strong drinks, a shot menu, a

La Descarga

La Descarga

4 out of 5 stars

In LA, Houston Hospitality bars have become known for their immersive themes and elaborate entryways. Patrons at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s step through a refrigerator and into the 70s. At Break Room 86, an 80s flashback awaits behind a retro vending machine. In the whimsical world of Mark and Jonnie Houston, everything is not always as it seems—a tradition that started with La Descarga, the first generation of sophisticated speakeasies that would become the brothers’ calling card. From the street, La Descarga appears only in name on an otherwise nondescript East Hollywood apartment building. After you’ve cleared the doorman and crept up a dingy, candlelit stairwell, you are greeted by a hostess who directs you through a dusty armoire leading not to Narnia, but old Havana. As you descend the spiral wrought-iron staircase, you’re transported to a night club in 1940s Cuba, where opulence meets urban decay. Chandeliers hang from distressed ceilings and candles flicker at intimate leather booths, creating a tarnished elegance that is warm, sultry and hauntingly beautiful. Live musicians play nightly from the overhead balcony, where dancers shake their assets during burlesque shows Thursdays through Saturdays. LAX may soon be offering direct flights to Havana, but until then, this is the closest you’ll get without a passport. Vitals Good for: Celebrating a special occasion with a small group or a hot date. It’s an intimate space and a classy joint, so reservations are required al

Block Party

Block Party

2 out of 5 stars

From the street, Block Party—a craft beer concept in Highland Park from Jason Eisner (Gracias Madre)—doesn’t look like much of a party. The clean, minimalist shopfront borders on sterile, with white walls and blank space reminiscent of an Apple store, an empty gallery or one of those inexplicably trendy coffee shops that blends the two. A neon sign displaying the words “Block Party” lets you know you’re in the right place, but it’s not until you reach the back patio that you feel like you’ve actually arrived. Here is the relaxed neighborhood bar you were promised, where a large outdoor space complete with communal picnic tables, candy-striped umbrellas and an oversized shuffleboard court serves as the heart of Block Party. Perhaps that's why it's all the more jarring when you have to leave this adult backyard playground to order your drinks back inside at the Genius Bar. The blow is softened, at least, by a genuinely pleasant and laid-back bar staff, who are happy to offer recommendations, samples and Notorious B.I.G. at full volume as the mood prescribes. Still, there’s something less than relaxing about the vibe here. Despite its best efforts, Block Party’s atmosphere feels strained and manufactured, more like a “chill-out” space at a tech start-up than an authentic neighborhood spot. Even in the California heat, this place left us feeling a little cold. Vitals Good for: Hanging with your buddies and knocking back some brews in a setting that’s void of televisions. Instead

ETA

ETA

4 out of 5 stars

In a neighborhood that’s witnessing new juice bars and yoga studios pop up every week, ETA could be seen as but one of many horsemen of Highland Park’s gentrification apocalypse. Somehow, though, it manages to fit into its surroundings in a way that’s inoffensive, unpretentious and accessible. Will longtime, non-transplant natives be coming here for a beer? Maybe not, but they’d certainly feel welcome if they stepped inside. The bar 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. But where The Greyhound brings diehard sports fans together with TVs, Midwest vibes and chicken wings, ETA opts for a more refined, intimate approach to imbibing, offering craft cocktails and a thoughtfully curated selection of beer and wine in a sleek yet understated environment. 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. Conjured up by Mauricio Canales of Mercado and Bar Amá, the cocktail program incorporates truly unique ingredients with obscure spirits and liqueurs to create complex flavors you won’t find in any other bar nearby—and while Highland Park might not need another bar, locals can feel lucky that this is the one they got. Vitals Good for: High-end drinks in a low-key setting. While the cocktails themselves are enough of

The Lincoln

The Lincoln

4 out of 5 stars

Walking down a section of Venice’s Lincoln Blvd that’s home to little more than auto body shops, liquor stores and an Orthodox synagogue, you’d be forgiven for thinking you might be looking in the wrong place for a swanky cocktail bar. And yet, just as you begin to wonder if your sat-nav has erroneously guided you to “Lincoln Liquor Locker” rather than your intended destination, the familiar sight of a bouncer appears and The Lincoln calls you home. Upon crossing The Lincoln’s threshold, you immediately find yourself in an enclosed open-air patio, where industrial light fixtures hang over reclaimed wood tables dotted with ubiquitous succulents. The post-industrial theme continues inside, where designer Matt Winter’s (Melrose Umbrella Company, Power House) creative hand is evident in the seamless incorporation of modern elements and warm vintage aesthetic. In keeping with the neighborhood, The Lincoln’s design invokes the feeling of a renovated repair shop and is peppered with automotive references—the most obvious being the rusty old Lincoln on display at the bar’s rear. Encased in glass and surrounded by antique auto mechanic artifacts, it’s a diorama that could easily be conceived by an Imagineer as a focal point alongside a Disney attraction. Whimsical but refined, stylish but not pretentious and innovative but oddly familiar, The Lincoln might just be one of our favorite pit stops on this side of town. Vitals Good for: Small group outings and celebrations, cocktail-fueled

Old Man Bar

Old Man Bar

4 out of 5 stars

For most, the phrase “old man bar” conjures a specific image of worn upholstery, bowls of peanuts on a laminate bar top and crotchety curmudgeons downing cheap, no-nonsense drinks dispensed by a leathery brunette with a gravely voice and a smoker’s cough—let’s call her Barb. There may be a lounge act on Friday nights; the air, for some reason, smells distinctly of prime rib; and the place is empty or closed by 9pm. This is not the Old Man Bar you’ll find at Hatchet Hall. Tucked away in the rear of the elegantly eclectic Culver City restaurant, Old Man Bar is that only in name. There’s no Barb, questionable peanuts or laminate, but rather an imposing, elaborately carved wooden bar, a grand selection of bourbon and other spirits and bartenders who know how to treat them right. With a post-Jeopardy 8pm opening time, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any old fogeys at the bar. You will find Old Fashioneds, though—nine variations, to be exact, each with a different twist that would make your granddad groan (if he were able to read the menu). The intimate space is considerably dark, even slightly spooky, with taxidermy, antlers, animal skulls and black and white portraits illuminated only by the low glow of etched antique lamps, candles and an ornate fireplace. Despite the beautifully macabre decor, however, there’s something cozy, charming and comforting about Old Man Bar that beckons you to sink into an armchair or booth and stay awhile—and you don’t need an AARP card to appreciate t

Blipsy Bar

Blipsy Bar

This K-Town dive is LA’s arcade bar OG. From the outside, it’s nondescript, but inside, it’s a darkly lit hybrid of childhood amusements and adult inebriation. Oversized carnival animals and vintage toys peek out from every nook and cranny like an 8-year-old’s nightmare, but that’s part of this place’s charm. The selection of games is ample, but don’t expect them to be in tip-top shape—in a bar where drinks are this cheap and stiff, there’s bound to be a few sticky buttons. Ms. Pacman, Paperboy and Gun Fight are popular when Blipsy gets packed, with the latter apparently a go-to icebreaker for folks on first dates. If games aren’t your thing, there’s always dancing—every night after 10pm, Blipsy hosts live DJs playing everything from 70s rock and metal to hip hop and Caribbean dancehall. Just remember to bring cash and quarters. 

Crawfords

Crawfords

3 out of 5 stars

At Crawfords, what you see is what you get. The simple signage on the bar’s brick exterior reads “Fried Chicken” and “Ice Cold Beer,” and that’s exactly what you can expect: southern-style hot chicken and cheap American lager served in thick, frosty mugs. There’s something familiar and comforting about this Westlake haunt, which skillfully treads the line between homey nostalgia and hokey gimmicks. You won’t find $11 tater tots on the menu, for example, and while you can order a PBR, it won’t come in a brown paper bag for the sake of someone’s idea of “irony.” Instead, you’ve got spicy boiled peanuts and Ruffles—those reliably ridged American snack staples, paired with their equally iconic counterpart of onion dip (we would probably eat Ruffles with onion dip if the kitchen scooped it straight from the Frito-Lay jar, but the thick homemade effort with charred sweet onions and sour cream is certainly an improvement). At Crawfords, there’s no longer the thrill of getting buzzed in the door—as was the case with Linda’s, the previous tenant—but there is the convenience of paying by card, and, once you find parking, an atmosphere that feels effortlessly friendly and relaxed. Renovations certainly didn’t leave this place with that polished “new bar” feeling—partially stripped brick walls, a pool table and deer hunt game, and eclectic but restrained kitsch (think: a canoe hovering over the bar) make Crawfords seem right at home in the neighborhood. Despite its narrow focus, it’s far

Guest Room

Guest Room

1 out of 5 stars

Unfortunately, the people behind Santa Monica’s Guest Room got wind of the speakeasy trend about five years too late, and while they could be forgiven for a lack of originality, they’ve failed on the execution in the most basic ways. Housed above the exorbitant Estate restaurant, the bar is accessed by a secret door—an Aztec-style mural outside the restaurant’s main entrance—but the illusion of secrecy is shattered by the fact that Guest Room, in all its mirrored, draped and ostentatious glory, is fully visible from the street. Inside, patrons receive table service from apathetic staff in a sprawled lounge-style seating area that at best seems like a holding space for Estate diners, and at worst seems like a group of pumped-up gym types have put on collared shirts and converged in one place to take selfies together. Guest Room seems to subscribe to the same radio station as 24 Hour Fitness as well, as subpar cocktails and overpriced flatbreads are consumed to a cacophony of bad techno/hip hop remixes of techno/hip hop songs that were terrible to begin with. The one thing that they do get right is “speakeasy” cocktails in their most historically authentic sense—many of them taste like they’ve been specifically crafted to mask the taste of bathtub (or bottom shelf) hooch which, at $13 each, is frankly unacceptable. Vitals Good for: “This would be a cool place for a party or an event,” said a middle-aged man in an expensive-looking suit.           The scene: The unfortunate by-p

The Fiscal Agent

The Fiscal Agent

5 out of 5 stars

Julian Cox has lent his name (and his impeccable cocktail craftsmanship) to some of the most celebrated restaurant bar programs in LA: Redbird, Bestia, Barrel & Ashes and the short-lived, dearly departed Brilliantshine, to name a few. At his first solo venture, however, Cox’s drinks take center stage, and the result is predictably miraculous. For cocktail worshippers, The Fiscal Agent feels like sacred ground; a hidden temple in which liquid divinity is expertly concocted and salvation is but a few sips away. Lodged above Barrel & Ashes in Studio City, the bar feels a world away from Ventura Boulevard, with an atmosphere that invokes the sultry sophistication of a private club in London or Paris. An interior by Ricki Kline (The Varnish, The Normandie Club) plays a big role in this, with black paneled walls, chevroned wood floors, antique portrait prints and a mosaic of stained glass bringing a blend of old world and contemporary aesthetic to the intimate seating area. Cox isn’t the only ace behind the bar, by the way. Eveleigh’s Dave Kupchinsky, Sotto’s Nick Meyer and Bestia’s Kristina Howald have all brought their collective genius to a cocktail menu that is innovative, unique and, at times, genuinely surprising. Cox and his cohorts may draw inspiration from the classic cocktails of yesteryear, but their ingredients and techniques depart so boldly from the originals that you can never really expect what you’ll get when you order it. Part science, part sorcery and certainly a

Bar Bandini

Bar Bandini

4 out of 5 stars

Dark, sexy and surprisingly unpretentious, Bar Bandini is the neighborhood wine bar Echo Park didn’t know it needed. Named after Arturo Bandini, the writer protagonist of LA Depression-era novelist John Fante, the bar has the attitude of a brooding classic with a design and atmosphere that is decidedly of the 21st century, all without resorting to exposed brick, Edison bulbs or even chalkboard menus. Instead, Bar Bandini’s curated selection of natural and organic wines and beers is listed on black letter boards, both legible and imposing in its scale. Dark painted walls, suede banquettes and black slate surfaces are balanced with rustic exposed wood, invoking the feeling of a chic garage conversion left intentionally unfinished. Hanging globe fixtures and candles add a welcome hint of warmth to the dim interior, while street lights and passing cars cast a reflective shadow of the “BANDINI” on the shopfront windows to the adjacent wall—it’s very noir. Somehow, Bar Bandini manages to simultaneously accomplish cool and cozy, providing a unique inventory and ambiance that not only wows on arrival, but invites you to stay for more.   Vitals Good for: Any social encounter conjunctive to drinking wine (read: all social encounters). Bar Bandini’s sultry lighting makes it a romantic choice for date night or a first date—assuming you already know what your date looks like. It’s equally versatile as an après-work hideaway or a catch-up spot for friends looking to unwind but still be in

The best things in life are free.

Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

Loading animation
Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!