It’s a new year, it’s a new you. Whether or not you followed through on your resolutions so far in 2019, you deserve to treat yourself to a weekend of fun in LA. In the city of stars there is no shortage of thrills. We rounded-up the best “Angeleno” approved events to spruce up your first weekend of the year!
Read below for events happening in and round LA January 4-6.
Discover your inner Angeleno!
Friday, January 4th
First-Time Fridays at LACMA
You haven’t been to LACMA you say? Well luckily for you, LA’s Contemporary Museum of Modern Art accepts this and offers First Time Fridays. This monthly event invites guest to explore the museum from 3:00pm-8:00pm for LA residents. If you let the ticket office know it is your first visit to LACMA, you will receive a free poster and discounts at the LACMA store, LACMA Cafe and C+M.
AK’s neighborhood block party returns this Friday on the “coolest block in America”. Whatever your craving, you’ll be sure to find something with new and old food trucks joining the event and merchant discounts plus late hours.
NBA tickets to see the Los Angeles Lakers play the New York Knicks are sure to be selling quickly! Fans from both sides of the nation won’t want to miss this exciting regular season game! If you want to be there to catch all of the action you’d better act now. Secure your seats so you can cheer on your favorite team!
Roam for Romans on a unique scavenger hunt that transports you to ancient Greece and Rome via the Getty Villa. You’ll follow a trail of clues and answer fun, tricky questions. Discover facts you never knew about the odd aspects of gods, goddesses, and the inventors of the toga party.
Discover the best foreign language films of 2018. This year’s five nominees include Capernaum from Lebanon, Girl from Belgium, Never Look Away from Germany, Roma from Mexico, and Shoplifters from Japan. The symposium will also include a free roundtable with the Directors for each of the nominated films. The panel will be moderated by Mike Goodridge, former HFPA member and VP turned festival director and programmer. Advance sale tickers are available until 5:00pm January 4 but will still be available for standby the day of.
Come share your love of Lego and discover hundreds of fan created models at the Pasadena Convention Center ! Enjoy their vendor area with new, used, and unique brick accessories as well as building techniques and panel discussions. It will be a weekend of fun for all ages.
Come see some of the fastest, rarest and most beloved Shelby’s of all time. The Petersen will celebrate Carroll Shelby’s birthday by having a cruise-in on the third floor parking structure of the museum. All car enthusiasts are invited to participate in the car show and contest. Coffee and snacks will be provided.
Named by Nickelodeon the “Best Children’s Theater” in Los Angeles, A Faery Hunt delights as a magical adventure. Auntie Angelica leads the audience on a gentle journey to help the Faery royalty! With the help of the audience and the Faeries, it’s a musical filled afternoon with fun, laughs and surprises.
Just because the holidays are over, doesn’t mean the fun has to be. Don’t miss out on the last day of the LA Kings Holiday Ice at L.A. Live. Skate your way through the weekend as a family fun activity or date night.
Fact: Watching your college football team at home while shouting at the screen is waaaaay less fun than watching them at a bar while shouting at the screen with your fellow alumni and fans. With that in mind, Thrillist has tracked down every college football team-affiliated bar in LA — and divided them up by conference — to ensure you’re not flying solo come game time.
If you don’t find your team below, it’s not because they don’t think you guys should win this year; it’s most likely they couldn’t find (or confirm) a designated bar.
Vibe: Sycamore Tavern really isn’t much different from former bar The Happy Ending, but maybe that’s what you’re looking for. Syc Tav does a full American menu (very solid during happy hour), lots of beer, and an ample amount of TVs.
People complain that Los Angeles isn’t conducive to barhopping: Everything is spread out, we don’t have a decent transportation system, the 2 a.m. curfew. With the growing number of awesome bars, it’s getting easier to connect the dots and hop between watering holes — and not just in downtown L.A.
If you want to try something brand new and visit a local icon, the 1.3-mile stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between Sweetzer and Formosa avenue has plenty of options. They’re all within stumbling distance of each other so no need to Uber between them although we recommend you leave the stilettos at home.
La Fête: Ease into the evening with a light pastis aperitif or a spritz at this new French-inspired cocktail bar, which opened up in the elegant space adjacent to Norah and features a bar program by David Kupchinsky (Eveleigh, Freehand Hotel). If you want to come in hot, there’s a martini service with a sidecar of excess cocktail and olives. 8277 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. www.lafetelosangeles.com
Laurel Hardware’s Mezcal Bar: Cut through the crowd and duck into the elegant mezcal-dedicated bar in the back, past the kitchen. It’s quieter and more sophisticated with plush seating, wood panels and vintage mirrors. Choose from about a hundred mezcals. If sipping them neat is too hardcore for an extended barhop, try one of the seasonal cocktails made with the spirit. 7984 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. www.laurelhardware.com
Employees Only: The award-winning New York bar from bartender Dushan Zaric now has an L.A. outpost with its own pizza oven, so this would be a good place to grab some sustenance. Snag a seat at the room-length bar and settle in with one of the tall drinks, maybe the Rain Dance Cobbler made with gin, madeira, blackberry syrup, ruby port and fresh berries and herbs. 7953 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. www.employeesonlyla.com
Surly Goat: By now, you’re probably ready for a beer break. Fortunately this craft beer bar by L.A.’s first cicerone, Ryan Sweeney, is in the middle of our route. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices that 26 beers on tap presents, ask the “beertender” for guidance. If you want to continue your barhop, stick to low-ABV options such as a 4 percent lager or Berliner Weisse. 7929 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. surlygoat.com
No More Heroes: The folks behind Ysabel and Laurel Hardware transformed the Now Boarding space into a rock ‘n roll den with artsy murals of everyone from David Bowie to Biggie Smalls. It’s meant to be the chill neighborhood alternative to the velvet rope scene, offering $14 signature drinks as well as a dedicated roster of frozen cocktails. The slushy house margarita is a good bet. 7746 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. nmh.la
Bar Lubitsch: This Russian-themed vodka bar has staying power, surviving the craft cocktail trend that killed martini bars like Lola’s. (RIP Appletini.) It’s a good spot to regroup and recover from palate fatigue with a clean vodka soda. They offer vodkas from all over the world, everything from A to V (that’d be Armenia to Vietnam). Want to dance? Duck into the Red Room in back to see which band or DJ is playing. 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. barlubitsch.com
Barbette: Time for a steak frites and champagne break! Fortify yourself with protein and carbs in the form of a brasserie favorite. Opened in May, this French bar and bistro features a cocktail menu by bartender Brittney Olsen, who mixes classic and signature sparkling cocktails. Plus, they have a great selection of wines by the glass. If you don’t feel like cutting into a steak, order those addictive fries. 7511 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. www.barbettebarandbistro.com
Harlowe: The night is drawing to an end and so are you. Escape the crowded dance floor at the most beautiful of the 1933 Group’s bar by retreating to Harlowe’s patio lounge. Skip the free-flowing Old Fashioned on tap, a potent way to cut any barhop short, for a refreshing Mule made with lime, stomach-soothing ginger beer and a spirit of your choice. 7321 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. harlowebar.com
Jones: End the night at the Beggars’ Banquet, a late-night happy hour from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. featuring $4.50 beers and $8.50 cocktails, including their Dirty Sue Martini made with vodka or gin and Dirty Sue olive juice. You can also order a pasta, pizza or salad to help stave off a hangover. Save room for their sizzling apple pie. 7205 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. www.joneshollywood.com
There’s a special feeling you get at every great Los Angeles rooftop. After taking an elevator (or the stairs) all the way up to the deck, you experience a revelation: a view of the city you’ve never seen unfolds before you, courtesy of a previously unknown vantage point. That feeling of discovery is, of course, made even better when it’s abetted by great drinks, or great food, or… tennis? Whether you’re lookin to turn up after work or simply relax in style, you’ve got plenty of options — which is why we’ve gathered the choicest hangouts into one handy guide. Start enjoying LA’s vertical side at the coolest rooftop retreats in the city.
At the top of the Freehand Hotel sits Broken Shaker, the type of rooftop spot that LA desperately needs more of. Bright, colorful, and buzzy, Broken Shaker is rocking some of the best DTLA views of any rooftop in the area. The cocktail and bites menus are no joke either — think beachside fish shack vibes. Protip: They’re open during the daytime, too.
The Nomad Hotel rocked LA as one of 2018’s biggest openings, and between the lobby and mezzanine restaurants, you probably thought that was all they had to offer. Wrong. The newly opened rooftop bar is wonderful, featuring a menu full of Nomad-quality stuff; all the cocktails, beers, wines, and frozen drinks you could ask for are available, as well as tasty bites (shout-out to those scallops), and there’s even a whole section of non-alcoholic cocktails. Fun for the whole family!
If you’ve been in LA for even one second, you’ve heard somebody rejoicing that we finally got an Eataly. It hasn’t disappointed, despite being located in the Century City Westfield Mall (it’s honestly shocking how much great stuff is in there now), and the new rooftop is no exception. Drinks are a no-brainer, but if you’re hungry there’s also a full-service lunch & dinner restaurant.
There are rooftops, and then there’s Spire 73. This open-air hotspot is, you guessed it, 73 stories in the air, and an absolute titan of the DTLA scene. Clocking in at over 1,000ft, the Wilshire Grand Center is the tallest building west of the Mississippi (seriously), and that makes Spire 73 — part of the building’s InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel — the highest place to grab a drink in LA. The views are breathtaking (literally — you’re 73 stories up), and there isn’t a single piece of LA you can’t see.
This longtime local favorite rooftop somehow still feels like a hidden treasure: the pool is beautiful, the food at its classic-American restaurant is delicious, the garden calming, and the bars — there are two — thirst quenching. It’s a favorite for parties and weddings too, though, so call ahead to make sure you can get up there before heading over.
The prime Downtown rooftop of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant atop the Ritz-Carlton is usually closed to the public — except for this summer, when on Friday and Saturday nights it’ll be open for a revolving door of food concepts, including ramen, American BBQ, Korean BBQ, and an ongoing dessert bar.
It’s confusing which half of this two-story restaurant/bar is EP and which is LP, but it doesn’t matter: everyone calls it by both names, and everyone’s happy when they end up on whichever one is actually the rooftop, which has great views, fire pits, amazing cocktails, and small-bite Asian food from EP downstairs. Er, LP downstairs. Er, from the downstairs kitchen.
Since the hotel’s opening in 2014, the Upstairs bar at Ace has become an unquestionable classic in the rooftop game, thanks to a roaring fireplace, a killer view of that iconic “Jesus Saves” sign, amazing drinks, a pool (albeit a weirdly small one), and DJs and performances nearly nightly. It’s also a perfect place to stop before a show (and after a show) at Ace’s Theater.
This right-in-the-heart-of-Hollywood hotel opened its rooftop just in time for summer 2016, and it’s completely open to the public, with great panoramic views of the city, a full-on yoga studio with daily classes, a Mediterranean restaurant, and evening programming that includes DJs, film screenings, and acoustic sets from local songwriters.
You’d never know this rooftop bar was here if you didn’t, uh, know this rooftop bar was here, which is just one of the many reasons it’s great: carefully-curated, fresh ingredient-filled drinks are another.
Anyone can das boot on the lower level, but grab a drink upstairs at the Red Lion to feel like you’re really in the middle of Berlin (and grab one of the monster-size pretzels for extra authenticity). Oh and just because it’s not that high off the ground doesn’t mean it’s not a rooftop.
Okay, this one stretches the rooftop definition a little, but its top-of-the-mountain view of the city + great pool + model-y ambience is probably what people from the Midwest think of when they picture LA. Grab some of the house-made harissa hummus or some seafood flatbread, and think about all the poor unfortunate souls who aren’t you.
Yeah, this Downtown restaurant’s got one of the best views in the city, but did you know one floor above is a bar with EVEN BETTER-ER VIEWS IN THE CITY? And the drinks are so good, you guys. Try a Spicy Concombre w/ Greenalls gin, St. Germain, lime juice, cucumber, and jalapeño. Alternatively, you can grab yourself a $6 Scrimshaw, or a $7 Stone IPA. And psst, they’ve even got a late-night menu, including ahi tuna tartar and burgers.
It looks like a nondescript office building on the outside, but the Hotel Wilshire is actually a great boutique hotel on an otherwise non-hotel-y part of, uh, Wilshire that’s equipped with a fantastic rooftop bar and a killer view of the Hollywood Hills.
Take the less than 10min walk from Abbot Kinney and peep Hotel Erwin’s rooftop bar (assuming you haven’t already while you were completing the LA bucket list). The sea breeze goes great with one of the craft cocktails or some mahi-mahi tacos. Easy street parking and nutso sunsets are also a major plus.
Eating and drinking don’t have to be your only rooftop activities this summer (but they could be!). If you’re done unleashing your inner Jeremy Piven and want to unleash your inner Serena Williams instead, head over to the West Hollywood Tennis courts and check out the beautifully-maintained courts on the roof of the parking structure.
Eating and drinking and playing tennis also don’t have to be your only rooftop activities this summer (but again, they could be!). Once you’re done unleashing your inner Serena, unleash your inner Tiger Woods (minus, you know, the cheating) at this rooftop driving range, which has an automated ball-teeing system and is open ’til 10pm.
Of all LA’s rooftops, The Library at the Redbury seems to be the one everybody forgets about… so, you know, stop forgetting about it. As its name suggests, the place has a library-meets-lounge-meets-rooftop-meets-Hollywood vibe, and the Mediterranean food menu comes courtesy of Cleo Hollywood downstairs. Oh, and of course it’s got views for days. See ya there.
A brand-new, elite-level day-drinking option on the rooftop of the Hollywood Proper, Filifera is here to combat the woeful lack of great rooftops in LA. Grab some upscale cocktails, upscale snacks, and bask in the glorious sunshine that brought you there in the first place. By the way, if you’re wondering what a filifera is, you’d know it better as the desert fan palm tree.
You’ve got college friends/parents/strangers-you-met-on-the-sidewalk coming to visit LA, huh? Well, it’s your duty to show them a great time; but even more than that, show them what LA is really about. You’re their tour guide, so why take them to the predictable places they’d go without you? Instead, we whipped up this handy guide to help you really dig into the heart of our fair city, while skipping out on the touristy, obvious choices.
Instead of In-N-Out, hit up an under-the-radar burger joint
If they’re not from the West Coast, the obvious answer is to take them to In-N-Out (there’s one by the airport for maximum convenience). But chances are they’re already familiar with the beauty of the Double-Double, so hook ’em up with some under-the-radar burgers that are truly LA — Bill’s Hamburgers and Jack’s Classic in the Valley are great options, as well as Carney’s in West Hollywood.
Instead of the Hollywood Bowl or the Greek, find a more intimate venue
LA is undeniably a music town, and the city is filled with incredible spots to catch live acts. But instead of relying on one of the huge venues, consider some of the smaller local spots full of LA history, like the Kibitz Room (where Guns N’ Roses and the Chili Peppers got their start) or even Rainbow Bar & Grill (where legends like Elvis and Lemmy would hang). You should also consider one of the many amazing venues with free music nights where you can catch up-and-coming stars and sometimes surprise appearances from big names. You can even split the difference between huge & tiny venues with excellent, intimate shows at the Troubadour or the Teragram Ballroom.
Instead of fast food for a late-night fourth meal, eat tacos from a truck
Tacos are essentially LA on a plate, and there might be nothing more perfect for out-of-towners to get the full experience than posting up outside of a taco truck (bonus points if it’s after you’ve taken them to one of LA’s infamous dive bars). Don’t settle for the first truck you find (though chances are it’ll get you through) — hunt down Leo’s or El Flamin’ Taco for that legendary al pastor, or any number of the exemplary tacos that can be found across LA. If it’s mid-afternoon and you’re looking to get a little more artisanal with your tacos, get over to Guerrilla Tacos or Kogi BBQ in a hurry. And explain to your guests who Roy Choi is while you’re at it.
Instead of eating fancy, Americanized sushi in a trendy area, go old-school in a strip mall
If there’s one thing that makes LA what it is, it’s our limitless amount of incredible food in strip malls. Sushi especially. The long drive to Canoga Park is beyond worth it for Go’s Mart (Go’s fish is imported straight from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo) though the entire SF Valley is packed with gems like Katsuya, Sushi Spot, Chiba, and more. For a non-Valley option, Hamasaku certainly won’t let you down.
Instead of a predictable club, go to a Houston Hospitality speakeasy-style bar
It might sound odd to endorse an entire hospitality company, but fraternal twins Mark and Jonnie Houston have done something kind of incredible for LA’s nightlife scene: They’ve created an enduring brand of genuinely fun destinations. When fans hear they’re opening a new spot, they tend to geek out like a new Star Wars movie is on the way. Almost every HH bar is defined by a secret entrance, excellent live music, some sort of live show, and an insanely attractive clientele. Take a gander at No Vacancy to start off, as it probably best defines what Houston Hospitality stands for (and don’t spoil the entrance!).
Instead of drinking beer at Dave & Buster’s or 33 Taps, drink beer in LA’s booming craft beer scene
Though LA doesn’t have historical roots as a major beer capital, that is quickly changing. Breweries have been popping up like mad, finally helping to give LA some recognition in the beer world. Guests staying in the Valley? MacLeod Ale Brewing Company has you covered. More Eastside? FrogTown Brewery is one of our best newcomers, as well as Boomtown Brewery in the Arts District. You can even plan your own Arts District beer crawl — make sure you hit Boomtown, Mumford, Iron Triangle, Angel City, and Arts District Brewing for the grand finale.
Instead of the Dodgers/Lakers/Clippers/Kings, go to a Rams game
The Rams are back, ladies and gentlemen. We had them from 1946-1994, and starting this year they’re ours again. Though they will be playing at the Coliseum (where you can also find some great food options) until the new Inglewood-based arena is finished, it’s still crazy exciting to watch a pro football team in LA.
Instead of the 3rd Street Promenade, eat some Korean BBQ in Koreatown
LA has the largest Korean-American population in the country, and our Koreatown is a mecca of limitless wonders that many visitors miss. LA simply wouldn’t be what it is without Koreatown, and one of the best ways to truly experience it is to go all-out on a huge KBBQ meal (which somehow tastes even better later at night). We have a slew of knockout meat havens, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t consider Hae Jang Chon, Soowon Galbi, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, or J-Gold favorite Park’s (by now you should have explained to your guests exactly who Jonathan Gold is). Stuck with a bunch of vegetarians? No problem, K-Town can still be explored. Try out Beverly Soon Tofu or BCD Tofu House, for some soondubu, or tofu stew. And last time I checked, vegetarians can do karaoke, which is another essential part of the K-Town (and LA) experience.
Instead of seeing comedy at The Comedy Store or the Improv, check out an indie show
Though our traditional clubs are filled with comedy legends that you know and love, our underground scene is unstoppable. You’ll catch superstars and up-and-comers alike in people’s backyards, taco shops, and even secret locations that you can only find by getting on an email list. These shows make for much better memories for both visitors and locals.
Instead of taking a studio tour, take a tour of Clifton’s Cafeteria
Clifton’s was around for 80 years before its recent stunning, $10 million renovation — helmed by the guy behind The Edison — so the place is rich with LA history (and the more you explore, the more subtle nods to LA history you’ll find). Four floors of mysteries and curiosities await you inside the legendary so-much-more-than-a-cafeteria. And with the newly opened Tiki bar? Forgetaboutit.
Instead of waiting in line at Pink’s, eat dumplings in the San Gabriel Valley
Pink’s is great, but your guests probably have hot dogs where they come from and you don’t have time for that line. An SGV visit will be a lot more memorable — what Koreatown is for Korean BBQ, the San Gabriel Valley is for Chinese & Sichuan food. No trip is complete without hitting Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings or Chengdu Taste for… well, literally anything. That place really can’t miss.
Instead of hiking in Griffith Park… actually, just go hiking in Griffith Park. It’s great.
For real, Griffith Park is so gigantic that you don’t need to see the Hollywood sign to have a great time. Check out the Wisdom Tree, or if all else fails, any of these secret hikes.
New Year’s Eve in LA often means wandering blindly into some random bar, hoping against hope that the party inside will be better than the watered-down drinks. While we can’t promise the most epic party of the year, if you end up at any of these fine establishments, we can guarantee that your New Year’s toast will be better than most — ‘cause these are the best bars in LA.
Magician bar from the Houston brothers
It wasn’t the runaway hit out of the box that Harvard & Stone or Davey Wayne’s was, but the Houston brothers’ Black Rabbit Roses slow-burn is part of its magic. It’s not all of it, though: the bar’s literally attached to a magic theater, with nightly shows from Magic Castle-level magicians and drinks with unique properties — like infusions with activated charcoal or hickory smoke added at the table. They’ve also got the best bar food in town, with the attached Thai restaurant Blind Tiger providing a noodly base to prevent day-after regret.
Tiki-themed masterpiece inside Clifton’s
Let’s be honest. Every bar in Clifton’s — the multi-story food and drink Disney downtown — is pretty great. But Pacific Seas, semi-hidden upstairs and behind another unassuming bar, is its masterpiece, not just for its gorgeous decor (which includes a giant ship and dangling pufferfish) but also its majestic drinks, based on recipes from classic tiki lounges like Trader Vic’s, all of which are perfectly balanced — and totally refreshing.
Cozy art deco cocktail bar transforming Robertson Plaza
This beautiful art deco spot on Robertson is from the son of the Arclight Theaters magnates, which explains his attention to detail: With its stuffed stools and semicircle bar, Bibo Ergo Sum may be the most gorgeous new bar in LA. The drinks aren’t anything to scoff at either, with the Walker Inn team behind a menu based on the Christopher Nolan movie The Prestige; a night here could definitely become magical, quickly.
Rooftop bar with an appropriately spectacular view
This Miami import’s won James Beard and Tales of The Cocktail awards at its home base, and the LA outpost follows in its large footsteps, with beautiful trees, comfy seats, and a rooftop pool. (OK, the pool is only officially available for hotel guests, but c’mon, we all know that game.) The menu includes Cali-influenced drinks like the Pimm’s shrub/vodka/ginger ale Recusal Cup, and fish tostadas and veggie egg rolls if you’ve got the munchies.
The Houston brothers’ ‘70s-themed party spot
In just a couple short years, Davey Wayne’s has become the bar whose quality all others are compared to (and no others can touch): everything about this Houston Hospitality spot feels perfectly themed to their ’70s-throwback vibe, whether it’s the shag carpeting on the inside or the alcoholic sno-cone cart outside. The rollerskating show is a must-see, the bands the bar books are incredible, and you can even beat the line — by coming for a drink in the afternoon, which, let’s face it, is not a bad solution.
A Hollywood haunt loaded with history
A few years ago, The Powerhouse reimagined itself as a cocktail bar — and while that may or may not have been a good business move for that Hollywood stalwart, it was definitely a shining moment for The Frolic Room, which now stands alone in the pantheon of great Hollywood dive bars. It’s of an earlier time, when the vibe and the crowd were both dark and mysterious; when the jukebox could change the entire tone of a room; when the guy across the bar could be a major celebrity (or a Mini Mr T). It’s cheap; it’s ancient; it’s glorious.
One of LA’s most lauded beer bars
It’s funny to think that this no-frills gastropubish bar was once a nothing establishment that existed mainly to serve the clients of the right-next-door Fonda Theater: These days, it seems on some nights like it’s more of a destination than that club is, with tap takeovers, rare brews, and an intense focus on hop-knowledge that’s made it one of the best beer bars in the city (that burger ain’t bad, either).
Strong drinks and incredibly impressive pole dancing
With the possible exception of the Tiki Ti, there is no more beloved shithole in LA than Jumbo’s Clown Room, and for good reason: This dive-with-a-stage-and-a-pole (don’t call it a strip club — there’s no nudity, few lapdances, and very little skeeviness) oozes charisma, and thankfully not much else. Unlike other similar establishments (not-not looking at you, Cheetah’s), the women who dance here clearly want to be dancing here, and as such are treated as athletes as much as they are sex symbols: Once you see a tatted punk-rock princess slide down a pole with one toe against all laws of gravity while singing along to “First of the Gang to Die,” you’ll be totally on board — and if you’re not, we’re not so sure we want to hang out with you, anyways.
Fancy-pants lounge with bowling as an added bonus
If you were a betting man, it’d have been a safe bet against The Spare Room when it opened in 2011: It was on the top floor of a hotel and hard to find; the crowd it initially appealed to was more red-velvet than loyal-fan; it had a dual bowling alley and charged to rent games like Jenga. But here’s the thing: Once you were in, you realized there were secrets to The Spare Room, from hidden photo booths to occasional band nights, and that bowling here was far more fun than at the tourist-haven Lucky Strike right down the street. And then you had a drink and realized they were among the best in the city. And then you kept coming back for more. And here we are, nearly six years later.
Exclusive bar with major interior vibe
Everything about No Name should be hateable, from the fedora on the doorman to the you-need-to-know-someone-to-get-in-or-do-you door policy to their no-cameras rule to, uh, the fact that the bar DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A NAME. But here’s the thing: Once you’re inside, it’s one of the most easygoing, comfortable bars in LA, with surprise performances and amazing fried chicken, as well as the friendliest staff in LA. Yes, even that guy in the fedora.
Whiskey bar flagship for one of LA’s best bar groups
Cedd Moses deserves props for knowing a good thing when he saw it: The barman behind just about all of the bars that made the Downtown scene happen (Golden Gopher! Broadway Bar!) was the first to see the potential in reviving a part of the city many had left for dead. Seven Grand is his masterpiece, a whiskey bar that seems both serious and inviting at once, with game tables and macrobrews for people who just want a good time, and a hundreds-deep menu of the brown stuff for anyone looking to take their drinking to the next level.
A Long Beach punk rock institution
In a town known for punk rock, this legendary red box-of-a-bar in an industrial-ish section of town is known for being the punkest bar of them all. That doesn’t just mean Buds and bashing, though: booker/owner Alex Hernandez, who has been a local legend for the nearly 20-year history of the bar, got into craft cocktails a few years ago — so this dive bar has great drinks, now, as well as great music. Boom.
A mainstay full of Irish charm (and lots of shamrocks)
This iconic Irish pub has been pulling perfect pints and winning legions of fans with its Gaelic charm since 1936 (some loyal patrons even carried the horseshoe bar up Fairfax from the original location in 1949). You’ll find the names of many of those longtime regulars written on paper shamrocks that cover the ceiling and rafters — which includes everyone from Cary Grant to Kiefer Sutherland — and you’ll find the warm hospitality is extended to newcomers as well. If you can get in, also consider a drink at the Vestry, the members-only whiskey bar upstairs that they may give you a peek at if you ask nicely.
The most colorful tiki bar in LA
While LA has plenty of solid Tiki offerings both old and new, Tiki-Ti is the long-reigning champ (with a mug raise to Tonga Hut in NoHo, which is a few years older but doesn’t quite pour on the charm as heavily). The unbelievably tiny, family-run joint packs in the party with tchotchkies galore, a ceiling with names of decades-long regulars, and, of course, a lengthy list of potent Tiki cocktails, many of which were concocted by founder Ray Buhen who previously worked at the original Don the Beachcomber (if you’re here on a Wednesday at 8:30pm, you can join in a toast to Ray). Take a spin on the Wheel of Tiki Drinks if you’re feeling indecisive, and if you order the rum-loaded Uga Booga, prepare for an “uga booga” chant from the whole bar as they pour your drink.
Strong drinks and great steaks, steps from the beach
A nautically themed Westside institution, Chez Jay has been a reliable ocean-adjacent escape from crowds of tourists since 1959. Inside you’ll find heavy pours, big steaks and shrimp cocktails, and plenty of salty characters (some more charming than others). Oh yes, and peanut shells covering the floor. There’s a patio out back, but if you can snag a booth — or rarer still a stool at the bar — you’ll begin to understand just why this place can never go away.
Pasadena’s beer-nerd paradise
The drinking options in Pasadena have noticeably improved in recent years, but long before The Blind Donkey was pouring craft selections or Der Wolfskopf was filing liters with German pilsners, Lucky Baldwin’s was the destination for beer nerds in the area (and it still holds the torch high). Prepare to examine a lengthy menu heavy on Belgian and SoCal brews, and you’re probably going to want to order their famous fish ‘n’ chips or bangers & mash to keep you well-fueled. The two other locations — in Sierra Madre and on Colorado Boulevard — might be roomier, but it’s tough to beat the weathered and improvised feel of the original spot in Old Town.
An emerging neighborhood’s historic drinking-and-gaming centerpiece
If throwing strikes in a stunningly restored circa-1929 bowling alley, while sipping excellent cocktails and chowing down wood-fired pizzas sounds like a perfect Friday night for you, then step this way. The 1933 Group — known for top-notch, vintage-inspired watering holes like Harlowe, Sassafras, and Idle Hour — really outdid themselves with this latest venture with an attention to detail that provides so much eye candy, while still leaving room for plenty of fun. You’re going to want to invite the whole crew.
Dive bar where you come for the history, but stay for the cheeseburger
One of the oldest bars in LA, Ercoles has thankfully retained much of its true grit over the decades without anything “craft” or “refurbished” interfering. What you will find is cheap booze, worn wooden booths, and a cast of regulars at the bar that greet each other like they were on “Cheers.” And you definitely don’t want to leave without ordering this dive bar’s wonderfully simple griddle-cooked cheeseburger loaded with toppings. Just don’t forget to bring cash.
The Valley’s booze-and-BBQ mainstay
So, let us get this straight: you’ve got 42 rotating taps of craft beer, a massive whiskey selection, and fantastic hickory-smoked BBQ? Do you really need more reasons to drink at Boneyard Bistro? OK, how about the low-key vibe and friendly staff that make it an equally great option for watching the game with buddies and taking your special someone to brunch? Or maybe the special events like tap takeovers and fried chicken Mondays? Sold? Great, we’ll see you there.
Jazzy speak-easy with award-winning drinks
One of the first bars in the speak-easy-bandwagon, The Varnish — a tiny little spot hidden in the back of Cole’s — has also become one of the best free live-music bars in the city, with exceptional jazz nearly all the time, and the best cocktails in the city, all the time.
Neighborhood classic with one of the best burgers on the west side
Complain all you want about the homogenization of Venice over the years, but you can always hang on to the Whaler — a funky, unpredictable dive bar that’s literally a part of the fabric of the city: Where else can you find the friends you lost earlier in the night as it ticks down to last call, grab a burger by the beach, and reminisce about the one who got away? Nowhere else — which is as it should be.
High-end drinks with an unbeatable view
Surely one of LA’s best sunset views is sitting at the bar at 71 Above; the restaurant’s bar literally faces the mountains the sun sets into, with high-tech windows that self-tint so you can look right at the hint of light as it makes its way down while sipping a delicious Old Fashioned. Added bonus: it’s the only place in the restaurant you can order a la carte, which means if you’re hungry but don’t want to commit to the $75 prix fixe (or can’t get a table), you’re in luck.
Serious ‘80s punk rock vibes with seriously good drinks
This Downtown bar’s become a quick favorite thanks to an all-star team that includes Cedd Moses and Eric Alperin, who’ve imbued the spot (hidden behind the also-notable Bar Clacson) with an old-school, punky vibe and a highball-inspired drink list. Bring some quarters for the retro video games, too.
A beer-lover’s classic finally lands in LA
The Downtown outpost of the beloved SF craft beer bar is a massive (like, really, really, really massive) ode to hops, with one of the most meticulous beer lists in town. There’s also a great bar food menu, which means your session doesn’t need to stop until last call.
The leader of the new-tiki revival
There will be a great tiki revival at some point — and when it happens, this new bar from the Melrose Umbrella Company people will be at the forefront of it. Lono’s a spot with a Polynesian aesthetic that comes off as classy rather than hokey, with punch bowls, classic cocktails, and (on weekends) an island-themed food menu, as well.
A neighborhood fave worth travelling for
Instead of ruining the legacy of the local fave Big Fish, The San Fernando’s taken over the Glendale spot and ensured it remains neighborhoody, with an interior that’s an ode to the nearby railway and an interesting-but-not-snooty fresh drinks list that utilizes house-made syrups, as well as local-songwriter nights in a ‘hood without much live music.
The microscope has never been as focused on LA food as it was in 2017. Thanks to a slew of positive press last year, LA finally became the It-City we’ve always deserved to be on a national level, and with that came one breathless announcement after another by major chefs getting ready to play ball. While some of those are transplants still somewhere in the ether (waiting on you, Nomad, and you too, Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield), LA certainly saw a ton of exciting openings this year, from longtime favorites and newbies alike. From the best new spot to get legit Italian noodles, to a go-to fast casual place reinventing an age-old dish, to the restaurant world’s answer to Radiohead, here are the best revelations 2017 had to offer.
Handcrafted noodles by pasta expert Evan Funke
When Evan Funke opened Bucato, a half decade or so ago in Culver City, he was rightly praised for his handmade, hand-cut pasta, which felt like a revelation back then. How little we knew: Funke’s game has been upped tremendously at Felix, his blockbuster restaurant in Venice that’s become the hottest ticket on Abbot Kinney in years (sorry, Gjelina). As Funke himself told us when we picked him as LA’s best chef of 2017, “The food I was cooking at Bucato was a little bit like sophomore year — and this is like my thesis in grad school.” Consider it the Westside’s answer to Bestia: a date-friendly Italian spot that never gets pretentious about itself yet delivers consistent flavor in each chewy bite, in this case abetted by face time with the chef himself, who spends most nights in his visible-from-the-dining-room pasta-making cave. Are they the best noodles in town? Yes, inarguably so. Read more about why Thrillist chose Felix as one of the Prime 13 best new restaurants of 2017.
Meatball sandwiches and pizza from an upgraded classic
Pizza Buona, at the corner of Alvarado and Sunset, was a neighborhood-favorite pizza spot for decades. So when Zach Pollack, the acclaimed chef from the sorta-fancy Italian-plus spot Alimento in Silver Lake, announced that he was taking over the space and giving it an upgrade, it’s no surprise that the local residents got a little antsy. They didn’t have to: Pizza Buona still thrives on delivery from its new spot down the street, and Cosa Buona has become something of a hipper cousin in its old place, with craveable meatball sandwiches at lunch and a dimmed-down row of booths perfect for a spread of perfect chopped salad and Neapolitan-style pizzas at dinner.
Communal, all-day spot with fresh takes on Middle Eastern classics
This bright, inviting restaurant in Los Feliz from Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson (the duo behind Madcapra, LA’s unabashed falafel king) isn’t just in it for the ‘Gram: its beautifully plated stews, salads, and sides are also alarmingly delicious. If you’re there with more than four people and don’t order the Turkish-ish Breakfast (“all the things, served with bread and greens”), you’re doing it wrong, ‘cause that bread — a sort of raised-pita-but-not-really situation — goes great dipped into, well, everything. You’re gonna want a second order.
Streetside Israeli food with seriously great dips
Another member of Thrillist’s Prime 13 best new restaurants of the year, the nearly unpronounceable restaurant Mh Zh smacked the LA food scene the minute it opened with a series of proto-hipster dares, its menus handwritten on brown paper bags and its tables strewn on the sidewalk with no real sense of structure (“There’s no way this is legal,” one of my dining companions opined while we were there.) No matter, as the modern Israeli food here shines in all the ways you want it to: hearty, (seemingly) healthy, and bursting with flavor, whether you got the cauliflower or the short rib or the potatoes (hopefully, you’ll get all three). Like Kismet, the bread-into-dips game is really the star: here, it’s a crusty-but-dense carb bomb you’ll scoop labne up with, and then order more of.
Rustic Southern Italian dishes from a Bolognese master
Steve Samson’s Sotto still serves some spectacular stuff, but his new restaurant Rossoblu has leveled up his rootsy Italian recipes, foregoing a pizza oven for heartier selections. Don’t start your meal without the tuna crudo, which is served with beans and mustard seeds and is damn-near perfect, and don’t end it without the veal Parmesan, a crusted thing of beauty about the size of a tomahawk steak. If you’re going to order pasta (and of course you will), make sure to think about the maltagliati: an underappreciated, flat-and-wide noodle served here with beautifully cooked porcini and aromatised with sage.
A much-needed Filipino food stand at LA’s best food hall
Sure, the national food hall trend feels like sorta-old news in LA, since Grand Central Market has been a part of our food conversation here for decades. Every time a new stall opens, though, it’s a reminder of the wealth of riches we’re afforded here — not just in produce, but in international cuisine — and the Filipino stand Sari Sari is no exception. Chef Margarita Manzke and her business-partner husband Walter (both also of Republique) pull from Margarita’s Pinoy background for next-leveled flavors in pork belly fried rice and the eggy tortang talong, leaning in on freshness rather than just following a trend.
The long-awaited Peruvian follow-up from Ricardo Zarate
When we last heard from Ricardo Zarate, the one-time Food & Wine Best New Chef was exiting his flagship restaurant Picca (RIP), never to be seen again… until a few years later, when he opened up this dark-lit, sexy-looking, common-table abetted banger right in the heart of West Hollywood. Zarate’s start in LA was with Mo-Chica, a food-hall stall with aggressive, balanced flavor, and he hasn’t shirked on the spices as he’s gotten more and more visibility. The paella is the standout; robust, and flavorful, and available as a pescaterian dish if you happen to be with a meatless friend, it’s among the best version of the dish I’ve ever had, anywhere.
Impossibly high-end tasting menu in an experimental, otherworldly setting
Full disclosure: I’ve eaten at every other restaurant on this list, but I have not eaten at Vespertine. So how, then, does it end up on our list of the best restaurants of the year? Simple: Though every bite that Jordan Kahn puts out at this modern take on a modern restaurant is undoubtedly interesting and thought-provoking and like nothing you’ve ever eaten, Vespertine is not (and has never been) strictly about the food. Instead, it’s about the idea of a whim-based, esoteric, possibly even pretentious restaurant — where dinner starts at $250 — landing in LA, and people actually caring about it. The brooding, impenetrable atmosphere here is just as important as the tasting menu (Kahn described the building as “a machine artifact from an extraterrestrial planet” in an interview with GQ), and the whole experience is more of an immersive journey than a traditional meal. Vespertine’s press release called it “a place of cognitive dissonance,” and the discussions that it has sparked — and the fact that, with Dialogue, we now have two tasting-menu options in this sphere — are among the most exciting and excited in years. Is it worth the money? That’s up to you. But it’s unquestionably worth the conversation.
A bone broth place you’ll finally want to eat at
The bone broth dishes at Bone Kettle in Pasadena make up only a small part of the menu, but they’ve been the focus of much of the hype since the low-pro shop opened a few months ago. Big mistake: though the ramen bowls, with their subtle flavors and luscious mouthfeel, are certainly worth ordering, the killers here are the big-noodle dishes, like a spicy lobster with dense, udon-ish noodles that chew and bite at the same time. It’s sort of like the Cassia of the Eastside, minus the pomp and circumstance.
The next evolution of Joseph Centeno’s fast-casual empire
For about a decade, Joseph Centeno’s been riding the wave of his signature bäco: a taco filled with not-necessarily Mexican ingredients in a non-tortilla delivery system not unlike naan bread. He’s served it for years at his sit-down restaurants (including Downtown’s Bäco Mercat), so it was really only a matter of time before it was Chipotle-fied. The fact that fillings like slow-roasted pork and chile shrimp work as well as lunch takeaways as they do as dinner standbys is no surprise; that there’s only one of these, and not franchises all over the city, though, is. Bring ‘em on.
Bright and breezy spot headed by former food journalists
It would be easy to hate Botanica on principal. This extremely hip restaurant, in an extremely hip neighborhood, from a couple of New York-transplant former food writers, is basically a lesson in gentrification. That said, it’s hard to hate on any restaurant that gets it all this right, from the breezy feeling of the patio to the farm-to-table food, which veers Mediterranean and includes dishes that are “tagine-ish” and “fattoush-y.” Adorable? Sure. Delightful? That too. Delicious? Definitely.
Fresh pasta, imported overnight directly from Italy
There may be no better “for-the-money” restaurant in LA right now than Uovo, a handmade pasta restaurant from the Sugarfish people that manages to get all the flavors of much-fancier spots packed into healthy servings on plates that run $16 or less. One of them will fill you up and two will stuff you, and the whole system — with boiling pots and pasta prep happening at a bar in the middle of the restaurant — sort of has a dinner-and-a-show feel. Expect a wait, but it’s well worth it.
Truth: There’s no shortage of happy hours in Los Angeles. The real question is, which discounted eats and delicious deals stand apart from by-the-numbers wings, fries and domestic beer?
Discerning chefs transition their menus with the seasons. They choose fresh and they choose smart. The result is a happy hour that’s tailored to our tastebuds like a perfectly fitted suit, not to mention easy on the wallet.
Looking for unique seafood dishes? How about drool-worthy meatball sandwiches, crab mac ‘n cheese or glazed Brussel sprouts? Expansive international beer selections? This fall, the city of angels offers that and a whole lot more.
Your happy hour game is about to change for the better, starting below (list numbered only for reference, arranged in no particular order).
1. Gratitude (Beverly Hills)
Healthy options that taste like guilty pleasures is what you’ll find at Gratitude. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. During that time frame you’ll find a selection of specialty cocktails made with fresh juices and even activated charcoal. Pair your libation with small bites such as vegan nachos, a Mediterranean tapas plate, Bollywood Fries or Korean collard spring rolls. –> More information
Chef Ray Garcia’s La Hora Especial is offered Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the bar and corral of his elevated latin restaurant. Down $8 Mezcal cocktails and bold inventive small plates such as rabbit albondigas, lentil nopal tostadas and chili-lime chicken necks for $6 to $8. –> More information
3. Momed (Atwater Village)
Start happy hour early at Momed in Atwater Village every Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 6 p.m. and Sunday 3-5 p.m. Eight mighty food selections make up the happy hour menu including a fig and arugula Turkish flat bread, grass fed burger with halloumi cheese and a selection of delicious mezzes like avocado hummus, eggplant ikra and pickled vegetables. Personal favorites include the mezze trio served with warm doughy bread and lightly charred Brussel sprouts dressed with pomegranate molasses. The cocktail list features $4 mediterranean beers, wine and specialty cocktails like the Med.Mule, a mediterranean take on a classic drink made of fig vodka, ginger beer and lime. –> More information
4. Bone Kettle (Pasadena)
Southeast Asian-inspired Bone Kettle hosts happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. with two dollars off craft brews and house wines, alongside a selection of bold bites. Options include tartare seasoned with lemongrass and garlic, Mapo Tofu Fries (a twist on Poutin), and Sambal Chicken Wings. The tartare goes for $9, and is a must-try. –> More information
5. Tsubaki (Echo Park)
Happy hour at Tsubkai is available Tuesday through Friday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The menu offers a $10 Japanese “Dodger Dog” made of chicken sausage topped with yuzu slaw, shishito relish and onion rings. Other notables include a Tonkatsu Sando (a fried pork cutlet sandwich) and fried anchovies with yuzu kosho tartar sauce. –> More information
6. Kettle Black (Silver Lake)
This rustic Italian restaurant offers a happy hour daily from 5 to 7 p.m. Specials include a saucy $7 meatball sandwich and a $15 charcuterie plate. Looking for a more complete dinner? The Pizza & Pop Deal combines a margherita pizza with your choice of a Peroni or glass of red/white wine for $15. –> More Information
7. The Wallace (Culver City)
The Wallace’s “Happy AF” menu is offered daily at the bar from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sip on wacky named cocktails like the “Dad Bod” made of bourbon, honey and lemon and choose from a food menu made up of guilty pleasures like the tacos de caja payaso inspired by Jack in the Box and bucket o’ chicken a nod to KFC. It might be fast food prices during this happy hour, but they don’t skimp on quality, using local and sustainable ingredients in all their dishes. –> More information
8. Tallula’s (Santa Monica)
Talulla’s happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m in the bar, lounge and patio. This coastal style Mexican cantina offers specials on organic chicken tacos, grass fed ground beef tacos, yellowtail ceviche and more. Vegetarians can pick from spicy pickled vegetables, veggie tacos and nachos “sencillo” topped with cotija & fontina cheese, spicy giardiniera, buttermilk crema, and salsa. You’ll’ also find select cocktails, latin beers and wines are all specially priced. –> More information
9. Bourbon Steak House (Glendale)
This Michael Mina establishment hosts a Come On, Get Happy! menu Monday through Saturday from 4:30 to 7 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 2:30 p.m. Available in the spacious lounge area, all “snacks” are half priced, burgers are $14 and specialty cocktails are $7. Don’t expect the snack menu to be limited to small bites, you’ll find elevated options like a crab mac n cheese, duck fat fries, lamb lollipops and Thai beef skewers. –> More information
Brentwood’s sustainable seafood restaurant Bottlefish recently launched a “First Call” menu. Available Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m., the menu offers a of selection bites from the raw bar including $2 oysters, smoked salmon deviled eggs and sea bass ceviche tostada. Break the seafood dishes up with kimchi chicken wings and cheeseburger sliders. Everything on the happy hour menu is priced just under $10. Craft cocktails are $8 across the board, including the Jalisco 75, a tequila-based libation made with fresh-pressed lime juice, agave and cava –> More information
Bonus Item: Friends & Family Ice Cream O’Clock ( East Hollywood)
“Ice Cream O’clock” is Friends & Family’s version of happy hour. Stop by Monday through Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. for $3 scoops of rotating flavors created by Pastry Chef, Roxana Jullapat. Seasonal concoctions include Compartes Chocolate, Pumpkin and Mint Chip, all available on house-made waffle cones and topped with fixings such as pecan sticky sauce and granola. –> More information