Best of the L.A. Bar Scene… from sports games, to guys, to martinis, to happy hours, to dates, to going dancing with the girls… (Revised on 12/4/13)
Areas include West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Downtown, Encino and Studio City. For more of my restaurant reviews visit foodiejackie.yelp.com
1. Best bar to get your dance on- Swanky Hollywood Hot spot Lexington Social House $$$- 1718 Vine St., Los Angeles- Late night on the weekends, this classy Patio comes alive with hip hop/old school Rap. Plus the cocktails are tasty. Expect Hollywood prices, with $10 valet.
2. Best college bar- The UCLA hot spot know as Q’s Billiard Club $$ at 11835 Wilshire Blvd in Westwood is a great spot to go play some pool, watch a game, or meet a group of people. This is the best dive bar around, with big screens all over, and mini flat screens at the booths! It’s more or less a neighborhood college bar but it also draws an older group mixed in. The place was hoppin when we went there, and the pool hall was pretty busy as well. There’s also a great upstairs area with two sections that can be rented out for private parties. Happy Hour goes until 8 p.m. and includes $4 well drinks and half price on a lot of the food. The bar food is actually very good and has a lot of options. The chicken quesadillas are TO DIE FOR! Unbelievable. We’ll be back… probably over and over. Photo of Q’s below
3. Best spot to watch a sports game in style- No, it’s not a traditional sports bar, that’s what I love. Goal $$$ at 8334 W 3rd Street in West Hollywood is my newest hotspot and you might just spot an A-list celebrity. I won’t speak another positive word because I’d rather keep this place my secret while I still can. Shhh! Photo of Goal below
The Parlor $$$ at 7250 Melrose Ave is another hot spot with good food and lots of screens for sports games. Keep in mind that for big events tables come at a premium and will cost you if you don’t get there early.
4. Best spot to meet your future husband- Who would have thought this place existed in Venice? James Beach $$ at 60 N Venice Blvd has a bit of a Hollywood crowd, “the scene and be seen” as I call it. There is ambiance, a beautiful crowd and a beach feel. All mixed with good drinks and normally no standing in a line to get in. My close friend ACTUALLY did meet her husband here.
In Downtown, The Edison $$$ at 108 W 2nd Street is a large bar/restaurant that takes reservations. It gets very crowded. Happy Hour is from 5-7 p.m. (40% off) and it is an after work, professional crowd of mostly men. If you come during other hours, there is a minimum $ to sit at a table though at $15 for a cocktail that’s not too hard to meet with a couple of people. There is a great mix of entertainment including aerialists; a vintage flair with nostalgic cocktails. Edison is open Wednesday-Saturday but is sometimes closed for private parties.
In The Valley- Boneyard Bistro $$$ at 13539 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks. This is a classy BBQ and whiskey joint. I wasn’t mingling but holy boys! Attention ladies, there are a lot of dudes here. And on Friday night, not a bar stool open in sight. We were lucky enough to snag a table as we were ordering food. The fried dates are a must-try (get 2 orders, it’s small plates). And the dessert was Scrumptious Lip-smacking delightful. My girlfriend and I fought over the banana pudding creme brulee down to the last bite.
5. Best Cocktails- Just my style, the best mixed drinks in town $14, Hyde Lounge $$$$ at 8029 W Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood. Small place, one room. I came here on a Wednesday so it wasn’t packed and we walked right in. Kick ass D.J. and cutting-edge decor. Photo of Hyde below
Bar Centro $$$$ inside the SLS Hotel at 465 S La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood puts a spin on mixology. Creative tasty cocktails from $15-25 a pop. They have one that uses liquid nitrogen to make a sort of slushy consistency, and another drink is strained over cotton candy.
Black Market Liquor Bar $$$ at 11915 Ventura Blvd in Studio City has amazing food, amazing drinks, amazing atmosphere, amazing service, amazing crowd and valet parking. Finally a cool new hangout in the valley! For dessert try the gooey goodness of the Fluffernutter. Unreal! It’s a giant marshmallow layered with bananas and nutella, then deep fried. Wow! Extremely impressed with all of the food. For cocktails, the Basil Ray is unbelievable. It’s a like a basil vodka mojito with elderflower and crushed ice. Worth the $12 price tag.
6. Best Happy Hour Spots-
For an upscale Happy Hour spot La Boheme $$$ in West Hollywood is an amazing space. Sprawling ceilings and balcony seating, sort of haute French meets Goth, with red chandeliers, wrout iron and regal white armchairs. There is a beautiful patio and a huge fireplace inside. All perfectly situated at 8400 Santa Monica Blvd. And unlike most of my recent upscale “happy hour” experiences, the bill here totaled $30. The 777 Martini menu is always $7. For happy hour we sat in the bar (which is just as enjoyable to dine at). Well drinks were $5 and my margarita was excellent. Half price appetizers until 7:30. The focaccia-like bread they serve has fresh herbs, and the calamari has great texture. The chicken potstickers are steamed right and sliders are juicy. Can’t wait to try the martinis and dessert on the next trip. La Boheme photo below
Congregation Ale House $ at 300 S Raymond Ave in Pasadena is an informal “public house” with two happy hours, also worshiping on Sundays as they call it with Bingo by day and Happy Hour by night. You order at a counter and the drinks/food are brought to you at your table. There are a lot of community tables, and the prices are low. No waiter service to add a round of drinks, and sometimes the line gets a little long to order, but it’s still a good deal. Happy hour prices are $5 for most of the menu, $3 wells and a large beer list starting at $4!
I really enjoyed the flatbread. The burger was nothing special. But for a cider on tap and a flatbread mine came to only $12; score! The atmosphere is cool too, great juke box with quarter plays and the place literally looks like a chapel. Crowd is mixed, a lot of younger 20’s but some older. Open late, oh and they have a parking lot that is FREE!
7. Best wine - Everyone I have brought to Vino Wine & Tapas Room $$ at 18046 Ventura Blvd in Encino has fallen in love with the place. It is the best wine bar I have found in the L.A. area! Outstanding happy hour prices, wine selection is superb and always changing. I have been here a dozen times and NEVER ordered anything that wasn’t to die for! Knowledgeable staff that cares about what they do, and a friendly, intimate atmosphere. The owners are a nice couple that tend to watch over their kitchen. Later on Wednesday nights there is live music. Only downside is that when the place gets crowded service is a little slow. But they are worth the wait and know how to pair wines with delicious tapas. Try the “banana bread” dessert, you won’t be disappointed! One of the best desserts I have ever had, it’s full price and worth every penny!
In Venice is Primitivo Wine Bar $$ at 1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd. I have been here twice now, once for drinks and once for dinner. This place has a young crowd and was packed when we arrived. Thankfully we had a reservation. Strangely enough I’d been hoping to find somewhere festive around the Christmas holiday and what a coincidence, they were! The servers were dressed in full-elf attire with striped leggings and the bartenders in “ugly holiday sweaters.” Once seated, our server helped me choose a great glass of floral Spanish white- Gramona Gessami 2009, similar to a Torrentes. There is a wine list about 20 pages long but thankfully the staff knows their stuff. We started with a variety of cheeses which were served with toasts. Then we ordered the paella which was massive. The golden beet salad had cilantro and was absolutely wonderful. An enjoyable evening, and lots of patio area for the warmer months. Primitivo cheese board photo below
8. Best spots to bring your dog- Sit with your dog on the patio and grab some grub at Blue Dog Beer Tavern $$ at 4524 Saugus Avenue in Sherman Oaks. Beer and wine are super cheap; pretty standard dive bar faire. Ice cold beer and your four legged friend, what could be better?
Also bring your doggie to dine with you on the patio at The Fat Dog at 801 North Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles. You will find a great happy hour at this local gastropub, and cocktails inspired by you guessed it, dogs.
9. Best beer- in Old Town Pasadena at 17 S Raymond Avenue, Lucky Baldwin’s $$ has a great beer selcetion. This place knows their beer. A friend and I stumbled upon this place late one Sunday night; we’d been checking out places on Colorado (that were all dead of course). When we first walked in I thought- oh great, another little hidden pub, and a little rough around the edges. We sat on the patio and looked over the long beer list. We asked our Bartender/Server, Penny what she suggested. We were blown out of the water. My Sir Perry Pear Cider ($6) was the best cider I have ever had, and my friend was equally as impressed with his bottle of Cuvee Rene Lambic from Lindemans ($9). Again, he asked Penny what else she suggested in a similar genre and she brought out the reserve this time (a $15 bottled St. Louis Gueze Fond Tradition from the back). This one was special. If you want to venture out of the ordinary to try some good brew without the bells and whistles of a trendy bar; or to entertain the beer drinkers in your life, then this is the spot with more than 60 drafts!
Within walking distance in Old Town Pasadena is Haven Gastropub $$$ at 42 S. De Lacey Avenue. This is a cute spot with an extraordinarily long list of brews. For $8-10 you can enjoy tasting a flight of 4 beers. Our server Michel was a really wonderful man with a lot of knowledge. My flatbread margerita pizza was great and the potato chips are a must try (with vinegar and salt, served with some great aoli). My date loved his quail. All in all, a great place to grab a beer. The menu is a lot of pork and beer (what I’d call a gourmet “guy’s menu”). This spot is open late every night; tough to find in Old Town.
Also venture out to the Valley to check out the new Golden Road Brewing $$ at 5430 W San Fernando Road in San Fernando, known for their onsite brewery and draft canned beer. $10 will get you a beer and a burger on the patio. Just don’t go in the height of summer as there is no a/c. Brewery photo below
10. Best date bars- This is tough because you really have to take a date to a lounge if you want to hear her talk. Here are some good combo locations that serve as both bar as well as quieter atmosphere.
Firefly $$$ at 11720 Ventura Blvd in Studio City is another great date spot. It is swanky, cool, loungy and hip. The music is laid back. Beautiful classy crowd, good drinks and location. Bartenders are friendly. It is within walking distance of a couple other lounges if you want to bar hop. It has a really interesting bathroom scenario going on, you can sort of see the shadows… you’ll have to check it out. The outdoor covered patio area is lovely. I haven’t tried the food here yet. Do be sure to order a French martini. Photo of Firefly below
Library Bar $$$$ at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood is a real experience. Plan to pay $20 for your cocktail, but it will be one to remember. Your date will love this sexy little library lounge. If you really want to impress try the Roosevelt’s- Public Kitchen for dinner.
Also read Santa Monica, Studio City and Pasadena Restaurant Reviews at