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…
Areas include West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Downtown, Encino and Studio City. For more of my restaurant reviews visit foodiejackie.yelp.com
1. Best spots to go get your dance on (without being leeched on by slimy guys)- Palihouse Hotel $$$ at 8465 Holloway Drive in West Hollywood where you enter down stairs and the swanky lounge becomes a dance floor. It’s a classy and beautiful crowd. A lot of small private parties so you have to get bottle service, a dinner reservation or as a female dress up, smile and say you’d like to come in for a cocktail. Busiest nights are late on Thursday-Saturday.
Winstons Bar $$$ at 7746 Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood is The Bar where everyone ends up at the end of the night (including on the show Entrourage). Around midnight this place gets packed. Good music and dancing (some old school hip hop). No crazy lines to get in unless they are way beyond capacity (which is technically 125). Drinks are slightly low cost for West Hollywood and they aren’t watered down. I’ve never waited long to get a drink. Quality people for the most part; I met my ex boyfriend here. Don’t expect to find anywhere to sit down, people will get bottle service. Busiest nights are Thursday-Saturday. Photo of Winstons below
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.
In Downtown, The Edison $$$ at 108 W 2nd Street is a large bar/restaurant that takes reservations. It gets very crowded. Happy Hour is from 5-7 p.m. (40% off) and it is an after work, professional crowd of mostly men. If you come during other hours, there is a minimum $ to sit at a table though at $15 for a cocktail that’s not too hard to meet with a couple of people. There is a great mix of entertainment including aerialists; a vintage flair with nostalgic cocktails. Edison is open Wednesday-Saturday but is sometimes closed for private parties.
5. Best Cocktails- Just my style, the best mixed drinks in town $14, Hyde Lounge $$$$ at 8029 W Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood. Small place, one room. I came here on a Wednesday so it wasn’t packed and we walked right in. Kick ass D.J. and cutting-edge decor. Photo of Hyde below
Bar Centro $$$$ inside the SLS Hotel at 465 S La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood puts a spin on mixology. Creative tasty cocktails from $15-25 a pop. They have one that uses liquid nitrogen to make a sort of slushy consistency, and another drink is strained over cotton candy.
Black Market Liquor Bar $$$ 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.
Henry’s Hat at 3413 Cahuenga Blvd W in Universal City is another great spot for a well made concoction. The drinks are really great, try the daily drink or the Strawberry Basic Gimlet. Also love the Spiked Julius (which is like an Orange Julius with vodka), or order a Pimms Cup which is made with house made Pimms. The Spring Sling was also delicious. I’m told that their menu is made with organic ingredients whenever possible.
6. Best Happy Hour Spots- I was more than a little pleasantly surprised when the Local Peasant $$ at 14058 Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks opened. I’ll start by saying I’m not a big fan of the food at most dive bars or gastropubs. I walked in to meet a friend having had a pretty bad day. The server greeted me with a smile; A+ on service. Try the potato chips, they are served with malt vinegar and seasoned salt.
My portobella mushroom sandwich was spectacular! I can’t believe how mouthwatering this thing was, topped with the most flavorful roasted tomato, pesto, avocado, mozzarella, mayo, microgreens and a huge onion ring to top it off. There is also a full bar which includes some chick drinks, a pleasant surprise vs. some of the male oriented gastropubs around town that consider a liquor selection to be whiskey and won’t let you customize your burger. The Local Peasant is my new favorite place to grab a little grub (with a drink) but without dropping a bunch of dough. 5 stars!!! Photo of Local Peasant burger with an easy egg below.
For an upscale Happy Hour spot La Boheme $$$ 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 $$ at 300 S Raymond Ave in Pasadena is an informal “public house” with two happy hours, also worshiping on Sundays as they call it with Bingo by day and Happy Hour by night. You order at a counter and the drinks/food are brought to you at your table. There are a lot of community tables, and the prices are low. No waiter service to add a round of drinks, and sometimes the line gets a little long to order, but it’s still a good deal. Happy hour prices are $5 for most of the menu, $3 wells and a large beer list starting at $4!
I really enjoyed the flatbread. The burger was nothing special. But for a cider on tap and a flatbread mine came to only $12; score! The atmosphere is cool too, great juke box with quarter plays and the place literally looks like a chapel. Crowd is mixed, a lot of younger 20′s but some older. Open late, oh and they have a parking lot that is FREE!
7. Best wine spot- Everyone I have brought to Vino Wine & Tapas Room $$ 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 $$ is a great beer spot. This place knows their beer. A friend and I stumbled upon this place late one Sunday night; we’d been checking out places on Colorado (that were all dead of course). When we first walked in I thought- oh great, another little hidden pub, and a little rough around the edges. We sat on the patio and looked over the long beer list. We asked our Bartender/Server, Penny what she suggested. We were blown out of the water. My Sir Perry Pear Cider ($6) was the best cider I have ever had, and my friend was equally as impressed with his bottle of Cuvee Rene Lambic from Lindemans ($9). Again, he asked Penny what else she suggested in a similar genre and she brought out the reserve this time (a $15 bottled St. Louis Gueze Fond Tradition from the back). This one was special. If you want to venture out of the ordinary to try some good brew without the bells and whistles of a trendy bar; or to entertain the beer drinkers in your life, then this is the spot with more than 60 drafts!
Within walking distance in Old Town Pasadena is Haven Gastropub $$$ 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 $$ at 5430 W San Fernando Road in San Fernando, known for their onsite brewery and draft canned beer. $10 will get you a beer and a burger on the patio. Brewery photo below
10. Best date bars- This is tough because you really have to take a date to a lounge if you want to hear her talk. Here are some good combo locations that serve as both bar as well as quieter atmosphere. Stone Rose Lounge $$$ at the Sofitel Hotel at 8555 Beverly Blvd in West Hollywood spells out romance. They also have spectacular cocktails, though they range from $13-20. The food is gourmet and not a total rip off, the ambiance can’t be beat and the loungy booth nooks are great for setting the mood or spending a night people watching. I haven’t been here late night yet to check out the scene, but I’ll certainly be back because of the outdoor areas alone.
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
Also read Santa Monica, Studio City and Pasadena Restaurant Reviews at