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Cocktail bars and restaurant suggestions

My fiancé and I will be in Los Angeles this week for vacation and I would like to surprise him with a nice dinner and some after dinner cocktails. We will be staying in westwood. Looking for an upscale restaurant with a lively scene and great food. I do not have a particular cuisine in mind however no Italian. As for the cocktail bar...he appreciates bartenders who can make a mean drink based off of what you like...not off the menu. He loves Death and Co in NYC if anyone has been or is familiar with it. Any suggestions would be appreciated...thank you!!!!!

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  1. Red Medicine would be a good choice.

    1. Tasting Kitchen in Venice? A drive from Westwood, but you should or probably will be hitting Abbot Kinney anyhow. Great street to walk up and down and then cap it off with dinner. A link to their cocktail menu (not updated):


      I'd also recommend Gjelina a block or so away also for the food, but no cocktails. Easy to do Gjelina for dinner then walk over to Tasting Kitchen however.


      1. Craft. Great bar and good food too. They make their own infused liqueurs too.

        1. for cocktails, i'd recommend the varnish in downtown la. started by the same guy that opened milk and honey in nyc. it'll fit perfectly with his love for death and co. it's behind the back door of cole's. even if there's a wait for varnish, cole's would have excellent cocktails while you waited as well.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cdub

            Cdub this bar sounds exactly like what I am looking for - thanks for the suggestion. What has been your experience in regards to the wait on a Friday or Saturday night?

            And thanks to all for the suggestions....we are in town for 5 nights so we will try to make it to as many places as possible. Looking to possibly move to the LA area from Boston.

            1. re: Wolfielvsfood

              Varnish is a great spot and really fits the description of what you're looking for cocktail bar wise. They really shine when you tell them to just make you something based on your tastes-I've enjoyed pretty much every drink I've had there.
              It is a small place and can get pretty crowded on Fridays and Saturdays so definitely try to go there earlier if you can. If there is a wait, I second cdub's rec of getting some libations at the Cole's bar to pass the time or if you two are into tequila, Las Perlas is right across the street.

              1. re: crystaw

                it's a crap shoot. i've been told no wait on a saturday night before and i've been told that they may not be able to accomidate me as well. however, coles is more than respectible. even if you had to "settle" for a cocktail at coles, you're really not settling.

          2. If you don't mind dining in downtown LA then Rivera would be a good fit for what you've outlined in your post. http://www.riverarestaurant.com/

            3 Replies
            1. re: Servorg

              This place sounds great...so many options!

              1. re: Wolfielvsfood

                Rivera still has the best cocktails in downtown and probably food too. The drinks on the menu are very creative and delicious. Varnish is better at the standard old school drinks. Creative ones are more hit and miss. Varnish has that speakeasy thing but I hate that there is no bar stools, and they take forever to make a damn drink.

            2. I realize you said no Italian, but I really like Bar Toscana in Brentwood and they have non-Italian menu items. The cocktails are creative and the food is very good.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Juji

                Have dinner at Tavern www.tavernla.com and after dinner go directly across the street to Bar Toscana. Bar Toscana is where it is all happening in Brentwood these days. Lively bar, good drinks, friendly service. All ingredients for a great evening. Have fun.

                1. re: maudies5

                  I love Bar Toscana--very grateful to whomever it was on CH who told me about it.

                  1. re: sablouwho

                    Glad you enjoyed it. Bar Toscana is definitely a great addition to the Brentwood neighborhood.

              2. The Tasting Kitchen, The Eveleigh, Picca and Playa all offer great cuisine, lively atmospheres with strong cocktail programs.

                2 Replies
                1. re: bruinike

                  There is also Ray's and Stark Bar. Great food, atmosphere & cocktails.

                  1. re: bruinike

                    The cocktails & fod are sublime at the Tasting Kitchen.

                  2. All the best cocktails a la Death+Co are downtown in my opinion, but that's either a very long cab ride from Westwood or a very long post-cocktailing drive in your rental car. With that in mind, Rivera then Varnish/Cole's is what you want...and The Edison nearby is an insanely beautiful space with serious drinks, although like any popular bar in LA you may or may not care for the scene and the busier it gets in a given evening, the less serious the drinks become.

                    Another option would be to hit the Bazaar on La Cienega for dinner and cocktails...lively scene, great food, something you can't get in NYC, inventive cocktails with some molecular-gastronomy flourishes, and a reasonable cab ride to/from Westwood (although that will be the only reasonably priced part of the evening..). After dinner, you could venture up La Cienega to the Roger Room...and maybe take in a show at Largo first if you want to do something else in between all the good drinks.

                    Lastly, if you want to cede the Death+Co-style cocktailing to NYC and try something a little more uniquely Los Angelean, you could have dinner at Jitalda in Thai town followed by the Tiki-Ti bar in Hollywood (plus one last round at LaDescarga). No matter which route you choose, it'll be fun...just take a cab!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Omniverous

                      Jitlada has excellent Thai food but doesn't fit the "upscale" requirement. Tiki-ti is a great tiki bar but is menu driven and is only tiki drinks. A better choice for Hollywood would be Providence which definitely fits the bill for upscale dining and also has a great cocktail program. Post dinner options for more cocktails would include the Library Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel or Harvard and Stone in Thai Town.

                      1. re: bg90027

                        Providence doesn't fit the "lively scene" requirement, lol.

                        I first suggested 2 other itineraries that were lively upscale dining/ cocktail porn and offered Jitalda/Tiki-Ti as a "something you can't do in NYC" alternative that would still involve great food and booze-centric fun. All good choices, though.

                        1. re: Omniverous

                          Maybe you're right about Providence not being "a lively scene" but would you call Jitlada "a lively scene" because I wouldn't. I'm not sure I'd call Rivera a "scene" either although I think its a great recommendation based on the food and cocktails. I was using a loose definition of a lively scene emphasizing crowded and not overly stuffy to recommend Providence but the problem with "scenes" is they usually are places where people go for crowds and fun more than chowworthy food and drink. I suspect that the Bazaar might be a rare exception but I've never been there so I'm not really qualified to comment on it. I do like the Roger Room suggestion though and I'd be perfectly happy with a night at Jitlada and Tiki Ti myself, I just didn't think it was what the OP was looking for.

                    2. Picca.

                      Surprised no one has mentioned it. Lovely cocktails. May not be perfectly "bespoke", but they should be able to do up anything (focused on mezcal + pisco) per your req. And of course, it's beyond lively.

                      My fave Death & Co powered joint by far is Bar + Kitchen at the O Hotel. Everything about the Varnish (from the stuffy room, to the stuffy hostess on weekends, to the high falutin' "mixologists", to the equally hip patrons, ad nausea) makes me want to slice my nutsack with a thousand razors. You can say "nutsack" on Chow, yesh?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TonyC

                        cocktails at the varnish superior to cocktails at death and co. death and co. matches or betters the "hip patrons" quotient. hostesses at the varnish preferable to large bouncer outside death and co. who cards those older than his father.

                      2. fwiw,
                        not a specific suggestion, but
                        if you are staying in westwood, i would avoid all of the downtown suggestions because
                        1) of you are cabbing it, the cab ride will be very costly.
                        2) if you are driving, imho, especially if you are from out of town, this is not a drive i'd like to make with any significant amount of alcohol in me.

                        you really do not need to drive completely across town to find good restaurants and bars.

                        1. I have had some good meals at Nine-Thirty in the Westwood W. They also serve lunch and drinks by the pool at the W and its a very cool scene there.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Thor123

                            We did hit up the Sunday pool party at the W. Lunch was OK and the service, especially poolside, was some of the most attentive we had all trip, though we're hotel guests.

                            The scene... well I'll just say that I've never seen so much prancing and preening from a group of males before. Could have been a gay bar, NTTAWWT.

                          2. Fiance here... We've hit a lot of good spots and will do a complete rundown when we get back so thanks for all the help so far.

                            I've got two lunches to kill... maybe Tehrangeles, La Ciniega, thai town, or Sawtelle. Thoughts? Suggestions?

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Beachowolfe

                              If you don't mind very casual then Sapp Coffee Shop in Thai town for the boat noodles would be one suggestion high on my list (I omit the liver from mine).

                              1. re: Beachowolfe

                                In the La Cienega area, try Mezze, for either lunch or dinner.
                                Another thought - are you stuck on staying in Westwood, or could a move downtown be an option?

                                1. re: carter

                                  I have a car

                                  EDIT: however, I kind of want In and Out today; I haven't been since an '09 trip to Vegas. If not, i'll probably end up eating tacos.

                                  1. re: Beachowolfe

                                    then by all means, you should get in n out.

                                    however, in tehrangeles, im partial are attari sandwich and fundemental la. on sawtelle, tsujita does ramen only for lunch. plan check is good but i'm not sure if they're open for lunch. not too far in palms is chego. in thai town, sapps, ruen pair, jitlada, etc... would all be good choices.

                                    1. re: cdub

                                      Plan Check is open every day from 11:30 AM until they close that night.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        we went to PC last night. I also ate at Morinoya for lunch yesterday though I have no idea wtf I ate (it was oden) I really should have listened to the server/hostess when she told me to order something else. Sometimes you get burned chasing authenticity. Sushi was excellent though. then I had Saffron and Rose for lunch-dessert. I am a fat f*ck this week. In and Out will top this vaca off nicely.

                                        Someone had suggested Attari earlier in the thread and their stuff looked very good as well. We have casual Persian in Boston though. Dunno, I may need to have two lunches today.

                                        We also have one more dinner before a red eye... maybe head back to Abbott Kinney or try Tar and Roses... anything else out towards LAX?

                                        More to come but so far:
                                        Soleil Bistro (went to wrong restaurant lookin for poutine, they made it anyway)
                                        tacos at Farmer's Market (3rd and Fairfax)
                                        Tasting Kitchen
                                        Plan Check
                                        Saffron & Rose
                                        divey bar in Manhattan Beach (i'll remember eventually)

                                        1. re: Beachowolfe

                                          "I also ate at Morinoya for lunch yesterday though I have no idea wtf I ate (it was oden) I really should have listened to the server/hostess when she told me to order something else."

                                          One of the funnier (and oh so true) comments I've read on CH this year. Looking forward to reading your take on the various places you ate and your take on them. And I can totally relate to the "fat f*ck" comment most weeks too... ;-D>

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            I'm not one to take photos of food but I couldn't resist this one...

                                            1. re: Beachowolfe

                                              I'll venture a guess - some bath toys in some of the "after bath" water?

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                An American pal from high school and I moved to Japan after graduating from our respective colleges. One look at Oden and he pronounced it "boiled beach toys" and for years we called it that. Of course, I am still living in Tokyo and during winter I frequently have Oden.