HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >


Looking for less mainstream, but awesome bars in LA

I'm going on my first trip to LA (for business) with 3 other coworkers, and I'm trying to get a couple of options together. Looking for some less mainstream bars that only LA natives would know of. Not necessarily dive-y or a hole in the wall; I'm aiming for super cool, swanky, awesome cocktails, intimate... food would be bonus, but not a must.

Also, I'm trying to gather some options for great restaurants. One of our group wants to go to Bottega Louie, as it's her favorite so we've got that down. Two of us don't like sushi and generally aren't crazy about Asian. I love trying new things and am totally not picky.

We'll be staying at the Millenium Biltmore, walking distance from the office, and we won't mind venturing out at night but we'd like to stay pretty much downtown.

Any suggestions would be awesome! Thank you in advance to anyone who replies!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Its not downtown, but Oldfield's in Culver City is really cool. Chill vibe, wasn't a club like atmosphere, more of an old school feel.

    1. The Varnish....downtown LA. You really can't get any better, IMHO.

      4 Replies
      1. re: latindancer

        It just won TOTC best bar of America. That is about as mainstream (read: hipster) cocktail as it comes. There's quaint, and there's claustrophobic.

        For WeHo hotness and a view, Eveleigh. For a quainter Hollywood, The Pikey. For the latest/greatest, The Parish, DTLA.

        Unknown "super cool, swanky" bar with "awesome cocktails" does not exist in LA. As an alternative, you could chose awesome restaurant bars -- Hungry Cat, Jar, Lucques, and Providence all have very capable bar keeps.

          1. re: latindancer

            pikey has good food too, and is it next door to a samuel french bookstore, i thought i noticed it driving by the non-officially strip section of Sunset.

          2. re: TonyC

            <Unknown "super cool, swanky" bar with 'awesome cocktails" does not exist in LA.>

            Just a hunch...
            Subjective for sure, but I think what you find 'super cool' and what I find is 'super cool' might be miles apart.

        1. Border Grill downtown has some tasty cocktails.

          Folks speak highly of The Edison but I've never been.

          Chaya's bar (downtown) is fun and with great food and wine. I have not had their mixed drinks.

          You won't make it there (too far) but Sedthee Thai in Glendale has amazing drinks. Their elixir, with vodka, coconut liquor, fresh lemongrass and herbs is stunning - and I can't believe i can get it in Glendale!

          OH and the revamped coles is getting good marks for it's cocktails - go there for iconic fun : )

          How about The Standard's rooftop bar, for ubercool fun?



          1. just as a general rule:
            << less mainstream bars that only LA natives would know of>>
            rarely serve
            << super cool, swanky, awesome cocktails>>

            not too many secrets around here. . . . .
            most of the time, when someplace really good opens, it is jammed by week 2.
            there is a lot of pent up demand for something awsome.

            also, re: bottega louie,
            the take of that place is decidely mixed,
            ANDit is far from being a place that is "less mainstream."

              1. re: ipsedixit

                smells like downers cow thanks to beef dip.

                1. re: TonyC

                  Well, with that description, who would go there?
                  I've never heard Cole's described like that and lots would disagree.

                  1. re: latindancer

                    I think the term "downer" better applies to TC's post and not any cow in question...

                    1. re: Servorg

                      for what it's worth, i liked the old Cole's better when it was a tadbit filthier and decrepit. and some of the regulars actually looked like they had been glued to their barstools.

                  2. re: TonyC

                    A couple of sazeracs and those downers will start smelling like roses.

                2. I'm not a barfly, but happened to be downtown in Pershing Square looking at some office space in an atmospheric old art deco-looking building. They had a great looking rooftop bar called Perch, with fabulous views, which is relatively new on the L.A. scene. Not sure that it is "super cool", to me that means tourists and posers, but it seemed like a classy place, and the space is fantastic. Relatively less known than other haunts, but by no means undiscovered.


                  1. Pretty mainstream at this point, but Seven Grand is a cool spot, and right across the street from Bottega C.K.

                    Other spots (again, not sure if too mainstream but cool. Downtown LA spots at the top, marked with the word "Downtown"...)

                    Golden Gopher -- Downtown
                    Broadway Bar -- Downtown
                    The Down And Out -- Downtown
                    Casey's Irish Bar -- Downtown
                    Bar 107 -- Downtown
                    The York -- Highland Park
                    Verdugo Bar -- Glassell Park
                    Eagle Rock Brewery -- Glassell Park
                    The Bigfoot Lodge -- Atwater
                    HMS Bounty -- Koreatown
                    The Alibi Room (home of Kogi tacos) -- Culver City
                    The Brig -- Venice

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: vegetablelasagna

                      After Bottega Louie, walk to Golden Gopher or Broadway Bar. Seven Grand is also a great suggestion, and right across the street.

                      If on westside, 3110, Brig, Penthouse at Huntley, Whist at Viceroy.

                      1. re: yogachik

                        The greatest of all and sorely, sorely missed....

                        Babe's and Ricky's Inn/Leimert Park.
                        In places like this it's always nice to remember this coolest of cool Blues bar.
                        So sad.

                        1. re: latindancer

                          i heard they served pretty good fried chicken too. but i never really hung out that often at leimert park, usually my main reason to go there for years was to go to Phillip's but now i usually just go to the one off of the 10 Fwy bc it's just much more convenient.

                          has babe's and ricky's resurfaced anywhere else ?


                          1. re: kevin

                            I'm afraid not.

                            The Leimert Park area is full of great finds...and if it resurfaced I can't think of anywhere it'd fit the same as it did there.
                            There was just this history about the place and Laura Mae that was iconic (she passed on @89) still running it. The fried chicken, the catfish, the collard greens and the cornbread....all delicious along with the best blues anywhere in LA.

                          2. re: latindancer

                            That's a blast from the past we use to hang at Babe and Ricky's when they were at their original location.

                            The coolest of the cool bars was even cooler when it was on Central

                            Chicken night was great. Admission was one dollar and you got a ticket that included the chicken dinner.

                            1. re: burntwater

                              <The coolest of the cool bars was even cooler when it was on Central>

                              The memories and stories you must have :).
                              Such history.

                          3. re: yogachik

                            I've neer been to the Varnish before, but what would you guys order there ?

                            And when is a good time to go when it's not too busy ? So I don't have to wait three-deep at the bar for a drink that may never arrive. Sometimes some joints just seem liking i'm waiting for godot...

                            1. re: kevin

                              what to order? tell the nice lady server what sort of things you like and have the bartender make dealer's choice. when to go? during the week it's less crowded. get there at 8 p.m. when it opens. you can't stand at the bar, so you don't have to worry about that.
                              your drink will take a bit longer than you're probably used to to arrive.

                          4. re: vegetablelasagna

                            i really like the down and out in that grungey, kind of skid row-ish type of way. the mug shuts, blown up and plastered behind the bar are pretty classic too.

                            1. re: kevin


                              I agree. I prefer the same opposed to the genteel type of bar so many appear to prefer.
                              But of course I know people from the westside who've never ever been downtown to experience some of these places you're describing. And they've vowed they never will.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Charles? Charles Bukowski Jr.? Is that really you? ;-D>

                                1. re: kevin

                                  You missed the window...

                                  All the gentrified bars like Golden Gopher use to be real.
                                  Back then you could hit up the Kenmore, Crabby Joes and the 'Toro all in one night of boozing.

                                  1. re: burntwater

                                    I want those days back again in Los Angeles.

                              2. For a $25 cab ride, transport you & your friends to mid-century LA at the Tiki Ti. Not swanky, but strong tropical drinks in a tiny venue -- a true classic. Cash only. Call first to make sure they're open. Beware: their drinks pack a wallop. Get a couple Ray's Mistakes and have fun.

                                4427 West Sunset Boulevard
                                Los Angeles, CA 90027
                                (323) 669-9381


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Johnny Pastrami

                                  Beware those drinks! Beware!

                                  Strong like ox but oh so fun : )

                                  1. re: Johnny Pastrami

                                    they are decent, i'm overdue on a visit but usually it's too busy unless going on a week night right when they open.

                                  2. I think I understand the kind of places you are looking for. However, it is a little difficult to know for sure how much some one from out of town would or would not know about certain joints in L.A. in these days of the internets. But here is another stab at downtown.

                                    Villain's (food)
                                    The Falls (no food)
                                    Harvard & Stone (no food)

                                    Lazy Ox
                                    Church & State
                                    Drago Centro