For as social a city as LA claims to be, you don’t exactly do a lot of socializing on a night out. Too many bars in town tend to be cliquey, loud, sectioned-off, and generally not conducive to talking to anyone other than who you showed up with.
But whether you’re single and ready to mingle, or simply sick of staring at your same friends every weekend, the art of actually meeting people in a bar is far from dead. From karaoke to line dancing to full-scale shuffleboard battles, LA has some great bars where you might actually be able to mix it up with some strangers. Here are the 24 best places to make that happen.
Tramp Stamp Granny’s is a piano bar right in the middle of the Hollywood strip clubs and T-shirt shops, and there’s nowhere better to sing until you’re hoarse with a bunch of strangers. It gets rowdy here, but no one is face-planting on the bar. Instead, if the bartender likes your voice, she might hand you a microphone and pull you over said bar for a “No Scrubs” duet.
The sibling to Silver Lake’s The Friend, The Little Friend is a great Venice spot with a cool crowd and solid cocktails. Our favorite is The Joker, with mezcal and ancho chili, but you could also just go for the shot-and-a-beer special for $10. On weekends, you’ll find DJs playing everything from funk to ’90s hip-hop to Ariana Grande - but no matter what’s on, the dance floor will be filled with people getting drunk and dancing with strangers. It gets crowded quickly, so get here early if you don’t want to wait in line.
Formosa Cafe is where Frank Sinatra used to meet people - and it’s still just as good of a place for that 50 years later. You probably won’t have the same success rate as Ol’ Blue Eyes, but you’ve got a shot in the back bar, where people are getting rowdy on tiki drinks and two-martini lunches, and dancing on the upstairs patio until last call. They also serve some excellent chili wontons, if you’re looking for something to share with the person you just met.
Harvard & Stone comes from the same family as Davey Wayne’s, No Vacancy, and Breakroom 86. But if visions of secret entrances and flapper girls twirling from the ceiling are flowing through your head right now, take a pause. Harvard & Stone is surprisingly low-key, and easy to get into. That said, it’s also fun as hell. Expect live music most nights of the week, late-night DJs, and a makeshift dance floor that gets rowdy in a hurry. The crowd is always cool, casual, good-looking, and definitely ready to mix it up.
Welcome to the golden boy of the Downtown gay scene. Precinct is a massive, warehouse-y bar in Bunker Hill and probably the most popular gay bar in the entire city right now. Though lines can get bad (especially on the big drag show nights), the crowd is far more laid-back than what you usually find in Weho. In short, people are here to party. Combine that with relatively cheap mixed drinks and great music and you’ll have some new friends in no time.
High Tide is a hybrid of a bunch of different concepts - a beer bar, a seafood spot, a place to dance - yet somehow, it all works. It’s also the ideal place to go when you’re looking to meet someone new. They’ve got an excellent patio with a glassblowing studio on it, but more importantly, it’s the best place to drink their truly deadly frozé. On weekdays, you’ll find a low-key crowd, and on weekends, it fills up for live music on the patio. They also have a great Wednesday night trivia - maybe the only trivia in town where you could go home with someone.
Some nights, everything goes wrong. One bar’s line was too long, another place was empty, and then, you met up with some friends who were too drunk to get into your last-resort spot. This is the time when you need to remember Barkowski. It’s a Santa Monica dive bar with darts, pool, and shuffleboard, and walls covered in quotes from the late, great Charles Bukowski. By around 12:30am, the neighborhood crowd here tends to be drunk enough that someone will probably give you feedback on your latest pilot idea and/or challenge you in shuffleboard for the next round of PBR.
This Silver Lake beer garden is not only one of our favorite patios in the city, it’s one of the best places to sit down, have a couple steins, and actually talk to the people sitting next to you. The Bavarian theme isn’t exactly what you’d call subtle, but it’s the right kind of environment for mixing it up with strangers.
The Snake Pit is a bar you stumble past at 12:30am, decide to go in for one drink, and end up closing the place down. This is the best kind of dive - great bartenders, cheap drinks, and a jukebox that will turn you into a dance floor star. There’s no actual designated space for dancing, but when the right song comes on, everyone hops on their feet and starts making room. If dancing with a stranger to the Grease medley at 1:45am isn’t how you want to close out your night, we have nothing in common.
Sports bars are usually a good bet when you want to meet someone, because sports are a fantastic conversation starter (even if the other person hates sports - you can talk about that). Sonny McLean’s is an especially great place for this, thanks to extremely strong drinks and constant Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins games on the TVs. There’s a great selection of craft beer, and their shots are the size of small bowls - so it’s safe to say that people get pretty loose here and are primed to mix it up. Just don’t wear a Yankees hat or say anything about Tom Brady’s hairline.
A large chunk of LA gay bars have a well-deserved reputation for being expensive, tourist-clogged hell-traps. Akbar is the antithesis of all of that. The Eastside gem is a place people go to grab a cheap drink and actually hear themselves talk. Monday night’s lip-syncing competition “Learn The Words, Bitch” is everything you’ve ever wanted.
Songbird is a hidden bar in Chinatown with live music most nights, and a great all-ages crowd every night. It’s part club, part fancy cocktail bar, with room to dance when there’s a DJ or band playing, and plenty of space to do everything else when there’s not. The cocktails aren’t cheap, but at least you’re getting what you pay for - they involve ingredients like applewood smoke, black tea cordial, and atomized rose.
Barbecues are an excellent place to meet people. But your Weho studio balcony can barely fit you and your cat, let alone a whole party. So use Resident in the Arts District as your personal outdoor barbecue - without the actual barbecue. You order drinks from an Airstream trailer, and then head into the back, where there are long benches to sit next to friendly, laid-back strangers at the fire pits. The attached music venue is a good place to dance with that person whose haircut you were skeptical of at first, but now you’re realizing is kinda cute.
Amidst a sea of dime-a-dozen bro bars, The Gas Lite stands as one of the only remaining spots in Santa Monica where people truly don’t give a sh*t. And the name of the game at this local dive bar is karaoke. And dancing. Lots and lots of dancing. When you factor in the cheap drinks and a crowd that definitely wants to get to know each other, you’ve got a great night on the Westside.
This bar in Venice is a much-needed addition to an area that oddly struggles with worthwhile places to grab a drink. Though the interior is pretty trendy, the overall atmosphere at The Lincoln is casual and friendly. There’s an excellent front patio with plenty of room to get the conversations flowing, and a waitstaff that always makes sure you have a drink in hand. Which, by the way, will be Top Gun-themed.
This 51-year-old LA institution is still one of the best places to change up your usual weekend bar grind and go experience something you’ll actually remember (even when you’re so wasted you definitely won’t remember a thing). It’s a Studio City cowboy bar where you’ll drink dollar Jell-O shots, learn how to line dance, and then groove the night away on stage with a Cher impersonator. Saturday Night Disco Night is not be missed.
The only place on this guide where we’d also highly recommend you eat, Jones is the kind of spot you can walk into for some spaghetti and a glass of wine, and walk out with someone who ordered the same glass of cab as you. Sit by the bar, where there’s a combination of post-breakup nights out, people celebrating a friend’s new acting gig, and a couple of happy-looking couples who might inspire you to actually talk to a stranger and not just awkwardly glance at them all night.
As a default, games bring people together. Add strong beer and some hot dogs, and you have a day party. Block Party in Highland Park is perfect for craft beer drinkers, but it’s that cruise ship-scale shuffleboard on the back patio that takes this Eastside spot to the next level. Everyone here is always having a good time, and you will be too.
It’s harder than it should be in LA to find a decent spot to grab a beer with friends. Good thing there’s Surly Goat, the rather nondescript beer bar smack in the center of everything. You never have to wait in line, the crowd is always good, and if you time things right, they might even have some Pliny on tap. If that word means nothing to you, you’ll still have a great time at one of Weho’s best casual drinking spots.
Bootie LA is definitely not a bar. It’s a weekly dance party that takes place anywhere from Echo Park to Downtown. But if you’re looking to dance to Top 40 pop mash-ups in a surprisingly un-clubby atmosphere, Bootie LA is ideal. Even though the themed event has become more and more popular, the crowd has generally remained cool, laid-back, and entirely ready to have a lot fun. Everyone here is probably in some sort of costume, and you should be, too.
Blue Collar is one of those places that feels bigger than it is, and that’s because everyone at this cocktail bar is on their feet, talking, and having a good time. The atmosphere is like a neighborhood dive bar, but one where you can tell the bartender you feel like drinking whiskey tonight, and they’ll make you the cocktail of your dreams. It’s unpretentious, fun, and full of potential new friends.
Harlowe is proof that all it really takes to fill up a bar with people under 30 is a place to dance and a playlist where Usher comes on every fifth song. This is an empty restaurant until 9:30 every night, but an hour later, there will be someone from The Bachelor making out with a UTA intern in the middle of the dance floor. It’s just the right level of messy: if you’re looking to meet someone, you’ll be able to, without having to go somewhere that leaves you with shoes so sticky that you just have to throw them out. Get here before 10pm if you don’t want to wait in line.
This dimly-lit Ktown bar is a fancy cocktail drinkers’ paradise, but it’s also the kind of spot where people are up and mingling about. This isn’t a Fireball throw-down spot, so don’t come expecting to get too wild. The crowd is cool and interesting and they probably came to drink good cocktails. If you came to do the same, you’ll fit right in.
Admittedly, Chestnut Club can get pretty overwhelming on the weekends. But if you’re looking to mix it up with the local post-grad crowd, this Santa Monica hotspot should be at the top of your list. And surprisingly, you can also drink a decently made cocktail while you’re at it. Either way, the crowd is ready to party.