It happens quickly. One day you’re buying rounds of lemon drop shots and covering yourself in glitter, and then you wake up somewhere down the line and the only thing you care about after 10pm is your Netflix queue and a full bottle of ZzzQuil. This might happen when you’re 23 or it might happen when you’re 63. If it happened already, this guide’s for you.
Below you’ll find two lists of options. One has a bunch of relatively calm bars that you’ll still feel cool drinking in, and the other has some places where people who don’t need this guide already know they’re supposed to go.
rowdier places For when you really want to go for it
Everybody knows you don’t go out anymore. Everybody doesn’t know that you memorized all the words to “Seasons Of Love” in 6th grade and still belt it out in your car several times a week. Time to go to Tramp Stamp Granny’s. This rowdy spot on Cahuenga is technically a piano bar, but a more accurate name for it would be Publicly Admitting You Love Musical Theater More Than Anything Else. Expect waitresses belting Celine Dion on top of the bar, Mary J. Blige rap-offs, and bar-wide sing-alongs of “Defying Gravity.” A night at TSG’s feels like the greatest cast party of all time, and if you don’t what that means, you definitely shouldn’t come here.
The Normandie Club is dark, cramped, and full of well-dressed people drinking Old Fashioneds. If it weren’t for the lack of winter jackets and self-loathing, you’d swear you were in New York. But you’re not. You’re at one of our favorite bars in Koreatown. This place is a great jumping off point before a night out in KTown, or you can just post up in a booth and try not to think about how excited you are to watch British reality shows when you get home.
At one point in your adult life, going out meant tracking down secret passwords to bars on Twitter and climbing through giant wardrobes, under mechanical beds, or into refrigerators to get inside of them. You’re over it. Luckily, Apotheke is a themed bar that doesn’t mess with any of that. Yes, the 19th-century apothecary aesthetic is aggressive and the bartenders will definitely be wearing white lab jackets, but this Chinatown spot is never annoying. The medicinal-themed cocktails are all fantastic and their back patio is one of our favorites downtown.
Anytime a bowling alley is described as rowdy, conventional wisdom is to stay away. Highland Park Bowl is the exception. The historic bowling alley has been around since the 1920s, but after a massive renovation a few years ago, it has transformed into a steampunk wonderland that, come weekends, is an all-out party. There are two separate bars, a live music venue, and two floors of seating near the lanes. The cocktails are strong and well-made, the pizza is so much better than it needs to be, and if you stick around late enough, you might even catch a burlesque dancer slinking down the staircase.
Blue Collar is tiny bar on Fairfax across the street from a Whole Foods. Its nondescript exterior looks like a forgotten dive bar, but inside you’ll find a dimly-lit space that reminds us of a train car. There’s no cocktail list here - just tell the bartenders what you’re in the mood for. Whatever they make will be exactly what you wanted. Seats are hard to come by here, but the crowd is attractive enough that you won’t really care if you get pinned up against someone you vaguely recognize from a cancelled CW show.
calmer bars where no onE will spill A drink on you
To be clear, Bar Calo is crowded. But it’s not the type of crowded where you’re in constant fear of a stiletto going through the roof of your foot. People here are either hovering casually at the bar or squeezing into the wrap-around couch discussing the number of repurposed grocery bags it took to make their current outfit. All the cocktails are fantastic and if you get hungry, there’s a great Mexican food menu. Get the quesadilla and Oaxaca hot chicken.
Checker Hall is one of those rare places that always seems to have the right amount of people in it. And by that, we mean you never have to stiff-arm a needy undergrad to get a seat, but there’s still enough of a crowd to make you feel like you chose the right bar. It’s a giant space inside of an old Masonic lodge in Highland Park. There are big booths ideal for large groups and a second-story outdoor patio offering prime views of people stumbling down Figueroa. If there’s a spicy tequila cocktail better than the Carmen #Six, we don’t know it.
The idea of a dive bar is appealing to you, but you also have zero interest in sticky floors and sweaty couples in the corner sticking their tongues down each other’s throats. Head to Crawfords. This neighborhood dive bar in Historic Filipinotown has only been open for a few years, but feels like a weathered staple. The crowd is a mix of locals who walked there and people from Silver Lake who are sick of Silver Lake. It isn’t a big space, but there are a few booths, a billiards table, and a Cruisin’ USA in the corner. Just don’t leave without getting some hot chicken from the bar - it’s debatably as good as Howlin’ Ray’s.
We get it, arcade bars have been dead since 2013 (when you actually still went out) and the last thing you’re doing this Saturday is collecting stranger’s germs on a half-broken Mortal Combat machine. Here’s the good news - Walt’s Bar is not an arcade bar. It’s a retro neighborhood beer bar that happens to have a row of pinball machines in the back. If you get drunk and start playing on one, that’s great. If not, you can spend the rest of the night hanging at the bar, drinking good beer, and eating buckets of popcorn that only cost a quarter.
Accomplice is a small bar in Mar Vista and a place you go specifically to drink perfect cocktails. The menu is broken into three sections - riffs, classics, and specials. Whatever you go with will be one of the better-made cocktails on the Westside. That includes the poorly balanced negroni you make for yourself at home three times a week. The place does get crowded during peak weekend times and Happy Hour, but no one’s obnoxious about how drunk they’re getting. If you get hungry, you can order-in anything from the Taiwanese spot, Little Fatty, next door.