All About Los Angeles Bars
By Ryan Bifulco
L.A. has a lot to offer. The City of Angels is always on-the-go and seemingly driven by glitz and glamour. And if you're willing to fight the traffic, you'll find some of the world's best restaurants, shopping and attractions - from studio tours to museums, from beaches to piers.
L.A. is the epitome of big, bold and beautiful - and most of the hobbies in this town hover around "the scene". So, if you've had your share of the beach, head inland to tour the star-studded Sunset Boulevard or Melrose Avenue - and keep your eyes out! Since the restaurants and bars drive the social hustle n' bustle, you'd better allow yourself that afternoon power-nap if you want to keep up with the cool kids.
Remember: the stars come out at night - this is LA after all. This town seems to shimmer after sundown... you can rock it out on the Sunset Strip or club it up in Hollywood. So, if you like your bars cool, your martinis dry, and your restaurants scrumptious, make sure you've got your wallet, your appetite and your energy for your night on the town Hollywood style.
Here's our insiders guide to some of the best restaurants and nightlife options. Know this: fights broke out between our editorial staff when somebody foolishly suggested we limit our journeyPod Picks in L.A. to only 10 Restaurants and 10 Bars. We had so much fun tearing it up in Tinseltown that we had to go with 15 selections in each category. Of course, another fight ensued when we tried to assign numbers to all of these hotspots -- so cooler heads prevailed and we have since removed the rankings.
Be assured of one thing... all 30 of these places are ridiculously fantabulous and require your own A-game. Maybe even after a night on the town, you too will understand why even people in the biz think "Entourage" seems so real...
Bars & Nightlife
1. The Derby: (Los Feliz) "Swingers" wannabes hoping to catch a glimpse of Vince Vaughn or Jon Favreau join swing fans in this hotter-than-ever dance hall. With 1940's decor, live music (seven nights a week) and dance lessons, your whole posse will have a blast! FYI: The Derby was named a historical/cultural landmark by the Los Angeles City Council in May '06. Located at 4500 Los Feliz Blvd. (and Hillhurst Ave.).
2. LAX: (Hollywood) We've all been introduced to DJ AM by Nicole Ritchie - but he now needs no introduction! Known as one of the most sought out DJ's, DJ AM (a.k.a Adam Golstein) opened this first-class airport-themed lounge for all the L.A. jet-setters. Located in the heart of Hollywood, this destination hotspot boasts mirrors in the shape of airplane windows and metal hangar doors. The dance floor often gets cramped (similar to dancing in an airplane cabin), but it's tons of fun in a "Mile High Club" kinda way! LAX is located at 1714 Las Palmas Ave. (and Hollywood Blvd.).
3. Forty Deuce: (Melrose) The small parking lot across from Paramount Pictures houses this modern institution that's been transformed into a retro-cool lounge reminiscent of a 1920's speakeasy. The parlor-style seating, burlesque shows (strutting to the rhythm of a live jazz band) and fine cocktails keep the Hollywood crowd happy and partying until closing time. Located at 5574 Melrose Ave. (at Beachwood Dr.).
4. Barney's Beanery: (West Hollywood) In L.A., most people think that nothing can get better with age. But the city's third-oldest restaurant (located at 8447 Santa Monica Blvd. near La Cienaga Blvd.) manages to prove everyone in Hollywood wrong. Since opening its door nearly 90 years ago, it has attracted celebrities to regular Joe-shmoes who crave good ol' comfort food (your choice of 150 different burgers, 65 chilis and 90 omelettes). While many may refer to this as just a "dive", the good food and cheap drinks keep this Beanery jumping nightly. (Just make sure you bring your I.D. - even Johnny Drama got carded here recently!).
5. Stone Rose Lounge: (West Hollywood) This recently opened LA version of the NYC nightspot houses itself in the redone Sofitel Hotel (at 8555 Beverly Blvd., near La Cienaga Blvd.). A destination for young starlets (and the guys who want them) boasts a 5,000 square foot lounge and outdoor patio. While it's not your usual L.A. nightlife scene, this laid-back atmosphere with refined martinis and the outside fire pit cabanas are well worth visiting.
6. Social Hollywood: (Hollywood) What's old is new again! This place used to be the massive Hollywood Athletic Club and now boasts a lounge, restaurants, games rooms with PlayStations and Xboxes, a screening room and a private club. The Moroccan-inspired venue features food that has been strong right off the bat and a social scene which has won over the cool kids. Located at 6526 Sunset Blvd. (at Schrader Blvd.).
7. Sky Bar: Tagged as one of L.A.'s hottest nightclub spots since the day it opened, Sky Bar is open, airy and makes you feel like you're floating up in the clouds atop the Mondrian hotel (located at 8440 Sunset Blvd.). Boasting some of the most beautiful views in all of L.A. (along with its trees, pool and candlelight) and the cities most fashionable set - please don't let the long lines and bouncers deter you. If and when you do get past the red tape, please don't stare at that hunk that regularly appears on the pages of US Weekly and People!
8. Formosa Cafe: (West Hollywood) An area classic (served as the location for the movie L.A. Confidential), this Chinese-themed dimly-lit hotspot features red leather booths and a bar that serves intoxicatingly powerful martinis. Known as one of the movie industry's watering-holes, Formosa features autographed shots of Hollywood stars lining the walls (and you may even be lucky enough to spot Bono or Beck in one of the booths). Better for drinks than dinner (and make sure you dress the part to avoid hassles at the door). Formosa Cafe is located at 7156 Santa Monica Blvd. (between La Brea and Formosa Ave.).
9. Privilege: (West Hollywood) Madonna isn't the only one who knows how to reinvent herself. Nightlife guru Sam Nazarian knows all too well about reinvention. Before its new look and name, this club was known as a gothic playground called Shelter, a Nordic lounge, a St. Tropez-style resort and a mock construction site. Now Privilege is a sensuously white-on-white oasis that has the feel of a South Beach resort (sans the humidity and sand in between your toes). Saturdays are tough since Brent Bolthouse (godfather of celebrity events) hosts parties here - so if you can, opt for a weekday visit. Unless of course, you can get your name on the guest list or finagle past the ear-plugged security guards. Privelege is at 8117 W. Sunset Blvd. (and Crescent Heights Blvd.).
10. Guy's Bar: (West Hollywood) Ever wonder where the stars go for karaoke? You'll find the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Ritchie at this intimate and exclusive WeHo club. Guy's is a simple mishmash of cushy couches that's mostly reserved for private industry-related events. However, try this place on a Saturday (promoter-run) night when the door policy is a bit more relaxed (and yes, do show some leg!). Guy's Bar is located at 8713 Beverly Blvd.
11. Tropicana Bar: (Hollywood) Old Hollywood meets New Hollywood at this bar in L.A.'s Roosevelt Hotel - where you'll find stars lounging in style at an outdoor patio that boasts a 60's vibe with cozy plush seating and a glowing pool. A typical hipster joint, the bar is also a tropical oasis with neon-illuminated palm trees, private bungalows, a fireplace and linen-covered chaise lounges. If you're in no mood to rub elbows with the nighttime fashionista/glamourista crowd, Tropicana Bar is ideal for sunny CA afternoons. Just don't forget to notice the David Hockney blue-wave mural at the bottom of the pool at 7000 Hollywood Blvd.
12. The Bar: (Hollywood) Not just a bar, The Bar! Nestled between a gas station and a seedy hotel (5851 Sunset Blvd. and Bronson Ave.), this place is easy to miss. But those who find their way to one of Hollywood's hottest revamped watering holes will see newly renovated digs and eye-catching patrons. Some days you'll hear a rock n' roll jukebox blast the sounds of the Ramones, other days you'll find local DJ's spinning old and new pop. For those who feel like a cig, some air or just a break from the sounds, cram your way outside to the bamboo-lined smoking alley.
13. Mood: (Hollywood) This 6,500 square foot former office building at 6623 Hollywood Blvd. has been transformed into a tropical Garden of Eden - think South Pacific! The club's Balinese design boasts sensuous colors/textures and in-the-flesh trumpeters and bongo drummers that accompany the hip-hop and rap sounds that you'll hear. Stocked with exotic treasures made from bamboo, batik and carved wood, Mood draws sexy young Hollywood socialites and other glitz and glam from Tinseltown.
14. The Lounge: (West Hollywood) Okay, so here's the lowdown...This sexy Miami Beach-style club draws a great crowd with its borderline location (WeHo and Beverly Hills) and open-door policy. The Lounge boasts a main room with bar and dance floor, and a spiral staircase that leads up to a swanky lounge area filled with comfy booths and table service. DJ's here spin a dance-party mix of hip-hop, R&B and house music favorites. The Lounge is located at 9077 Santa Monica Blvd. (and Doheny Dr.).
15. Key Club: (West Hollywood) A state-of-the-art live music venue (located at 9039 Sunset Blvd. and Doheny Dr.) with futuristic audio, video and lighting technologies, Key Club is one of WeHo's most popular spots. The VIP area downstairs, called the Plush Lounge, is typically crammed with the Hollywood "It" crowd. A full restaurant and menu is also available on the second floor (reserving a table there is the secret to actually getting in on busy nights). Key Club features a few bars and plenty of ways to get your drink on - a perfect place to either start or end your night out on the Sunset Strip.
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