When it comes to L.A. nightlife, sometimes things can get so scene-y you feel sick. We tend to avoid (like the plague) the spots where models strut their stuff, bandage dresses reign supreme, and booze costs as much as dinner. After all, your tipsy time is precious, so why spend it with some wannabes off the street? The legit kids in town prefer to go incognito at dark and seedy dive bars, where people watching isn't the main event, but instead getting QT with your peeps is top priority. Now, we know this is a heated subject for some of you die-hard divers, so please don't go hating; we had to include some only-sorta-shabby saloons for the squeamish, too. But go ahead, you have our permission, knock 'em back, down- and-dirty style!
Photos Via (clockwise from top left): The Mandrake, El Cid, El Cid, and Jumbo's Clown Room
Over the last few years, The Mandrake has become increasingly hip, but it's still plenty dark, and holds on to that bedraggled vibe. This one's for those of you who still need some modern comforts like souped-up drinks and an occasional DJ set.
The Mandrake Bar, 2692 South La Cienega Boulevard (Near Venice Boulevard); 310-837-3297.
El Cid is one of those old-school hangouts that will probably still be around when our grandchildren come of drinking age. And for good reason: The indoor/outdoor space is easy, breezy, and always filled with a laid-back crowd.
El Cid, 4212 West Sunset Boulevard (Near Santa Monica Boulevard); 323-668-0318.
Jumbo's Clown Room
Jumbo's is set up like a strip joint, but nudey-phobes need not worry because the burlesque dancers are only scantily clad, and actually put on a pretty impressive performance. The place packs up fast, so either go early to uniquely kick off the night, or end up there super late for serious kicks.
Jumbo’s Clown Room, 5153 Hollywood Boulevard (at Winona Boulevard); 323-666-1187.
Cafe Brass Monkey, 3440 Wilshire Boulevard (at South Mariposa Avenue); 213-381-7047.
Frolic Room, 6245 Hollywood Boulevard (Between Vine and North Gower Streets); 323-462-5890.
Gold Room, 1558 West Sunset Boulevard (by Echo Park Avenue); 213-482-5259.
Frank N Hanks, 518 South Western Avenue (Near West 5th Street); 213-283-2087.
Hank’s Bar, 840 South Grand Avenue (Near West 8th Street); 213-623-7718.
Lost & Found, 11700 National Boulevard (at South Barrington Avenue); 310-397-7772.
Red Lion Tavern
The Red Lion Tavern set up shop in L.A. over 50 years ago, and if you ask any eastsider what's on their best-bars list, we're sure this spot is near the top. You can grab traditional German bites and brewskies, and the beer garden is even open during the daylight hours.
Red Lion Tavern, 2366 Glendale Boulevard (Near Teviot Street); 323-662-5337.
Dark and dingy, No Bar is where the no-fear crowd's debauchery goes down. The NoHo spot boasts a jam-packed jukebox for you to rock out to, like there's no tomorrow (or like no one you know is watching — really, insert any dance cliche here), and you can even get your pool-shark game on, too.
No Bar, 10622 Magnolia Boulevard (Near Cahuenga Boulevard); 818-753-0545.
One of our favorite K-Town hideaways, The Prince is about as lounge-y as it gets. The red banquettes and upscale antique décor have an other-worldly vibe, and if its any indication of its retro glam factor, some of the more famous Mad Men scenes have been filmed here.
The Prince, 3198 ½ West 7th Street, (Near South Berendo Street); 213-389-1586.
Snakepit Alehouse, 7529 Melrose Avenue (Near North Gardner Street); 323-653-2011.
4100 Bar, 1087 Manzanita Street (Near W. Sunset Boulevard); 323-666-4460.
King Eddy Saloon, 131 E. 5th Street (Near Los Angeles Street); 213-629-2023.
Footsie’s, 2640 North Figueroa Street (Near West Avenue 28); 323-221-6900.
The Roost, 3100 Los Feliz Boulevard (Near Edenhurst Avenue); 323-664-7272.
Chez Jay Restaurant, 1657 Ocean Avenue (at Appian Way); 310-395-1741.
HMS Bounty, 3357 Wilshire Boulevard (at Kenmore Avenue); 213-385-7275.
Okay, we know we're going to take some heat for this one, but The Dime is included in this roundup because it's about as deep as some of the swankier set will be willing to dive. "Dive bar" is a subjective term after all. Our favorite L.A. DJ spins during the week, and no matter how long its been around, we still enjoy a wild romp at this Fairfax spot!
The Dime, 422 Fairfax Avenue (Near Rosewood Avenue); 323-651-4421.
The Thirsty Crow has a nostalgic feel that's hard to come by, and drinks are served super-sized, strong, and sometimes even in mason jars!
Thirsty Crow, 2939 West Sunset Boulevard (Near Silver Lake Boulevard); 323-661-6007.
If you're driving too fast, you may miss Tiki-Ti, a teeny (and we mean tiny) joint on Sunset. It's cash only for the yummy tropical drinks, and it's one of the only places in town where you can still light up a cig (we don't know how they got that one grandfathered in!)
Tiki-Ti, 4427 Sunset Boulevard (Near North Hoover Street); 323-669-9381.
The Three Clubs, 1123 Vine Street (Near Santa Monica Boulevard); 323-462-62441.
Bar 107, 107 East 4th Street (by Main Street); 213-625-7382.
The Short Stop, 1455 West Sunset Blvd (Near Quintero Street); 213-482-4942.
Club Tee Gee, 3210 Glendale Boulevard (Near Larga Avenue); 323-669-9631.
Blipsy Barcade, 369 North Western Avenue (Near Elmwood Avenue); 323-461-7067.
Sonny McLean’s, 2615 Wilshire Boulevard (Near 26th Street); 310-449-1811.