A city as populous as Los Angeles has no shortage of happening nightlife districts, but in recent years, the central downtown has regained its reputation as the soul of the city, and not just a traffic-clogged industrial hub. In the shadow of the flat-topped skyscrapers, visitors can find a wealth of bars worth visiting for their night out, each one offering its own unique atmosphere.
Guests in the know looking for something exclusive can hit the switch on the unmarked door beside the bathrooms and find themselves inside a whiskey bar within a whiskey bar. This is the Jackalope speakeasy, where bartenders pamper drinkers with hot towels and happily converse with guests, educating them about their high-end whiskey offerings.
515 W 7th St, Los Angeles
On the other end of the spectrum, visitors looking for an unfussy, cheaper place to simply relax, have a drink and maybe a conversation will enjoy the divey atmosphere of Hank’s Bar. A neighborhood bar amidst a crowd of trendier spots, Hank’s has reasonably priced drinks and free popcorn for guests in an old fashioned setting that stays true to the motto, “yesterday’s charm,” on the plaque hanging behind the bar.
838 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles
Many downtown bars exude their own sense of effortless class, including Seven Grand, a cocktail bar near Pershing Square where guests can order creative, freshly prepared whiskey cocktails surrounded by wood-and-brick décor that recalls a mountain lodge, right down to the antelope head mounted on the wall.
515 W 7th St, Los Angeles
Though there are plenty of plainer places throughout downtown, many of the best bars in the area are worth noting for the stylish local music acts booked to play on popular nights. Rather than a full band, a live DJ is frequently in residence at the adult-oriented arcade EightyTwo. The popular spot is decked out with classic arcade games that are especially fun after one of their signature mixed drinks. If you are sick of video games, make your way to the large outdoor patio or the dance-floor.
707 E 4th Pl, Los Angeles
Blue Whale bar caters to yet another musical sensibility, serving as a hip jazz bar where young and old fans of the genre congregate in a classy but reasonably-priced bar. There isn’t much to the spare décor, but the simple space is homey nonetheless, and the music is consistently great. It is well worth the normal cover charge ranging from $10 on the low end to $20 on the high. The artist-themed drinks like Django Ginger add the final touch of jazzy class.
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #301, Los Angeles
In the downtown art district, Villains Tavern dispenses with the DJs, instead favoring diverse alternative acts paying tribute to influences ranging from soul to blues to classic rock. There is no cover and the beer is cheap, but you may end up spending more than you bargained for on their delicious food menu, including both decadent dinner burgers and late-night snacks like sliders and chili cheese fries to satisfy drunken cravings.
1356 Palmetto St, Los Angeles
For somewhere more striking in appearance, look for the amazingly decorated Mrs. Fish, a unique multi-tiered underground spot featuring an aquarium above the bar and a concrete tunnel entrance opening into a colorful world of its own. Sip tequila and cognac-based drinks at sunken tables, uber-gourmet tapas like pork belly skewers and ceviche-shrimp cocktail, and listen to their indie-tinged live acts.
448 S Hill St, Los Angeles
Ham and Eggs Tavern
Marked by paintings of colorful barber poles on its doors, the Ham and Eggs Tavern keep their acts simple and rocking. While an energetic band wails away on one end of the bar, guests can bob their heads while admiring the hip-but-unassuming décor and the stylized wall art adorning practically every surface of the bar. Best of all, their menu is full of tasty meals as well as distinctive mixed drinks you aren’t likely to find anywhere else, including the tasty raspberry-chocolate concoction called the Framboise au Chocolate.
433 W 8th St, Los Angeles
The Lexington Bar
The Lexington Bar offers a glimpse of another side of Los Angeles’s population of struggling entertainers, as local comedians and karaoke singers take the stage for open-mic nights, encouraged by receptive audiences. The bar is a proudly obscure hole-in-the-wall, adorned with paintings of old Hollywood stars. Even slow nights are worth it for the cheap beer and the bohemian artsy clientele who frequent the bar.
129 E 3rd St, Los Angeles