LOS ANGELES HAS a plethora of watering holes for every demographic. There are sports bars for witless tourists, speakeasies for $15-cocktail-swilling foodies, and exclusive lounges for celebrities and those willing to pay a premium cover charge. This list is none of those. It’s a guide to bars with cheap drinks, lively characters, and a lack of pretension.
These dives are all easily accessible by public transportation and can lead to an exceptionally fun night. Cheers!
If you’re a huge fan of belligerent Thai women screaming into karaoke machines then Smog Cutter is the place for you.
Charles Bukowski used to drink at this auto-body repair shop converted into a boozy living museum. Busloads of thrill-seeking local tourists show up to revel in the grime among the regular booze-hounds who basically live there.
864 N Virgil Ave, Silver Lake
Five Star Bar
Five Star has been serving cheap beers on Main Street in Downtown LA for decades. Downtown’s recent “revitalization” has altered the bar’s working class demographic but regulars still nurse their $2 domestics while local bands play on the stage in the back.
The last time I was there the bartender wasn’t, so one of the patrons walked around the bar and served me a pitcher of Bud Light for $6.
267 South Main Street, Downtown LA
The HMS Bounty
For a moment in history this vaguely nautical-themed bar was a place for swanky ’60s Hollywood-types to party. The theme hasn’t really stood up, but drinks remain cheap, the food’s not bad, and the clientele know how to have a good time. Be on the look out for drunken ghosts.
3357 Wilshire Blvd, Koreatown
Since the Drawing Room opens at 6AM, the old guys are pretty fucked up by happy hour. The well drinks are cheap and there is inexplicable painting of a dragon on the wall.
You always meet random people in the entertainment industry here — but not like agents or producers, more like that dude who played Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
1800 Hillhurst, Los Feliz
This Tiki-themed bar in The Valley, is less expensive and less crowded than others in town. You can buy your Zombies and Blue Hawaiians here, but they also have cheap PBR on tap.
Tonga Hut has darts and a jukebox. Sometimes the bartenders organize beer pong and DJs. Occasionally French Stewart sits at the bar, and you can remember how weird you thought he was on Third Rock From The Sun, and quell any rumors that he may have died.
12808 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood
Foxfire is The Valley’s version of Cheers. Everyone doesn’t know my name, but they always seem to nod in approval as I walk in. They’ve got karaoke and game machines. They filmed a scene in Magnolia here, which is something you can always bring up when there is awkward silence between you and your date.
12516 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood
The place smells like an exploded septic tank, but that doesn’t stop Mexican cowboys from breaking into song over the pool table. The strongest booze the Lotus Lounge offers is 8 oz. grenades of Mickey’s Malt Liquor.
The owner once cut off my bracelet because she thought it was given to me by a buddhist monk (it was really given to me by Argentine hippies.) She bought me a few beers to apologize.
1135 Vermont, East Hollywood
Jumbo’s Clown Room
Girls in bikinis Go-Go dancing at a strip mall in East Hollywood. Jumbo’s Clown Room provides plenty to look at, is not overwhelmingly seedy, and serves cheap drinks. Tip your bartenders, and throw every other dollar on the stage. At the end of the night if you’re lucky Lemmy from Motörhead will take a picture with you.
5153 Hollywood Blvd., East Hollywood
So of all of the “recently discovered” bars along Sunset in Echo Park, I still think that the Gold Room is the best, even though there was a line the last time I went. This place has the greatest deal in Los Angeles. For every $4 PBR you buy, you’re offered a free shot of tequila, peanuts, and some tacos (though you should really only delve into their taco selection after you’re sufficiently sloshed).
1558 W. Sunset Boulevard, Echo Park
Loaded is right in the heart of Douchebag Central, Hollywood. It’s a rock-n-roll themed bar on the site of an ’80s punk venue. It definitely feels ‘themed’ but the clientele are authentically rock-n-roll, there isn’t any cover, and this bar has the cheapest drinks in this part of town.
6377 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood