I SPENT A YEAR going out in LA alone. It can be a daunting task to set out on a solo evening. But if you try it, you’ll realize you should not have waited so long to watch Jon Brion play at Largo or to have a bartender introduce you to the best bacon-wrapped dates in the city at AOC. And it can help you remember some life lessons. Your mama would be proud.
Life Lesson: Try, Try Again (To Get Into a Bar) or When One Door Closes, Another Opens
It’s no joy to have a bouncer deny you entrance to a bar. You can try to convince him you will only take up a teeny tiny spot, or you can say your friend is already inside. Results are minimal, but it’s worth a shot with specific details and a dashing smile. Or you can exclaim that you just sold a script to HBO and are beyond important. I’ve never tried that one, but it sounds like it could work with the right amount of confidence. No matter the strategy though, if the bar’s full, you’re not getting in.
So, at the prime time of 10pm, when I approached Red O on Melrose, the Rick Bayless creation that is stalked by paparazzi every night, I knew I might be turned away no matter how much I batted my eyelashes. I was right.
So I went over to The Improv across the street, a staple stand-up comedy joint that I had been trying to convince friends to go to for years to no avail. I shouldn’t have waited for them.
Walking back to Red O an hour and a half later, the crowds had cleared, and I was in. I sipped a cherry flavored Caipirinha with some new friends at the bar and ended up walking with them to Village Idiot down the street for a nightcap.
Life Lesson: Never Say Never (To Alcohol)
I’m not an “on the rocks” gal. So at La Descarga on Western, accessed by walking through a closet in a speak-easy style entrance and into the back rum room, I knew I would only want a mixed drink, nothing straight up.
As I checked out the menu, a patron next to me told me I had to try a rum straight up — that they carry the rarest and the finest here.
Realizing the only time I actually had rum in its pure form was rapidly ingested shots of Captain Morgan in college, I decided I should put aside my ban of hard liquor and really give a sipping glass a try.
The bartender said we would have no trouble finding one rum on their extensive menu that I would enjoy. He started by asking me what kind of beer I like. “I’ve been digging Sam Adams Oktoberfest lately.”
With just that, he decided to serve me a spiced gold rum with a subtle taste of cinnamon. The first swallow was pleasantly smooth, and I looked at him in shock. I liked it! I took my drink into the main room and as I watched a scantily clad woman dancing to the live Cuban band in their legendary hourly show, I sipped my rum in disbelief of my newly acquired taste.
Life Lesson: Make New Friends, But Keep the Old (By Running Into Them at Bars)
I walked into the Dresden on the strip of Vermont Ave in Los Feliz and saw my friend Adam, with whom I had tried to schedule time with for over three years, I was thrilled. Just by getting out and not worrying about making plans, I was able to share an Amstel Light with one of my most hard to pin down acquaintances.
He was off to another event before he took the last sip, but I wasn’t going to waste the rest of my night. I sat at the bar listening to the quirky jazz vocals of Marty and Elayne, the fixtures of the landmark bar and restaurant and chatting with new friends.
Life Lesson: Face Your Fears (And Your Exes)
I suffered through a breakup and shunned everything within a 5 mile radius of Sunset Junction for fear of running into or facing reminders of my ex. But in my year-long journey to bars alone, I knew I would not be doing Los Angeles justice if I avoided Silver Lake. In fact, I realized that when I had spent time in the hip east-side neighborhood during the relationship, I had barely explored the nightlife.
So I mustered up my big girl courage, drove toward the reservoir and landed at the Red Lion Tavern, a German pub complete with a life-sized Nutcracker, bartenders in kitschy aprons, imported brews, and an outdoor beer garden.
That night I learned that Dunkel means dark, dabbled on the keys with the eccentric piano man, and befriended some musicians who had just played at The Echo. As I left, stepping out onto the streets that I was once scared to come near, I knew that I had moved on.