IN A CITY LIKE LOS ANGELES, which is constantly recycling residents and tempting would-be tourists into becoming full-time locals, hot-spots shift from up-and-coming to yesterday’s news in what seems like the blink of an eye. It only takes one D-list celebrity appearance to turn the coolest speakeasy in town into an overpriced tourist destination.
So although I feel like I’m partially betraying my Angeleno brethren by revealing a list of places that have yet to be overtaken by Yelp reviewers, here are five underground spots to check out in Los Angeles before they go mainstream.
1. Button Mash, Echo Park.
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There’s a reason Button Mash is leading this list, and it’s because this barcade is so hip and new, it could very well lose it’s underground appeal by the time you’ve finished reading. I suggest pausing to call Uber and hightailing it to Echo Park, and resuming your reading only after you’ve splurged on craft beers, bar food, and beat your previous high score in Donkey Kong. Among competing barcades, Button Mash is the only one offering a full restaurant menu courtesy of The Starry Kitchen, along with a variety of seating, from bar counters to booths to cafeteria-style tables. They boast a mix of retro and newer arcade games, and two pinball machines. It’s a perfect first date spot, and if she excuses herself to the bathroom only to never return, you can drown your sorrows in their bar and endless rounds of Galaga.
2. Bananas, Leimert Park.
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Recently named 2015’s Best Hip-Hop Night in LA in LA Weekly’s Best of LA awards, the only reason Bananas hasn’t blown up yet is it’s location in Leimert Park, a family-oriented neighborhood on the south side of LA that’s not yet accessible by Metro. It takes place on the third Tuesday of every month at Kaos Network, a small arts performing center. Verbs, LA’s equivalent of Mr. Rogers — if he was an indie rapper — and rapper-producer K. Solar have been co-hosting the mini-festival for years. Bananas’ stage welcomes both new and seasoned talent, with past performances by Nocando and Doja Cat. Earlier this year, George Clinton and Kendrick Lamar stopped by this all-ages event. As if you needed another reason to go, Bananas only charges a $5 cover and is BYOB.
3. Hot Tub Comedy Night at the Virgil.
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If you’re looking to kick a case of the Mondays, head on over to Silverlake’s best kept secret, the Hot Tub Show with Kurt and Kristen at The Virgil bar. Hosted by Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal, the weekly variety show showcases LA’s best comics, sketch groups, and musical acts. Doors open at 7pm, and guests who arrive early will snag drink specials until the show starts at 8pm. Afterwards, talent and audience mingle, and you’ll be hard to find a more entertaining crowd. All of this fun will cost you a measly $5.
4. New Beverly, Revival Theatre.
Movie nerds will find a safe haven in New Beverly Revival Theatre, an old-school movie house owned by Quentin Tarantino that only screens 35 mm films. Full disclosure, some screenings will be more packed than others, but general admission only runs $8, even for double and triple features.The New Beverly has midnight screenings every Friday and Saturday, and this January they’re paying homage to their owner Quentin Tarantino with nightly screenings of the director’s personal 35 mm roadshow print of The Hateful Eight.
5. Sip Saturdays.
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Speakeasy-style bars have been popping up all over Los Angeles, just take a look at Blind Barber, Lock & Key, and No Vacancy. Sip Saturdays is the only one embracing the prohibition theme in full and doesn’t even give guests an exact address, just the cross streets for a venue that rotates locations every Saturday and requires a password for entry. Once inside, you’re rewarded for your due diligence with a scene straight out of a Fitzgerald novel. Swinging jazz blares from 78s and guests are dressed to the nines. Sip’s sole variance from the Roaring 20’s is one to be appreciated, as hosts trade original old fashioned’s for mixologists who craft a special bar menu. Follow Sip on Instagram or Facebook to beg for the password.