If you’re looking for an extraordinary place to bring a date, or just a place where you can hang out with friends, check out some of my favorite vintage Los Angeles bars below. These will surely impress!
1. Clifton’s / The Pacific Seas (DTLA)
I’ve already raved about Clifton’s in my Top 20 Downtown LA Date Ideas article; it’s one of my favorite Downtown LA hangouts. Originally opening in 1935, Clifton’s underwent a $10 million renovation and re-opened in 2015. It’s a huge space with multiple bars, a cafeteria, a ballroom, and of course, taxidermied animals including a life-sized Bison! It’s quirky, to say the least.
On weekends, there is DJ’d music on the second floor and live Swing band on the third floor in the Brookdale Ballroom. If you’re on a date and things are going well, try to find the hidden “make out room” on the second floor, The Stone Chapel.
2. The Edison (DTLA)
Brought to you by Andrew Meieran, the developer of Clifton’s, The Edison is an amazing subterranean space featuring early 20th century electrical generator equipment and silent movies projected on the walls (“Metropolis” from 1927 for example). Perfect to satisfy all of your Steampunk needs, it also has live music and entertainment on some nights.Although there is a dress code, this place is not pretentious; it’s enforced to preserve the vintage ambiance!
3. Bars at Union Station (DTLA)
After a lengthy renovation, two new bars have opened in Union Station. The Imperial Western Beer Company is a new Art Deco restaurant and bar large enough to hold 400 people, and it has its own microbrewery attached.
For a more intimate experience, check out the Streamliner adjacent to The Imperial.
These bars are worth a visit if you’re in the area, even if you’re not taking the train!
4. Pour Vous (Mid City)
For a more intimate experience, check out Pour Vous, a Parisian cocktail bar that will transport you back to the 1920’s. Relax in their velvet couches or have a crêpe out back next to the vintage LA trolley car. On Wednesday nights they host Swingtronic featuring Gypsy Jazz bands and Swing dancing till 1AM. Note there is a dress code to preserve the vintage feel.
5. Sassafras Saloon (Hollywood)
If Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride had a bar, Sassafras Saloon would be it. Designed to make you feel like you’re outdoors (even though you’re inside), this is one of my favorite Hollywood-area bars. Grab a drink, then ease into the “building” directly across for some intimate conversation. Some nights they have a live band playing on the balcony at the end of the bar.
6. Angel City Brewery (DTLA Arts District)
Housed in an over-one-hundred-year-old brick warehouse, Angel City Brewery is one of my favorite casual, fun hangouts. The company that was here is famous for making the cable holding up the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge. Now, it’s a hipster hangout featuring board games and brews nestled in the always interesting Downtown LA Arts District.
7. The Spare Room (Hollywood)
This swanky bar and bowling alley(!) is inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Bowling is expensive (over $100), but grab a drink and you can play Jenga for free while people-watching at The Spare Room.
8. The Rhythm Room (DTLA)
If there was a Dave & Buster’s in the 1930’s, this would be it. The Rhythm Room features ping-pong, pool, darts, shuffleboard, and more in a vintage underground setting.
9. The Formosa Cafe
This West Hollywood institution was completely renovated and recently re-opened. The historic Formosa Cafe is on my “to do” list and it looks amazing!
10. Highland Park Bowl
Highland Park Bowl is an amazing vintage bar and bowling alley in the heart of Highland Park on Figueroa. It claims to be L.A.’s oldest bowling alley, though getting a lane can be difficult and is a bit expensive. Still, it’s worth going to just grab and drink and hang out!
11. The Wolves (DTLA)
The Wolves is a Parisian-style bar at the Alexandria hotel in Downtown LA, meticulously restored and decorated to it’s early 20th century glory days. It’s not quite as big as the publicity photos would suggest, but it’s still a great place to hang out with a date after dinner. The drinks are amazing, with all locally-sourced ingredients except for the alcohol itself.
For quiet conversation in an intimate space, try to get one of the two-person tables in the balcony.
12. Madame Siam Sideshow Emporium
The folks who brought us the amazing Pour Vous have a new attraction in Hollywood: Madame Siam Sideshow Emporium. This subterranean bar has a retro carnival theme complete with corndogs and popcorn. But of course they offer great drinks too!
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13. Seven Grand (DTLA)
If you’re in the mood for a little adventure (and are not driving), try a flight of whiskeys at Seven Grand, a vintage styled whiskey bar in the heart of downtown LA. If you’re like me, and know nothing about whiskey, ask the bartender, who will be happy to make some recommendations.
14. The Veranda at the Georgian Hotel (Santa Monica)
Known as “Santa Monica’s First Lady”, the Georgian Hotel was established in 1933 overlooking Ocean Avenue. The Veranda is the hotel’s lobby restaurant. They offer fine brunch, lunch, and dinner, but you can also come for happy hour and intimate conversation with an ocean view. Afterwards, take a walk down to the pier. More restaurants and bars on Ocean Avenue here.
15. The Victorian / Basement Tavern (Santa Monica)
The Victorian is a charming vintage mansion on Santa Monica’s Main Street. Sometimes it’s rented out for special events, but other times, it’s open as a bar. The top floor hosts The Bird Cage, “the hottest VIP bar in Santa Monica”.
Basement Tavern is a secret underground bar hidden below The Victorian. Enter through an obscure passage at the rear of the building. This place can get insanely crowded on the weekends, but come here on a week night for a quiet time with someone special, or to check out their whiskey collection. Wednesday night is karaoke night. More Santa Monica date ideas here.
16. The Misfit (Santa Monica)
The Misfit, inside a historic 1929 clock tower building, is a bar you’d expect to see in Downtown LA. But, it’s blocks from the beach, next to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade (so it’s named appropriately). Surrounded by dark wood and leather, you’ll find respite here from the tourists roaming outside. But be warned, it can get super crowded during peak periods. Its happy hour was named one of the best in LA by the Los Angeles Times and Eater LA.
17. La Descarga (Hollywood)
You enter La Descarga through a closet on the second floor and emerge in pre-Castro Cuba complete with salsa music, dancing, and a burlesque show between sets. Brush up on your salsa moves before going, and be prepared to have a good time. Note there is a dress code.
What are your favorite vintage bars in LA? Let me know in the comments below. – Brian