A good dive bar is like a drag queen - best enjoyed at night - but a great dive bar gives you love in the middle of the day. There's nothing like walking into a dive bar to be greeted by a few regulars on their 3rd drink and something funky in the air. Booze flows cheaply, just like the conversation. The only amenities are a jukebox, a pool table, and maybe a popcorn machine. Here is a guide to some of the dive bars I turn to when I'm low on cash and eager to rough and tumble.
Ye Rustic Inn is the perfect place to nurse a hangover with the bloody mary breakfast, the chicken wings, and the pitch black interior. Nevermind the antler chandelier, this is a friendly dive bar in Los Feliz catering to an eclectic clientele of locals. The vibe can change quickly when the Laker game is over or when the Wilco concert lets out at the Greek. There's trivia on Sunday nights if that's your thing.
Located in a strip mall next to a laundromat is the Drawing Room - a neighborhood dive bar in Los Feliz. There's a juke box and karaoke on Sunday nights, but you don't need a reason to come here other than the heavy pours. Musky, seedy, but friendly, and usually hipster free.
Where strippers go to retire. Jumbo's is something out of David Lynch and John Cassavetes movie. It's a family owned bar that is especially popular with the lady clientele who love watching the dancers. And these dancers aren't messing around - they BRING IT - always a good show. Load up on dollar bills, have a few shots of Jack Daniels, and you're guaranteed to have a good time.
Sometimes a bar just can't shake those divey vibes no matter how much it dresses itself up - kind of like a farmer in a tuxedo. The Good Luck bar is loved and misunderstood by many, but it remains a solid neighborhood bar. It's a great place to go for a drink after catching a movie at the Vista around the corner. The tropical cocktails pack a boozy punch. The decor makes you feel like you're in a bad 70's film, but the staff is friendly, and the mood is low key. Snag a booth if you can.
The mother of all dives. Don't try to figure this place out, just let its magic take over you. Order two cheap beers with the friendly bartenders and watch the karaoke while the owner finagles with the clueless yuppies who wandered in. Once you get past that, the Smog Cutter becomes a fun, funky neighborhood bar. Cash only.
Three Clubs is an old school martini lounge turned dive bar on Vine near Santa Monica, just a stone's throw from theater row. It's a mixed crowd of art and sleaze, but that's what makes it different. Three Clubs has weekly burlesque shows during the Monday Nights Tease and also black box theater, comedy, and music for undiscovered talent. Happy Hour is usually from 6pm to 9pm.
Cheap and powerful is how I describe the well drinks at The Roost. The mix of old barflies, hipsters, and local musicians makes this an exciting and fun bar. There's a popcorn machine if you get the munchies - and many people here do. During the day the bartenders usually have some kind of Mexican food for the taking (tamales or nachos) with makes gives the bar a communal-like feel.
Club Tee Gee is a neighborhood dive bar in Atwater Village that's been around since the 60's. I like coming here during the day to have a cheap beer and watch the old technicolor cop shows on TV. There's trivia on Monday nights, if you're into that kind of thing. Jukebox, ceiling fans, cash only.
Hidden on the north side of Canter's Deli is the Kibitz room; one of the coolest dive bars in L.A. During the day, older Jewish gentlemen pound them back while enjoying a bowl of matzo ball soup. At night, the place opens itself up a younger, hipper crowd who are there for the cheap beer and live music. And after the bar closes and you've lost your voice and your ears are ringing, slip next door into Canters for a pastrami sandwich to guard against the hangover.
Frank n Hanks is a haven of a dive bar in Koreatown that has been around for over 60 years. This is one of those places in L.A. which is patronized by every race, class, gender, and sexuality. The drinks are cheap and strong. There's a pool table in the back if you feel like shooting. The owner Snow is friendly and very proud of her establishment. Cash only.
Housed in what used to be one of the more notorious gay bars in L.A. (Detour), is the 4100 Bar. It's cleaned up somewhat but the air of debauchery and spilled beer still lingers in the air. This is a cool bar with an edge, comfortable but never bougie. It's a nice place to end a night of drinking if you live in the neighborhood. It's popular with locals, gays, and an art crowd.