All about Los Angeles bars

LA has a lot to offer. The City of Angels is always on the go and seemingly driven by glitz and glamor. And if you’re willing to fight the traffic, you’ll find some of the best restaurants, shops, and attractions in the world, from studio tours to museums, from beaches to piers.

Los Angeles is the epitome of big, bold, and beautiful, and most of this city’s pastimes revolve around “the scene.” So if you’ve had your share of the beach, head inland for the star-studded Sunset Boulevard or Melrose Avenue and stay tuned! Since restaurants and bars drive the social hustle and bustle, you’d better allow yourself that power nap in the afternoon if you want to keep up with the cool kids.

Remember: the stars come out at night, this is Los Angeles after all. This city seems to sparkle after sunset … you can rock the Sunset Strip or dance in Hollywood. So if you like its cool bars, dry martinis, and delicious restaurants, be sure to have your wallet, your appetite, and your energy for your night out in the Hollywood-style of the city.

Here’s our insider’s guide to some of the best dining and nightlife options. Know this: Fights broke out among our editorial staff when someone foolishly suggested that we limit our JourneyPod Picks in Los Angeles to just 10 restaurants and 10 bars. We had so much fun breaking it down in Tinseltown that we had to go with 15 selections in each category. Of course, another fight ensued when we tried to assign numbers to all of these hot spots, so the cooler heads prevailed and we’ve since removed the rankings.

Rest assured of one thing … all 30 of these places are ridiculously fantastic and require your own A game. Perhaps even after a night on the town, you too will understand why even people in the business think “Entourage” it seems so real …

Bars and nightlife

1. The Derby: (Los Feliz) Aspiring “swingers” hoping to catch a glimpse of Vince Vaughn or Jon Favreau join swing fans in this hotter than ever ballroom. With 1940s decor, live music (seven nights a week), and dance lessons, your whole gang will have a blast! FYI: The Derby was named a Historic / Cultural Landmark by the Los Angeles City Council in May 2006. Located at 4500 Los Feliz Blvd. (and Hillhurst Ave.).

2. LAX: (Hollywood) We’ve all been introduced to DJ AM by Nicole Ritchie, but now she needs no introduction! Known as one of the most sought-after DJs, DJ AM (aka Adam Golstein) opened this first-class airport-themed lounge for all of the Los Angeles jet setters. Located in the heart of Hollywood, this tourist destination features mirrors shaped like airplane windows and metal hangar doors. The dance floor is often crowded (similar to dancing in the cockpit of an airplane), but it’s a lot of fun in a kind of “Mile High Club”! LAX is located at 1714 Las Palmas Ave. (and Hollywood Blvd.).

3. Forty Deuce: (Melrose) The small parking lot across from Paramount Pictures houses this modern institution that has been transformed into a cool retro lounge reminiscent of a 1920s speakeasy. The lounge-style seating, the burlesque shows (strutting to the beat of a live jazz band) and great cocktails keep the Hollywood crowd happy and partying until closing time. Located at 5574 Melrose Ave. (on Beachwood Dr.).

4. Barney’s Beanery: (West Hollywood) In Los Angeles, most people think that nothing can get better with age. But the third oldest restaurant in town (located at 8447 Santa Monica Blvd. near La Cienaga Blvd.) manages to prove everyone in Hollywood wrong. Since it opened its doors nearly 90 years ago, it has attracted celebrities to the young regulars who crave good comfort food (your choice of 150 different burgers, 65 chili peppers, and 90 tortillas). While many may refer to this simply as a “dive,” the good food and cheap drinks make this Beanery a nightly skip. (Just be sure to bring your ID – even Johnny Drama got a card here recently!).

5. Stone Rose Lounge: (West Hollywood) This recently opened Los Angeles version of the NYC nightspot is located in the renovated Sofitel Hotel (at 8555 Beverly Blvd., near La Cienaga Blvd.). A destination for young stars (and the guys who love them) features a 5,000-square-foot lounge and outdoor patio. While not your usual Los Angeles nightlife, this laid-back vibe with refined martinis and open-air cabanas with fire pits is well worth a visit.

6. Social Hollywood: (Hollywood) Old is new again! This place used to be the huge Hollywood Athletic Club and now has a lounge, restaurants, game rooms with PlayStations and Xboxes, a screening room and a private club. The Moroccan-inspired venue features food that has been strong from the start and a social scene that has won over the cool kids. Located at 6526 Sunset Blvd. (at Schrader Blvd.).

7. Sky Bar – Labeled as one of the most popular nightclubs in Los Angeles since the day it opened, Sky Bar is open, airy, and makes you feel like you’re floating in the clouds atop the Mondrian Hotel (located at 8440 Sunset Blvd.). With some of the most beautiful views in all of Los Angeles (along with its trees, pool, and candlelight) and the hippest scenery in cities, don’t let the long lines and gorillas put you off. When you get through the red tape, don’t stare at that snippet that regularly appears on the pages of US Weekly and People.

8. Formosa Cafe: (West Hollywood) A local classic (which served as the location for the movie LA Confidential), this dimly lit Chinese-themed hotspot features red leather booths and a bar serving powerful, intoxicating martinis. Known as one of the movie industry’s watering holes, Formosa features autographed shots of Hollywood stars on the walls (and you may even be lucky enough to see Bono or Beck in one of the booths). Better for drinks than dinner (and be sure to dress well to avoid hassle at the door). Formosa Cafe is located at 7156 Santa Monica Blvd. (between La Brea and Av. Formosa).

9. Privilege: (West Hollywood) Madonna is not the only one who knows how to reinvent herself. Nightlife guru Sam Nazarian knows all too well about reinvention. Before its new look and name, this club was known as a gothic playground called Shelter, a Nordic lounge, a St. Tropez-style resort, and a mock construction site. Now Privilege is a sensually white-on-white oasis that has the feel of a South Beach resort (without the humidity and sand between your toes). Saturdays are tough as Brent Bolthouse (godfather of celebrity events) hosts parties here, so if you can, opt for a weekday visit. Unless, of course, you can put your name on the guest list or pass the security guards with earplugs. Privelege is at 8117 W. Sunset Blvd. (and Crescent Heights Blvd.).

10. Guy’s Bar: (West Hollywood) Ever wonder where the stars go for karaoke? You’ll find the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Ritchie at this intimate and exclusive WeHo club. Guy is a simple hodgepodge of comfy layers that is mostly reserved for private, industry-related events. However, give this place a try on a Saturday night (run by a promoter) when the door policy is a bit more relaxed (and yes, show some leg!). Guy’s Bar is located at 8713 Beverly Blvd.

11. Tropicana Bar: (Hollywood) Old Hollywood meets New Hollywood at this bar at the Roosevelt hotel in Los Angeles, where you’ll find stars lounging in style on an outdoor patio that boasts a 60’s vibe with comfortable seating and a sparkling pool. A typical hipster spot, the bar is also a tropical oasis with neon-lit palm trees, private bungalows, a fireplace, and linen-covered loungers. If you’re not in the mood to rub shoulders with the late-night fashionista / glamor crowd, Tropicana Bar is great for sunny California afternoons. Don’t forget to check out David Hockney’s blue wave mural at the bottom of the pool at 7000 Hollywood Blvd.

12. The Bar: (Hollywood) Not just a bar, The Bar! Nestled between a gas station and a seedy hotel (5851 Sunset Blvd. and Bronson Ave.), this place is easy to miss. But those who find their way to one of Hollywood’s most popular renovated watering holes will see newly renovated excavations and eye-catching patrons. Some days you’ll hear a rock n ‘roll jukebox blasting to the sounds of the Ramones, other days you’ll find local DJs spinning old and new pop. For those feeling like a cigar, some air, or just a break from the sounds, head out to the bamboo-lined smoking alley.

13. Mood: (Hollywood) This 6,500-square-foot former office building at 6623 Hollywood Blvd. has been transformed into a tropical Garden of Eden, think of the South Pacific! The club’s Balinese design features sensual colors / textures and trumpeters in the flesh and bongo drummers accompanying the hip-hop and rap sounds you’ll hear. Packed with exotic treasures made from bamboo, batik, and carved wood, Mood appeals to young, sexy Hollywood socialities and other glitz and glamor of Tinseltown.

14. The Lounge: (West Hollywood) Okay, here’s the truth … This sexy Miami Beach-style club draws a huge crowd with its borderline location (WeHo and Beverly Hills) and open-door policy. The Lounge features a main room with a bar and dance floor, and a spiral staircase that leads to an elegant living room filled with comfortable booths and table service. DJs here mix up a hip-hop dance party, R&B and favorite house music. The salon is located at 9077 Santa Monica Blvd. (and Doheny Dr.).

15. Key Club: (West Hollywood) A state-of-the-art live music venue (located at 9039 Sunset Blvd. and Doheny Dr.) with futuristic audio, video and lighting technologies, Key Club is one of the most popular venues in WeHo. The VIP area on the ground floor, called the Plush Lounge, is often packed with Hollywood “It” people. A full restaurant and menu are also available on the second floor (reserving a table there is the secret to getting in on busy nights). Key Club has a few bars and many ways to have a drink, a perfect place to start or end your night on the Sunset Strip.