There’s a rich and interesting collection of places to go for a drink in Los Angeles, starting with the old Hollywood grande dames, with all their attendant glamour (or at least fumes of glamour).
There are wine bars and beer bars, beach bars and hipster bars, and it seems that every new, beautiful restaurant is putting some thought into installing a place to sit and drink and maybe eat. And the thriving restaurant scene that has enlivened Los Angeles for 15 years has spilled over, as it were, into the cocktails: Mixologists have joined the ranks of chefs as mini-foodie-celebrities.
Here are just a few of my favorite places.
Laurel Hardware; 7984 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, laurelhardware.com.
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From the street it looks like a hardware store on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, which it actually once was. Push your way through the front door, and you wind up in a comforting glow of wood beams, seductive lighting, a maze of print wallpaper and, at the back, a wall of windows drawing your eye to a year-round outdoor garden (this is, after all, Los Angeles), with patrons eating and drinking under the Hollywood sky.
Laurel Hardware establishes its bar bond fides with its beers on draft, including a fruity and boozy Delirium Tremens Belgian ale. And it had a respectable selection of wines by the glass.
Covell; 4628 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, barcovell.com.
Covell is a wine and beer bar more to the east on Hollywood Boulevard. It glows with candles perched on low-flung wood tables and shelves along the wood walls, the hum of soft talking and well-curated music. There are eight beer taps on the wall, and the selection changes literally with the keg.
The wine-by-the-glass selection is as eclectic and interesting as any I have found in Los Angeles, but wine and beer are not the only point of this spot on Hollywood Boulevard.
From the moment you walk off the street, Covell offers the embrace of a warm blanket, the kind of place you could easily come into for a single glass of wine and settle in for the night, picking away at a menu designed to make you enjoy your alcohol: an addictive croque-monsieur, a spicy mac and cheese, a selection of charcuterie.
Tower Bar; 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, sunsettowerhotel.com.
The Tower Bar is at once intimate and sprawling, filling the maze of corners and hideaways on the first floor of the Sunset Tower Hotel. You don’t really go there for the drinks, though the bar offers a respectable list of house cocktails, or the restaurant, with its equally respectable menu. You go to the Tower Bar because it is the Tower Bar.
This is old Hollywood in all of its real (and hoped-for) glamour, an art deco warren with no end of places to sit and gawk. Start with the bar in the main room, with its warm wood fixtures, a jazz trio that makes you feel you just skipped 40 years back in time, and light so dim, by design, that you really aren’t sure if that is Jon Hamm in the corner. (It was.) The windows look out across the Los Angeles basin, glowing in the sun before sunset, lit up at night.
Vintage Enoteca; 7554 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, vintageenoteca.com.
Vintage Enoteca is an unassuming wine bar, tucked into a storefront on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard (up the street from the sprawling Guitar Center) that is as known for rock ’n’ roll as it is for drinking. It is, with all its lack of pretense and industrial design, the opposite of the Tower Bar: There’s an eclectic and changing assortment of wines, a list that is likely to include offers from Germany, Austria, France, Italy and New Zealand as well a boutique wine from Santa Barbara.
On a nice evening — in other words, about 320 nights a year in this part of the world — I prefer the front porch, with its view over goings-on on Sunset Boulevard and, if it’s still light, those on the very near horizon. There is a counter right on the sidewalk, giving you the best view, though you might be better off settling into one of the comfortable couches just off the street.