Speakeasies may not be the hot nightlife trend at the moment, but L.A. still has a handful of mysterious watering holes. Next time an adventurous mood strikes, snoop out one of the city’s less-than-obvious bars.
In the former space of The Writer’s Room, Hollywood’s Golden Box, decked out in gold disco balls, is a tiny, 80s-themed dance club and bar. Look for an unmarked door behind Musso & Frank Grill. Hot tip: make a reservation or you won’t get in.
As of October 1, the wildly popular pop-up nightclub above Sassafras Saloon on Vine put down permanent roots on the second floor of the former Cinespace. To find the place, just look for the copper door entrance. As always, reservations are necessary for access.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
No, this isn’t an eccentric, late-night garage sale — it just kind of feels like one. To get to this Hollywood hideaway, head through the garage — decked out in vintage clothing, albums and kitschy knickknacks — until you reach a fridge. Once you make it through, you’ll take a trip back in time to what looks like the set of All in the Family. Add rollerblading girls, boozy Sno-cones and DJs playing 70s tunes and it’s groovy personified.
La Descarga may not be new, but it certainly christened the enter-through-a-weird-door phenom in L.A. K-town’s Descarga features an expansive rum library, including original and Tiki cocktails by head barman Joe Swifka. Bonus: if you like to dance, Tuesday nights are dedicated Salsa nights with live Latin bands.
No Name Bar
This no-name, non-descript nightclub on Fairfax Avenue is where the cool kids hang out. From the outside, it looks abandoned, except for the rainbow colored garage door. On the inside, though, it’s actually a posh wonderland of art installations and funky furniture. Expect celebrity appearances (actress Olivia Wilde, model Behati Prinsloo) and the occasional big-name musical performance. A no-photos policy is strictly enforced. To score access, you need to have a black business card with a secret phone number to make reservations. But rumor has it you can also get in by emailing email@example.com. Of course, you didn’t hear any of that from us.
Grab a French dip sandwich at Cole’s and then make your way to the door at the back of the restaurant. This tiny, dark bar is downtown L.A.’s shining example of a killer cocktail scene in a speakeasy setting. This spot has earned multiple James Beard nominations for “Outstanding Bar Program,” including one this year. But if you want to experience the excitement from your own table, it’s best to come early because they don’t take reservations.
Lock and Key
Channel your locksmith skills to get access to this classy Koreatown cocktail bar. Look for an unmarked red door on Vermont Ave. Enter to find a black wall with hundreds of doorknobs and locks and the game begins. With a hostess giving clues as to which doorknob grants access to the bar, Lock and Key makes you earn that seat at the bar.
This double whiskey bar in one locale is a brown spirit lover’s paradise. At the rear of Seven Grand, one of L.A.’s best whiskey watering holes, check out Bar Jackalope — an 18-seat Japanese whiskey-themed bar. For admittance, locate the light switch button, pick up the phone and listen to instructions (in both English and Japanese). Unless you have a whiskey locker in Bar Jackalope (that comes with the added perk of making reservations), it’s a first-come, first-serve situation.
The Blind Barber
Where else can you get a spiffy shave-and-sip combo? After a trim at this Culver City barbershop, head for the utility closet door in the back. When you follow the hallway and go down a set of stairs, you’ll find a cozy bar that features roughly 10 cocktails of five seasonal and five Blind Barber staples.
With a back-alley location and a glowing red “Cocktail” sign as a sole marker, entering this posh, Parisian-styled lounge is a welcome surprise. A password is required, but it can be found on Seventy7’s Twitter and Facebook pages. The drinks, designed by Randy Tarlow, are tasty and the ambience is seductive with live music, DJs or burlesque shows.