Located alongside art galleries in the slew of the Culver City arts district, Mandrake is satisfyingly obscure upon entry. Often used as a visual art gallery or screening house, this sleek, modern space conveys innovation. The bar’s interior, made up of exposed concrete floors, a pine-slated ceiling and deep cobalt tones, is designed in a 1970’s minimalist fashion, subtly suggesting that the place is chic, without demanding it. Punctuated by peculiar video projections, often directly from YouTube, the gallery area houses a DJ and bare white walls with one sign that reads “no dancing”. Mandrake does, however, allow sitting on the unassuming backyard terrace where most of the socializing happens. 2692 S La Cienega Blvd, Culver City.
Prepare to remain standing amidst a drunken cluster of people, but not really mind at this one-of-a-kind Tiki themed hut on Sunset just east of Hollywood. There is usually a line, they only take cash, and you can rarely acquire one of the few tables against the knick knack cluttered walls. But what this whimsical bar lacks in convenience, it more than makes up for in charisma. Dating back to 1961, Tiki Ti’s was founded during the oh-so-retro tropical drink craze and is often referred to as the last standing neighborhood tiki bar in Los Angeles. The crowd, just as mixed as the cocktails they are consuming, range from hipsters to longtime patrons. Come with an open mind, order the Uga Booga and see what ensues. 4427 Sunset Blvd, East Hollywood.
Good Luck Bar
Just around the corner yet incomparable to Tiki Ti’s, Good Luck Bar is the ideal change of pace from the chaotic LA scene. The Chinese-themed bar’s eclectic décor gracefully balances the line between tacky and classy, exaggerated by Asian flare and brothel-esque burgundy lighting. You can choose tranquil lounge seating quiet enough for actual conversation or mingle at the bar in harmony with its limitlessly diverse crowd and soundtrack. While it isn’t uncommon to hear such bizarre combinations as The Clash followed by Etta James spewing from the jukebox, it does feel rather lucky. 1514 Hillhurst Avenue, East Hollywood.
By far the most under the radar of the bunch, The Woods is likely to cause apprehension before you even enter. Yes, it resides in a shopping center next door to a liquor store. No, you are not in the valley. If you can brave the dodgy exterior and slightly threatening doorman, it is well worth it. Inside, the vintage, foe-cabin themed décor, arty stone-lined walls and mod antler light fixtures will put your chic self at ease. The crowd ranges from aspiring musicians to folks who wandered in from the liquor store next door. It’s a great place to bring a group and is possibly the only bar in LA where neither seating nor parking will be an issue. 1533 LaBrea, Hollywood.
It may be near the bring-your-dog brunch spots on 3rd Street, but El Carmen provides a less trendy reason to venture to WeHo. The funky, atypical tequila bar is adorned with unusual decorations, such as classic multi-colored Christmas lights strung alongside vintage Mexican posters and wrestler masks dangling from the ceiling. The surrealist décor and eclectic crowd will certainly put you in the mood for experimentation. Fortunately, the bartenders are schooled in exotic tequila blends, such as the infamous jalapeño-laced Spicy Margarita. 8138 W 3rd St, Mid-City West.