The Best Cocktail Bars
The Rooftop Bar at The Standard, Downtown LA
For killer views, a cool breeze, and fantastic drinks, head to The Rooftop at The Standard, Downtown LA. You’ll be pleasantly refreshed by bespoke cocktails like the Risky Business (rye whiskey, amaro, aperol, lemon) or Ginger Moon (mezcal, amaro, lime, ginger, pineapple). Also take advantage of Aperitivo Happy Hour every Tuesday this summer.
If you’re in the need for a few stiff drinks, Walker Inn’s reservation-only cocktail omakase menu has you covered. For those with more modest thirst, the cozy, covert speakeasy also takes walk-ins. Since the bar only has 27 seats, you should have a nearby backup or be mentally prepared to wait.
We’re not sure if Everson Royce Bar is a bar with tasty food or a restaurant with epic drinks, but it doesn’t really matter. You’d be wise to beeline for their sprawling courtyard during happy hour—when cocktails and wines by the glass are a cool eight bucks—and stay for dinner.
This classic French bistro brings a little bit of Parisian romance to the City of Angels. A stone’s throw away from Silver Lake’s Sunset Junction, Cafe Stella serves highbrow cocktails like Sipé Sipé (Mulholland gin, Sigan 63, lemon, banana liqueur, and Amaro Angeleno) or Sophia (Bozal mezcal, Campari, agave, and cold-pressed lime juice).
It seems strange that in a city like LA where sunny weather lasts year-round, an outdoor restaurant is still a rarity. Enter Salazar, which took over an old auto body shop in Frogtown and offers Angelenos a massive, Sonoran oasis for Mexican food and drink. Nothing says summer like margaritas on tap.
The Best Restaurants
The newest project from the team behind DTLA’s beloved Italian joint Bestia, Bavel slings Middle Eastern delights in a neighboring, repurposed Arts District warehouse. Dinner is a progressive feast: spiced, cured meats and smoky mezzes with flatbreads make way for larger mains like slow roasted lamb neck shawarma and grilled dorade, followed by desserts such as a roasted fig tart and Persian mulberry ice cream.
Gjusta—chef Travis Lett’s spin-off of breezy, Venice favorite Gjelina—is a quintessential LA restaurant that makes diehard New Yorkers question their home base. Everything they make—from freshly baked breads and pastries to made-to-order dishes like tuna conserva or bialy egg—manages to somehow be that much better than any other rendition you’ve had. Into the vibe? Pop into Gjusta Goods next door for some non-perishables to bring back home.
During the dog days of summer, camp out poolside at The Standard, Hollywood and treat yourself to Croft Alley’s summer crowd-pleasers, like lettuce wraps (cucumber, cilantro, fresno chile, spicy mustard, tuna salad) or bao buns (spicy mustard, cabbage slaw, pickled carrots & daikon, cilantro, and pork belly) from chef Phuong Tran.
Casual all-day restaurant Kismet is the debut full-service project from dynamic chef-duo Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson (they’re also behind Grand Central Market’s Madcapra). Their dishes offer diners a fresh take on Mideast flavors using the best of Cali produce, all paired with a compelling, natural wine list. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on the jeweled crispy rice with egg yolk.
The competition for best Mexican in LA is tough, but Escuela Taqueria puts up a good fight. Kitschy, convivial, and just the right amount of fuss, Escuela is a fun spot for date nights and group dinners alike. As an added bonus, diners can BYOB (pitchers of aguas frescas make for perfect mixers).
The Best Ice Cream
Judging from the eternal lines outside of Salt & Straw, you might be inclined to think that they have celebrities for ice cream scoopers. But no, it’s just this Portland import’s ice cream that’s famous—and trust us, it lives up to the hype. Between seasonal specials like Meyer lemon buttermilk with blueberries or classics such as sea salt with caramel ribbons, there’s not a bad scoop in the bunch.
Coolhaus got its start as a roaming food truck selling eclectic ice cream sandwiches (think baked apple ice cream with oatmeal raisin cookies and Tahitian vanilla with red velvet cookies) wherever parking was legal. If you can’t make it to the Culver City outpost, you can find their metallic-covered treats at your local market.
At Gelateria Uli, self-taught founder Uli Nasibova makes gelatos inspired by the distinct pockets of Los Angeles. Flavors like coconut lemongrass, an homage to Thai Town, and horchata, a direct reference to the city’s vibrant Mexican street food scene, often grace the diverse, rotating selection.
Founder Jeni Britton Bauer is one of craft ice cream’s OGs. For over two decades, Bauer has been pushing pints made with whole ingredients and dairy from grass-pastured cows nationwide. Go to the Venice storefront and take your cone for a walk on the nearby historic canals.
Average ice cream truck soft serve gets a serious upgrade at Magpies—Silver Lake’s chef-driven swirl spot where everything is made from scratch. Their inventive flavors range from black rice horchata and corn almond to chocolate taro and bourbon vanilla on any given day. Because this is LA, expect a myriad of actually delicious vegan options.
The Best Wine Bars
Named after Arturo Bandini (local writer John Fante’s fictional LA flâneur), this industrial bar focuses on California-made craft beers and natural wines. While the bar itself is relatively new, its low-key, timeless feel makes it feel like it’s been here for a while.
Cassia’s little sister is so much more than a wine bar and shop. Tucked away in a 1937 Art Deco building in Santa Monica, Esters serves full lunch and dinner (think charcuterie, cheese, and food meant for drinking), sells their favorite bottles (everyday and high-end picks are divided into separate rooms), and offers specialty products like fresh baked breads to-go.
Effortlessly cool and laid-back, this French bistro makes you want to get comfortable and hang out for a while. Roll through with friends, order a magnum of natural wine, and eat your way through their Euro menu: jamon tomate toast, steak frites, and selections of French cheeses and Spanish meats that are hard to pronounce but easy to consume.
After scoping out Abbot Kinney, Venice’s most bustling street, settle into a glass of Sancerre or Malbec at The Otheroom. Just the right amount of dark and divey, this buzzing bar has a tight, global list of beer, wine, champagne, and sake.
On the border of Thai Town and Los Feliz, Tabula Rasa is the kind of no-frills bar that instantly makes you feel like you’re at your neighborhood joint. The intimate, barebones space is the ideal backdrop for a few casual glasses of wine off their solid, natural list. Check it out on Thursdays, when the La Morra pizza truck serves ‘gram-worthy Neapolitan pies until 10pm.
The Best Summer Activities
Day Trip to Malibu
About an hour (or three depending on traffic) outside of LA lies the idyllic, coastal oasis known as Malibu. Make a day trip out of exploring the pristine beaches and beautiful hikes in the Santa Monica mountains. On the way out of town, pick up sandwiches at legendary Italian deli Bay Cities.
Hit the Rose Bowl Flea
Every second Sunday of the month, the Rose Bowl Stadium fills with tens of thousands of eager bargain hunters and vintage connoisseurs hunting for that special something. Arrive early to get first dibs, but don’t worry if you leave empty-handed—the experience is worthwhile in itself.
Check out the latest at LACMA
With the largest collection in the Western United States, LACMA is undoubtedly the city’s most impressive art destination. While exhibits vary from surveys of Renaissance Italy to David Hockney portrait retrospectives at any given time, be sure to build in some extra time to walk through Urban Light, a permanent sculpture made of 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps by Chris Burden.
Break a Sweat on the Griffith Observatory Hike
A trip to LA isn’t complete without a celeb spotting and a hike. If you’re lucky, these things happen at once, but we can’t make any promises unless you do the Griffith Observatory hike, where at the top, you can take in stunning views, the Observatory’s cool, art-deco facade, and the bust of James Dean from Rebel Without a Cause (the most well-known movie to film there).
Hit some balls at The Standard, Downtown LA's Paddle Room
When the summer heat gets to be too much, play inside at the Paddle Room at The Standard, Downtown LA, a professional-grade ping-pong club with 11 tables, a comfy lounge, and a stocked bar.