Think you know where to find the best hidden bars in Los Angeles? It’s no secret that LA is home to a wealth of bars, from the swanky to the downright divey. And with such a wide variety of places to choose from, sometimes you just want something a little different. The good news is that our city has exactly what you’re looking for: an ever-growing roster of secret bars to add a little mystery to your life. Quite a few of the places on our list are from Mark and Jonnie Houston, of Houston Hospitality, who own LA-favorites like Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, Pour Vous and Piano Bar. Others are relative newcomers to the realm of the speakeasy.
So if you’re looking for a secret club where you can dance all night or a quiet place to have a meticulously-crafted cocktail, we know just where to send you. We’ll try our best not to spoil the secrets and only give you the information you absolutely need to find the best hidden bars in LA!
The first of three Houston Hospitality bars on this corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Hudson Avenue, No Vacancy has taken over Hollywood’s oldest Victorian residence, Jane’s House. This 111-year-old piece of LA lore also happens to be where Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B. Demille sent their kids to get an education. To get in, find the doorman in the back of the building and he’ll show you to the secret entrance. Inside is a massive three-story bar with a lot of historical integrity, including flocked wallpaper and a mechanical horse from the 1940s.
Hidden underneath an apartment building just next door, you’ll find the second part of this trio, Dirty Laundry. The name is a reference to the prohibition-era method of smuggling illegal booze in with the laundry. This underground spot is rumored to have been the personal speakeasy of silent film actor Rudolph Valentino. It’s about half the size of its neighbor, No Vacancy, with Prohibition-era decor and a menu of original and tasty cocktails. If you’re feeling really special, book the even more hidden Valentino Room–a tiny area behind a bookshelf with its own bar. It’s like speakeasy Inception.
Black Rabbit Rose
Part three of the trifecta is Black Rabbit Rose, which hosts magic shows and offers delicious Thai food from Crying Tiger next door. Ticketed magic shows run Thursday through Sunday, but you can catch plenty of impromptu tricks by simply hanging around inside the bar. Also, we feel like we should let you know that Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit hosts a jazz night every Thursday. Do with that information as you will…
Like all Houston Hospitality bars, there is a secret entrance, but we promise you’ll figure it out.
Next Door Lounge
The only evidence that you’ve arrived at Next Door is a golden key on a sign out front and a sharply dressed doorman. Request the secret password through their website before heading out to look cool, but don’t sweat it if you forget. The doorman will probably let you in if you ask nicely. Inside, you’ll probably hear some live music to accompany the silent films projected on the wall. The best thing about this secret bar? You can attend a dinner murder mystery and play a real-time game of Clue! Check the website for updates on the next show and call for reservations.
Hidden inside a Hollywood strip mall with the likes of Burger King and Starbucks, this secret bar is much more of a club than anything else. Follow a fake video store into the Adults Only section, marked with a neon sign. Inside is a bar nothing like its tacky exterior. Instead, you’ll find a lot of class, including high ceilings and stained glass windows. The music is loud and it gets pretty crowded on weekends, so arrive early or be prepared to wait in line.
Birds & Bees
Located underneath an unassuming office building on Broadway, you’ll want to look down at the sidewalk for the Birds & Bees logo to guide you to the hidden entrance of this new-ish underground bar. Once you follow the narrow staircase down, the aesthetic inside is chic and industrial, with exposed pipes, lots of wood and cement, and plenty of 1950s accents. The cocktails are classic and they’re open early so you can catch their killer happy hour.
Tucked underneath the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and next to Kendall’s Brasserie, the BoardRoom is a high-class tribute to post-war France. With a menu of new takes on classic French cuisine, like escargot shooters, you’ll feel especially European as you take in the French art on the walls. If that isn’t enough culture for you, they also regularly feature live jazz and poetry readings.
One of LA’s favorite secret bars, The Varnish, is built into a refurbished storage room inside Cole’s, which also happens to serve one of LA’s favorite French dip sandwiches. If you’ve never been, you’ve probably heard of it. If you’ve never heard of it, now you know. Run by the same people as Seven Grand, The Varnish is a 1920s style cocktail bar with a quiet ambiance and attention to detail that’s unparalleled. Go early to avoid a wait and trust the bartenders to make you a perfect cocktail.
Run by the same people as The Varnish, Japanese whiskey bar, Jackalope, is stashed in the back room of Seven Grand. If you walk to the back of Seven Grand, you’ll find a light switch and instructions in both English and Japanese for how to gain entry. In keeping with its Japanese inspiration, the bar is very small: It only seats 18 people and standing is not allowed. Once you’re inside, you can choose from 120 different whiskeys. Come prepared to spend some money and learn a lot about whiskey from the very educated bartenders.
Beneath the Hotel Hayward on 6th and Spring Street sits the Rhythm Room. Back in the 20s, 30s and 40s, it was a nightclub and speakeasy whose motto was “Just For Fun.” It fell into disrepair in the 1970s and stayed that way until its recent revival. You might not notice the Rhythm Room if you weren’t paying attention, but walk down the 100-year-old marble staircase and you’ll find yourself in a bar full of live music, great drinks and plenty of games to keep you and your friends entertained.
The easiest way to describe R Bar is as the love child of a dive bar and a speakeasy. A password is required for entry, but it’s mostly a survival tool to keep out the riff-raff. Check their socials before you arrive for the password, or risk being turned away. Once inside, you’ll feel a little like you’re in a secret clubhouse, with plenty of seating tucked in corners, friendly bartenders and even a drink called Bubble Rainbow Bunnies. R Bar might be your new favorite dive bar for karaoke, comedy, trivia and even weekend brunch.
Hidden in the back of the lively Normandie Club, Walker Inn is a small and quiet craft cocktail bar. Head through the bar, past the restrooms, and find a button. Press the button to turn on a red light, and a host will come out to greet you. Because it’s so tiny, it’s best to make a reservation beforehand, but you can also be spontaneous and wait for an available table. The specialty at Walker Inn is their seasonal cocktail tasting flights, which are always themed, skillfully made and priced accordingly.
Break Room 86
Just down the street from Walker Inn, this 1980s tribute bar has the fun entrance and full commitment to a theme that we’ve all come to expect from Houston Hospitality. With four karaoke rooms that double as Atari game rooms, a wall made completely out of cassettes, working arcade games like Pacman, Donkey Kong and Galaga, plus an assortment of retro-named cocktails, this bar is everything you need to travel back in time. It may not be a place to relax and have an intimate conversation, but it’s a great place to hang out and dance to 80s hits.
Lock and Key
The only indication that you’ve arrived at Lock and Key is a red neon keyhole adorning an otherwise plain building and a doorman outside. Once you pass him, you’ll find yourself in a room covered in doorknobs. Find the correct one and soon you’ll be inside of a beautiful room of white, gold, and green. Go on a weekday to have the place practically to yourself and have the bartender make you something special.
The first of the themed speakeasy-style bars from Houston Hospitality, La Descarga is a tribute to 1940s Cuba. Reservations are recommended but arrive early to try your luck with the doorman if you’re feeling confident. He’ll point you upstairs into a hotel lobby, where you’ll find the secret entrance. So get dressed up, order a rum cocktail, enjoy a burlesque show, smoke a cigar and dance your little heart out.
While waiting for brunch at Blu Jam Cafe, you may have noticed the Glass Hookah Lounge across the street. Did you know that inside of that unsuspecting spot is a secret bar called Melrose Station? When you enter, the host will ask if you’re there for the hookah lounge or the bar and then show you to the secret entrance. Gray walls and a marble bar make the place feel very sleek and clean. The cocktails are quality and the French fries are surprisingly delicious.
You really would never know about Mother’s Auxiliary, or MA as it’s more casually known, if no one told you about it. Hidden inside the parking structure of Estrella on the Sunset Strip, MA is mostly reserved for private parties. This super secret bar is only open to the public sometimes. So try your luck by stopping in Estrella after 10 PM and asking the hostess if there’s space. If she tells you how to get there, you’ll be in on one of LA’s best-kept secrets.
Venice Beach’s Old Lightning is not only a tiny speakeasy-style cocktail bar, but it also boasts one of the largest collections of rare spirits in Los Angeles. With around 1,200 bottles of limited release, vintage and discontinued liquor, it’s no wonder this place is a sort of Mecca for cocktail aficionados. Tucked away inside of Scopa Italian Roots, you’ll have to email in advance for a reservation or dine at Scopa and ask your server about getting in. If you manage to find a spot in the 25-seat bar, you’ll be asked to check your phone at the door. So be prepared to unplug for a while and try something truly special. Follow them on Twitter for first dibs on rare bottles.
If you walk into Fin, the Asian-fusion Culver City restaurant, and ask about their secret bar, they will gladly show you the way to the Alley Lounge in back. But if you want to take a chance and try to find it yourself, go through the alley and open the service door. If you see a painting of a peacock, you’ve chosen correctly. Inside is a sleek bar with a nice craft cocktail selection. They even have dollar tacos on Tuesdays!
Yes, you can actually get a haircut and shave at Blind Barber if you want. But if you’re only in the market for drinks, walk straight back to the unmarked door in the back. Through that door is a dark, retro bar, complete with checkered floor and leather booths. Come hungry and accompany your cocktail with a gourmet grilled cheese. And if you’re a comedy lover, check out their invitation-only comedy shows every last Monday of the month. The quality is no joke either: Last year, Dave Chappelle stopped in to try out some new material.
Absinthe is the spirit of choice in this secret bar behind the Bank of America on Culver Blvd. You can enter through Rocco’s Tavern or through the alleyway. With gold crushed velvet wallpaper, a chandelier and brown leather with red accents, this bar might magically transport you to Paris in the early 20th century. It has live music, strong cocktails and is often crowded, but the drinks don’t take forever, so you’ll be glad you stopped into this secret absinthe bar.
Perhaps the oldest speakeasy in Los Angeles, the Del Monte is located in the basement of Townhouse in Venice. Around since 1915, it functioned as an actual speakeasy during prohibition when Townhouse was just an unassuming little grocery store. Now it’s a rowdy nightclub, and beware there’s usually a cover charge, though it’s not generally more than $10.
You may not find any craft cocktails or live music in this Eastside gem, but you will find something special. If you’re hungry, enter the liquor store with the sign advertising “the coldest beer in town” on the corner of Figueroa and Ave 59, ask for birthday candles, and you’ll be led into Tinfoil, a secret deli that serves up simple but finely crafted sandwiches. Yes, secret sandwiches do taste better.
With any of the above, be sure to rideshare or book a 24-hour parking space with Pavemint if you’re planning on ordering a drink. Trust us, the alternative is a lot less fun.
Have a hidden bar in LA that we failed to mention? Let us know in the comments!