DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - The pursuit of the perfect barstool is different for everyone. Some seek sleek décor and decorative drinks. Others opt for dim dives and cheap suds.
Those are nice and all, but design and liquid menus don’t have to be the deciding factor. That’s especially true in Downtown Los Angeles, where there is more to do at a bar than drink.
A cadre of local watering holes add to the variety with a batch of themed nights. Some are new, some border on local institution status and some are downright zany. Whatever they may be, they’re in your backyard. Here are 10 local options.
Tastes Like Vinyl: Most bars employ DJs or bands to bring in crowds or set a vibe. Once a month, Pattern Bar does something different with music: They add it to the menu. On select Mondays, the Los Angeles Record Pool brings a small trove of rare, collectable and contemporary vinyl albums into the bar and sets up a mini record shop. The Record Pool deals primarily with local labels who work with L.A. bands. Collectors are welcome to bring their own records for sale and trade. “But don’t bring your old Cyndi Lauper record and try to get rid of it,” warns Pattern Bar owner Eduardo Martinez. Patrons can flip through crates of obscure offerings. Meanwhile, enjoy the carefully crafted acoustics in the Fashion District space. Check Pattern Bar’s Facebook page for the schedule.
At 100 W. Ninth St., (213) 627-7774 or patternbar.com.
Don’t Stop Believing (That You Can Sing): The first Tuesday of the month offers the closest opportunity out there to channel your inner Steve Perry, Mick Jagger or Stevie Nicks. Starting at 10 p.m., belt out your favorite rock tunes, on stage, with real musicians backing you. That’s right, it’s Live Band Karaoke at the Down and Out. The power trio Tres Aliens has about 300 classics in their songbook. They’ll pull back and keep you in the spotlight if you really shine. If well, you suck, they play a little louder and fill your voids. But seriously people, don’t pull a Taylor Swift and butcher “Rhiannon.”
At 501 S. Spring St., (213) 489-7800.
No Gong, Get a Bong: Here’s the problem with karaoke. While it’s fun to laugh with, and sometimes at, friends who don’t sing so well, sitting through an endless parade of tone-deaf Rat Pack wannabes is about as fun as shoving bamboo under your fingernails. Regular attendees of Bar 107’s Wednesday night Karaoke Gong Show don’t have this dilemma. A Skeletor-clad judge makes sure that the pitch-deficient don’t last long. Miss a note big-time? Chirp out a major voice crack? Gonnnnnnng! It actually makes you root for the bad singers, just like in the “American Idol” montages of clumsy crooners. Those with skills vie for the weekly grand prize: a one-and-a-half-foot bong. Because, hey, it rhymes with gong.
At 107 W. Fourth St., (213) 625-7382 or myspace.com/bar107.
Villainous Trivia: Can you name the composer of the William Tell Overture? Do you know who won the first Super Bowl? Is your brain stuffed with useless information? If you answered yes to the latter, then make use of that great brain every Tuesday at Villains’ Tavern, when the folks from King Trivia organize a team quiz. Unlike pool or bowling, drinking more won’t likely improve your trivia skills as the night wears on, but consider it an equitable handicap — everyone else is sipping too. The Arts District watering hole also invites burger wizards Great Balls on Tires to take over the kitchen on question and answer nights. Trivia’s at 7:30 p.m. By the by, Rossini wrote the overture and the Green Bay Packers captured Super Bowl I.
At 1356 Palmetto St., (213) 613-0766 or villainstavern.com. King Trivia also runs the Monday night trivia at Casey’s Irish Pub. Speaking of Casey’s…
Drink, Draw, Repeat: Sitting all alone on a pleather bar stool, when the bartender doesn’t want to hear your jokes (or your sorrows), sometimes all you can do is reach for a pen and start doodling on your napkin. Or, if you’re a regular at the Thursday night Drink and Draw Social Club at Casey’s Irish Pub, you might sketch a pen-on-paper masterpiece while nursing a Jameson. You won’t be lonely. The Drink and Draw is a decidedly social affair, where thirsty artists share tables, drawing supplies and love for this quirky weekly tradition. Even those who can only create a hand turkey are welcome.
At 613 S. Grand Ave., (213) 629-2353 or 213nightlife.com.
Earn Your Red Zebra Stripes: Visual art, meet fashion, and while you’re at it, say hello to live music, sexy models and performance oddities. All of these and more are present at the monthly Red Zebra party at the Crocker Club. Artist Robert Vargas is behind the lively bacchanal inside the repositioned vault of the old Crocker Bank building. Depending on the night, there might be a contortionist getting all pretzly on a table, or a midnight fashion show. You never know. What you do know is it’s the first Thursday of every month.
At 453 S. Spring St., (213) 239-9099 or crockerclub.com.
Clown Around: Downtown has a budding comedy scene that includes regular stand-up shows at the Downtown Independent, the Downtown Comedy Club and elsewhere. But those places are not bars. Here, we give the nod to Hamclown, the monthly comedy show at the Mezz bar inside the Alexandria Hotel. From 9 p.m.-2 a.m. on the last Thursday of every month, the Hamclown crew guarantees some of the best comedians in Los Angeles. No guarantee that you won’t snarf your Maker’s Mark.
At 501 S. Spring St., second floor, hamclown.tumblr.com.
Goonies (et. al) Drink Along: The Downtown Independent is not a bar. We repeat, while this quirkily curated theater sells beer (the ongoing special is two cans of Tecate for $6), it’s not a bar. With that distinction made, the Main Street venue’s monthly Double Feature Drink Along is worthy of this list. Here’s why: At the recurring event, the venue shows two pop classics (past pairings have included Blazing Saddles/Spaceballs, The Goonies/The Lost Boys and Labyrinth/The NeverEnding Story) and invites the audience to sip their beverages, or shout a specific phrase, at certain cues. It’s like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but twice as long and drunker. For example, in Labyrinth, every David Bowie crotch shot merited a sip and a catcall. For The Goonies, drinks were encouraged each time Mikey sucked at his inhaler, and boos were elicited at every appearance of the Fratellis. Theater representatives insist the drinking cues are for soda, water and lemonade. We insist it’s more fun with the cheap Mexican beer sold on site.
At 251 S. Main St., (213) 617-1033 or downtownindependent.com.
Tropical Moves: Got moves? Do you sweat rhythm? There are many regular dance nights at bars around Downtown. Mustache Mondays, the gay-friendly party at La Cita, is a 4-year-old institution, and Cicada Club’s Sunday night sessions in the historic Oviatt Building is a must for swingers and lindy hoppers. But if you’re feeling the need to cross body lead (and you get that reference) look no further than Tropical Fridays at the Mayan Theater. The best salsa bands, in a city chock full of serious salseros, play the Mayan every Friday.
At 1038 S. Hill St., clubmayan.com.
Sunday Fiesta: Have you ever walked down Hill Street on Sunday and wondered who was playing the heck out of that accordion? It’s the guys in Doble Poder, the ranchero band that holds court at La Cita every Sunday afternoon and early evening. If you believe Sunday is not, in fact, a day to rest, head over for cumbia dancing, a Mexican beer and a rather reputable Bloody Mary. The fun runs from 2-9 p.m. The patio opens at 10 a.m.
At 336 S. Hill St., lacitabar.com.
Contact Ryan Vaillancourt at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2011