RAISE A GLASS: To Hollywood’s old-school drinking holes

These are the speakeasies, retro restaurants and old train cars that have been around for as long as movies themselves.

These are the speakeasies, retro restaurants and old train cars that have been around for as long as movies themselves.

Los Angeles can look like a tangle of freeways and shopping malls but hidden away are some top spots that go back to the golden age of Hollywood in the 1920s and 40s.

Annex - Bogart, Humphrey (Casablanca)_08

There are still bars where silent movie stars stopped for a drink, where four-picture deals were made over a plate of pasta and where some of Hollywood’s greatest actors have shot movies with a martini in hand.

This is the underground LA hipster scene made famous in the Vince Vaughn movie Swingers, a sub-culture celebrating the old Hollywood that was.

Here’s a list of some of LA’s best-kept secrets:



Let’s start rock ‘n’ roll, with the joint that Barney opened in 1927 at a point that marked the end of the legendary Route 66.

Barney’s Beanery was the first stop for people coming from rural America and to celebrate they would rip off their car number plates which were dutifully nailed to the wall; in the 60s it was a hangout for counter culture types like The Doors.

The city has since dwarfed Barney’s little shack (and he has franchised it!) but if you turn up to karaoke night be warned, it is like watching an audition for American Idol.




Is this the best martini in Hollywood? Probably.

Is Musso and Frank the go-to place for Hollywood’s great and good, past and present? Definitely.

Red leather booths ring the large dining room – where classic fare includes shrimp cocktails and Welsh rarebit – and the whole place fairly drips in dark mahogany detail; the waiters are rarely a day under 60 and their red suit jackets are so sharply pressed they could cut a vein.




Locals enter via the rear in the same way that Vince Vaughn and his crew did in Swingers, the film that helped put the Dresden on the hipster drinking map.

Mumu-clad musical duo Marty and Elayne are the heart of the Dresden and have been playing their unique brand of lounge music – Marty’s dusky baritone, Elayne’s falsetto scat – for nearly two decades.



It’s dark and kitschy inside the Formosa, in part because it is made from an old Pacific Electric railcar. Squint hard and you will see the headshots from Hollywood legends James Dean, Marlon Brando and Kirk Douglas.

This louche lounge also had a starring role in LA Confidential, and it was also the place where the director of the Russell Crowe film signed on a lot of the main actors, over a drink of course.




This dark-and-brooding snug just off Hollywood Boulevard is dive bar by which all others will be measured. Boardners is black as a moonless night even at 2pm, you’ll find its grizzled patrons belly up to the cracked leather bar revelling in the anonymity the darkness brings.

Boardners has always been more of a local gin joint than a star hangout. If actors made their way here they were the ones that were known to like a drink.


READ: The ultimate Tinsletown Guide to A-Lister Los Angeles
READ: Where to find the only free amusement park in Los Angeles?

Where is your favourite LA drinking spot?