Yes, I know. You’ll be running madly from screening to screening, rushing to that special guest interview in the Blossom Room, arriving hours early to snag a great seat for the poolside movie, trying to cram in a meal that isn’t popcorn and Milk Duds.
But… the TCM Film Festival is in Hollywood for a reason: To give classic movie fans a chance to completely experience the glamour, wonder and magic of that place and that time where the greatest movies in the world were made. And maybe even have a cocktail.
Here are my favorite places for great drinks and a little of that vintage Hollywood feel…
When I first arrived in Los Angeles as an impoverished divorcee, eating out was a luxury and one that I only saved for a restaurant I had read about in all the biographies of classic movie stars I read through the years, Musso and Frank. Others have told the story of Musso’s better than I so I’ll stick to the cocktails. Request a table in the New Room or better yet, sit at their beautiful bar and order their award winning Martini with its famous side car. Or a champagne cocktail served in a coupe. Or anything really - you can't go wrong here. It's our Happy Place.
Musso’s opens at 11am and lunch is a treat! But if you’re there in evening, be sure to chat with Ron, Sonny and Graham behind the bar. Sonny especially is a classic movie fan!
You will probably see Mr. and Mrs. TCM with a Twist sitting at the bar most nights of the festival.
Up in the hills, this Asian restaurant has the best view in LA and is deeply rooted in Hollywood history. The view, along with the building’s exquisite Japanese architecture and gardens, make this a destination regardless of what you drink. The cocktails are fine but you're here for the ambiance. Go at sunset and be sure to roam the gardens. Mondays are Noodle Night and they have a reverse Happy Hour from 9pm to closing M-Th.
Interesting and nuanced article just published in the LA Times about the issue of cultural appropriation.
Yamashiro is considered fine dining and LA expensive. To get the biggest bang for your buck, stay in the bar and get the Yamashiro House Lager for $5.
Right in the Roosevelt Hotel is one of the best bars in LA. They mix truly excellent cocktails here and its worth the wait to get in. Save your pennies for this, it’s LA expensive but the drinks are worth the splurge and there are board games available for the most expensive game of Monopoly you've ever played. You can also reserve a bowling lane for $100 for up to 6 people (email ahead)
This place is no longer red-hot but it's still popular. Go Wednesday or Thursday or right when they open for the best chance of getting a table.
Tiki fans rejoice! Sorta. There is a lot of controversy among true tikiphiles asking if this new joint right on Hollywood Blvd is a true tiki bar - it's a little too elegant and generically tropical to satisfy the tiki purist but the drinks are top notch, perfectly balanced and the decor is gorgeous! Yes, the wallpaper behind the bar is a call back to The Beverly Hills Hotel's Polo Lounge. LA expensive - ask about Aloha Hour from 5-6pm weekdays. $6 Kumamoto Kicks, Captain’s Bloods, Piña Coladas and $4 Hinano Lagers!
If the front looks crowded, go back to the rear. There is a lovely glass covered courtyard that is open sometimes and usually less packed than the front. Also, the Lava Salt Potatoes are amazing and reasonably priced.
This is outside the walkable range for most people (3 miles away from the Festival Venues) but if you don’t mind Ubering (or Lyfting), this Hollywood Institution will fulfill your campiest, most mod Hollywood dreams… Marty and Elayne, who perform Tuesday thru Sunday starting at 9:15pm, have played their fabulous set for decades (you may have seen them in “Swingers.”) The cocktails and lounge menu are pure mid-century and slightly cheaper than the most LA hot spots.
Fridays and Saturdays are busy. If the line is long outside, go around to the back entrance off the parking lot, the line is usually shorter.
A drinking guide wouldn’t be complete without a true dive bar and The Frolic Room is the quintessential Hollywood dive. Most famous for its jukebox, people watching and the Hirschfeld mural of the celebrities who frequented the place, it's best in the afternoon when you can just imagine Charles Bukowski sitting at the bar or maybe even see the ghost of Elizabeth Short, the real Black Dahlia, who reportedly was seen drinking here right before she disappeared.
Keep your eyes peeled, A-List celebrities still frequent this place.
Did you know that LA has a subway? It does! And you can take it from Hollywood and Highland straight to DTLA (Downtown LA) to visit one of my favorite bars in LA, Coles. Famous for being one of the two possible homes of the French Dip (Google for the rivalry between Coles and Philippes), the classic cocktails are excellent and the sense of history is palpable! The drinks and food are a bit cheaper than most places.
118 E. 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014 (map)
Take the Red Line from Hollywood and Highland to the Pershing Street Station. Walk one block south on Hill Street, turn left on 6th and walk three blocks south.
Monday - Wednesday 12pm-12am
If you’re there after 7pm, you can go to the back of the restaurant and try to get into Varnish, one of the first modern speakeasies in LA and still one of the best bars in the city. The booths are styled after the seats on the old LA Red Cars.