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…
Musso and Frank is Hollywood. Period. 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 Sonny who is a huge 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 "Lucky 7" Happy Hour from 9pm to closing in the lounge M-Th with a nice array of small dishes and signature cocktails for $7.
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, go during "Lucky 7" Happy Hour (see above) 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 5-7pm 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.
If you're going to the Cinerama Dome for a screening, get there early and stop at bar for a drink. They've upgraded the bar program with a menu created by Devon Tarby, who is one of the top bartenders in LA, and it shows. Our last trip there was fantastic. The bartenders are friendly and you can take your cocktail into most of the theaters so you don't have to gulp it down.
Food's pretty good too!
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.
So yeah, MiniBar is in the lobby of a Best Western... that just adds to its charm! This low key bar is about a 15 minute walk
from the Roosevelt and straight out of your mid century dreams with a 1960's airport lounge vibe and fantastic classic cocktails.
It is also dark and quiet which adds to its retro feel. Remember that great Liz Scott line in the 1948 noir Pitfall?
Have you ever noticed, if for some reason you want
to feel completely out of step with the world, the
only thing to do is sit around a cocktail lounge
in the afternoon?
This is that place.
(except they don't open until 5pm but whatever...)
If you get hungry, the 101 Coffee Shop is in the same building and is a classic American diner.
This place is pure Hollywood in that it is a completely made up fantasy of a completely different place, in this case the Old South. For all of you dying to channel your best Bette Davis in Jezebel, you can't do better than this!
They literally took an old Savannah townhouse, moved it inside a huge building and tricked it out for a completely immersive experience. It doesn't hurt that they also mix up amazing cocktails! Obviously the list is bourbon heavy but it offers something for everyone. The food, snacks and small plates, is also classic NOLA stuff including good beignets which are perfect for filling one's tummy to absorb the booze...