Find me a real dive in LA!
August 17, 2009 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Looking for a serious Dive Bar in Los Angeles. In the Venice, Culver, Santa Monica region. Not an "LA" dive, a real dive please.

People in LA say "oh XYZ is a total dive" and when you get there it's like an upscale sports bar. I'm looking for a real, well, shithole. Dark, wood paneled, cheap beer, strong drinks, grisley old men who have been on the same stool for 35 years. no velvet ropes, no plasma screens, just drinks and drunks. bartenders who understand that a Martini is made of gin not vodka, that jack daniels is whiskey but not bourbon and wouldn't say "and what?" when you ask for said whiskey or bourbon. If you saw the place in Baltimore you'd say "man this is a shithole." they've gotta be out there, but where?
posted by swbarrett to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine writes the LA cocktails Examiner blog, and he recently did a review of a dive bar in downtown. Even if this is not quite what you're looking for, you could just email him and ask - he has a wealth of knowledge on the subject.
posted by widdershins at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2009

I used to live directly behind this place. It was a total dive--wood paneled, cheap beer, grisley old men included. We loved it because we could walk out of our apartment complex, go across the alley and go in the back door. Then we would drink and stumble home again.

Note: I moved 5 years ago and haven't been in about 6.
posted by Kimberly at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2009

I found myself in just such a place a few years back, definitely in the general vicinity of Venice. Unfortunately, it took a few days of solid drinking and drugging to get there, so I have no useful coordinates to offer.

But it did exist.
posted by philip-random at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2009

Well you're asking about the parts of the city where cheap houses go for a million or two. So I'm assuming your "genuine" quest stops short of actually going to Skid Row or Watts or even Historic Philipinotown.

There's the place on Santa Monica Blvd. in West LA near the big Smart & Final or whatever. From what I hear there are a lot of sad old drunks and the bouncers like to start fights for no reason.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:39 AM on August 17, 2009

Might be a little far but there is Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa
posted by Groovytimes at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2009

the golden gopher is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a dive bar. (which isn't to say it isn't a fine, fairly unpretentious bar, and part of the cedd moses empire which gives a damn about cocktails. it just ain't a dive.)

i think that the closest you'll get to the sort of dive bar you've asked about in downtown los angeles is the king eddie.
posted by jimw at 9:44 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

dive bar in downtown.

Oh, Jesus. The Golden Gopher is so far from a dive, I'd have to say that your friend has no idea what the fuck he's talking about. Sorry. It's an upscale yuppie joint, crowd runs 25-35, bit of a meat market vibe on weekends. I can't get over how wrong it is to describe it as a "dive bar". Jesus. I mean, "Later, KCRW’s music director Jason Bentley spun from 11pm-close to celebrate the Gopher’s half-decade of new culture diggin’." Christ.

If your willing to go a bit north, swbarrett, there are a couple places on the West Side I can think of. Del's Saloon is close to what you're looking for (though the clientele has been getting younger and younger in recent years), but there's this place in a strip mall near Sawtelle that hits it right on the nose, I think.... What's it called? Oh, yeah: Lost and Found.

There's the place on Santa Monica Blvd. in West LA near the big Smart & Final or whatever.

Yeah, that's Del's
posted by mr_roboto at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2009

Try the reviews at My Dive Bar.
posted by studentbaker at 10:04 AM on August 17, 2009

I can second Del's Saloon. Also check out The Tattle Tale in Culver City.
posted by GatorDavid at 10:43 AM on August 17, 2009

The sign above the The Thirsty Club in Santa Monica once boasted "Open at 6am!" On several occasions, returning home from clubs, I'd spot a line--not just a few people--a long line of seriously parched citizens waiting to quench their thirst. Doesn't get much divier than that.
posted by prinado at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2009

Tattle Tale in Culver City
posted by wcfields at 11:02 AM on August 17, 2009

Ok. Lots of people have mentioned the Tattle Tale in Culver City, and while it is a dive in the tradition of dive bars, there is a better one, two doors over from it in the same center. It is called the Scarlet Lady. You won't find Frat Boys looking for a dive experience here. It's just locals and a Juke Box.
posted by skewedoracle at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2009

If you're looking for the diviest bar in the Santa Monica area, I submit that The Joker will kick the shit out of all challengers. Or, more likely, mutter angrily at all challengers before going back to its stool and trying to convince the bartender to accept its credit.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:03 PM on August 17, 2009

The Power House at Hollywood and N Highland used to be the genuine article. Last time I drove past it looked like there was some redevelopment going on but if it's still there it's a hell of a place.
posted by unSane at 12:20 PM on August 17, 2009

nthing Del's Saloon, at least in the middle of the day. Their website says they're a sports bar and I do remember TVs. But they also have a bookshelf of used books in the back. My friends and I (mid-twenties) wandered into Del's around 4PM one time. I felt like I was in a depressed and drunk vampire den. The regulars at the bar kept staring at us. Then other people my age started trickling in, carrying plastic golf clubs and wearing argyle and plaid. When you find your dive, we can't promise that 15 young ones won't show up to play bar golf.
posted by loulou718 at 12:32 PM on August 17, 2009

Well, friend, sounds like you haven't been looking very hard. Tell you what—you buy my drinks and I'll take you around to all the dives I've found, where we can get the stink eye from abuelos and watch Mexican football.

On Sepulveda, there's The Tattle Tale, Scarlet Lady, Dear John, the Cinema (though it's a bit younger and maybe almost hipper, though it's my current favorite bar, replicating the Ypsilanti drinking experience I grew up with). On Venice, there're spots like Zacateca, and there're few things as divey as getting shitfaced at the bowling alley in the middle of the day. There's, oh, Christ, the "sports" bar on Washington near Corey Helford that said they'd let me watch the Tigers game, then pretended not to speak any English when I wanted to change the channel off of some third-tier futbol. The Good Hurt, with its half-assed T&A theme feels like a college dive, though I know that's not really what you're looking for. Del's has cold beer. Cozy Inn is a decent place for groups—I went there with a friend's church choir once, then got embarrassingly drunk while they knocked back a Bud Light or two. The Daily Pint is a dive with excellent scotch and decent beer, and a long bar shuffleboard table.
posted by klangklangston at 6:08 PM on August 17, 2009

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