For over a decade beginning in 1919, alcohol was illegal in our fine land. Tragedy. And yet- Glorious! Because the speakeasy was formed. Commence bar-related lesson: speakeasies were clandestine establishments for consumption of the forbidden juices. The entrances were hidden so as not to attract attention to their awesome disregard of the law. Modern day speakeasies pay homage to the style and cocktail creations of that era, as well as the disguise of the joint. Cease lesson. You've been schooled.
I like to imagine myself living in the 20s, wearing a fabulous flapper dress and being covertly escorted into a dark haunt filled with illicit delights. Instead, it is 2011 and I wear a "vintage" dress from American Apparel as I walk toward a speakeasy-style bar for a "blog." Probably not the same rush, but still pretty darn joyous. I hope you will try one of my top five finds below. American Apparel not required.
La Descarga -- Crazy things happen at this Cuban themed treasure on Western Ave. You walk through a closet to get into the joint; a fiery lady dances on the bar to live Cuban music; and you can smoke a cigar in a back room full of rum. A truly unique experience in this town. Reservations are suggested, especially on weekends. Email the bar for the specific clothing rules as a classy dress code is strictly enforced. Once inside, be sure to do some salsa dancing with your friends or make some new ones...
The Roger Room -- Many things bring people into this hidden haunt. It's supposedly not well known, is one of the best mixed cocktail establishments in the area and with help from the suspender-clad bartenders and vintage touches, you feel transported once you cross the threshold. My favorite neighborhood night involves catching a music or comedy show at The Largo on La Cienega and heading next door to the Roger Room for the Four Aces cocktail. Arrive before 10pm to grab a table or be prepared to stand very close to the hip clientele in this tiny bar.
The Edison -- A wonderland. Simply put. If you have not been yet, get yourself into an elegant outfit and drive to The Edison downtown tonight! Tonight, I say! Intricate rooms and hundreds of old-school light bulbs fill this massive former electric factory; black and whites project onto the walls; live music is found on many nights; and their mixology, grilled cheese and tomato soup are top notch. A large bar accommodates drinkers, as the dozens of tables are for diners only. Check the website for minimum dining requirements and the explicit dress code rules for this downtown experience.
The Varnish -- At the back of Cole's Restaurant downtown is a door that one would assume is the entrance to the kitchen or a bathroom. No! Open this magical door and you enter into the small dark room of The Varnish bar. Ask the bartenders to make you an original creation; they never miss the mark. My favorite night is Mondays, with the jazz and blues of actor/musician Jamie Elman on the piano. Lovely.
Next Door Lounge -- Open just over a month, Los Angeles gladly welcomes a speakeasy-style establishment in Hollywood proper. Started by the owners of The Corner restaurant adjacent to the bar on Highland Ave, the venue boasts an airy vintage space, delicious food offerings and the promise of good music and even more special touches to come. The jolly bouncer with coattails even kept his eye on me to make sure I made it safely into my car across the street. I felt special.