A Toast to the New School of LA Bars

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Gone are the days when the term “wine bar” summoned visions of condescending staff and high-maintenance dates. Likewise, beer has moved from man-cave property to something you can collect, savor, and be snobby about, if you like. The joy of the new school beer and wine joint can’t be understated. They can be achingly hip but also, more and more, unpretentious places to relax with a California IPA or an Oregon pinot. Less restrictive to open, and less time consuming to fill your glass than a cocktail, these wine-and-beer-only joints are wonderful lower-ABV alternative destinations.

We’ve talked about Covell. We will again. It is marvelous–especially if you trust your bartenders to find you something delightful. The big news this year though has been Thai Town’s Tabula Rasa, which opened in September and has been wooing cool kids from the neighborhood and beyond with its interesting but affordable menu. Pet Nat sparkling wine next to Highlife cans? Sure. Vinyl aficionados should sit at the bar and check out what the owners–both Bestia alumni–are spinning. Their small food menu of sandwiches and snacks cooked to order on the bar’s panini press definitely shows creativity.

Farther east in Echo Park, Bar Bandini is a cozier alternative for craft beers than nearby Mohawk Bend, with a focus on natural wines on tap that will please environmentally conscious drinkers. Just down the boulevard, Sunset Beer Company is a beer nerd’s fantasy rec room, complete with “no corkage fee” happy hours on weekdays for its vast selection from the adjacent bottle shop. Off of Sunset, 1642 feels like a well-appointed basement at a the home of a friend who happens to have really fantastic taste in wine and beer.

To the west, Vintage Enoteca focuses on small wine producers and interesting varietals. Do not be fooled by the snack-and-sandwich focus of the food menu, though; their food cred is serious.

Should you find yourself in Sherman Oaks, do not panic. Augustine is also there, with a long list of worldly wines and all the charcuterie you can dream of. Bodega Wine Bar in Santa Monica proclaims its publican ambitions proudly, getting borderline bro-y on the menu with its anti-snobbery manifesto. Still, not a terrible choice if all you want is a glass of old vine zinfandel in your hanging-out clothes.

Header photo courtesy of Jakub Dziubak

Hope Ewing

Hope Ewing

Hope Ewing is a Los Angeles-based writer and bartender from Buffalo, via NYC. She received her MFA in fiction and first bartending certification from Columbia University.