My neighborhood is one of the most underrated, hidden charms of L.A.
If you’re familiar with L.A. culture, you probably know at least one or two anti-Valley snobs who swear they’d never go north of Mulholland. If you live in L.A., perhaps you’re even one of those people! I’m here to make the case for the place I now call home.
Situated between the trendy Studio City, mostly middle-class Burbank, mansion-packed Toluca Lake and the tree-lined neighborhood of Valley Village, North Hollywood has an artsy, unpretentious vibe that is all its own. The NoHo residents are a mix of families, L.A. natives, and industry folk who have chosen this particular place because they like the comfort of a semi-suburban lifestyle (easy parking, trees and nearby parks, etc.), but they want the urban amenities, too (late-night spots, diverse culture, etc.). I knew I wanted to be close to auditions and my acting studio on Melrose, but not in the middle of hectic Hollywood or Downtown. NoHo checks a lot of boxes for me.
I also love the ease of going out on the weekends in NoHo. Unless we decide to trek into DTLA or Hollywood via Uber, bar-hopping always gets my vote and there are a ton of places so close to my apartment. A bar crawl is the most ideal night for someone as indecisive as me; I’m not tied down to one particular atmosphere, crowd of people, or drink menu. Nearly all of these places make for a fun date or weekend with friends. If you happen to be at Universal Studios during the day, you should hit up these nearby establishments afterwards.
Below are my most frequented neighborhood stops. They don’t all serve my first love (wine), but I like a good whiskey or gin every now and then!
Vibe: Tex-Mex cantina; casual; perfect for day-drinking and catching the game; reminds me of a college kickback or backyard summer BBQ
What to order: A regular margarita (Texas-Style), a frozen mango margarita or a Corona with lime; people also drink Shiner Bock here like it’s water. In regards to food, they have everything from Frito Pie and Mexican Street corn to tacos, fajitas, and enchiladas.
Highlights: You can play corn hole, Connect 4, and beer pong under the string lighting on the patio. Also, don’t forget to load up on free chips and salsa at the chip bar inside.
The vibe: Warm and inviting; a little hipster; indoor and outdoor seating
What to order: Agua di Sandia (gin, lime and watermelon juice, Tajin) is a great mix of spicy and sweet. If you like rye whiskey, The Hand is for you; the inclusion of chocolate bitters make for a delicious endnote. I haven’t ordered food here yet, but I’m told you can throw a dart at the menu and be very happy; the warm pretzel with Bavarian mustard and the House Smoked Brisket Sandwich sound so good!
Highlights: I especially like the charm of Idle Hour’s history. It was erected in the 1940s at the dawn of Southern California’s car culture and has lived many lives since; in the 1970s, it was converted into a flamenco bar called La Caña that had an indoor dance stage. Idle Hour was closed for thirty years before reopening in the style of its former glory in February 2015. On the the back patio sits a replica of L.A.’s Bulldog Cafe (a dog smoking a pipe), which sold tamales and ice cream on Washington Boulevard in the 1920s until the early 1960s.
Side note: If you don’t live near Noho but you do reside in the greater Los Angeles area, you may have a themed restaurant/bar created by the owners of Idle Hour in your neighborhood! The 1933 Group, as they call themselves, operates nine themed bars and restaurants in the L.A. area, including include Sassafras (a southern-themed bar) in Hollywood, Bigfoot West and East (a cabin-themed whiskey bar) in Culver City and Los Feliz respectively, and La Cuevita (an Old World Mexican grotto) in the heart of Highland Park.
Vibe: Kitschy (in the best way); tropical and festive ambience; dim mood lighting
What to order: The Coconut Mojito is my personal favorite, but they have so many other drinks like the Mai Tai and Chief Lapu Lapu. If you’re feeling a beer, grab a Pacifico and enjoy the island spirit. They don’t serve food here, so be advised.
Highlights: Their happy hour prices (5-8 pm) and Sunday/Wednesday karaoke nights. This is a great first-stop on your bar hop or an ideal place to come if you’ve had a rough day at work and are looking to be transported to paradise!
Vibe: Sophisticated old bank building (tall ceilings, cool architecture); lively, mixed age crowd
What to order: I always ask for bartender Xanthia’s specialty cucumber cocktail which isn’t on the menu. Their wine list is also decent; I’d suggest the La Follette Pinot Noir, Kung Fu Girl Riesling and The Velvet Devil Merlot. The beer menu mainly consists of delicious milk and coffee stouts, ales, and IPAs. Food-wise, I’ve heard their Mac & Cheese and “Dirty Chips” are to-die-for!
Highlights: Weekends are always busy here, so you’re bound to meet new people! The bartenders are very nice and are happy to give you beer samples if you’re unsure of which to get. Also, the upstairs performance space turns into a dance club on weekends; there is a cover charge, but it’s a fun way to meet new people and keep the night going.
Vibe: Hip; cozy and intimate (in the style of a living room or library); especially appealing to English major nerds like me
What to order: Each of their speciality cocktails are named after a novel or literary reference which is really fun! The Secret Garden and Catcher In The Rye are two of their most popular drinks. I personally really like the Huckleberry Finn (Plymouth Gin, St. Germaine, Lime, Blueberry, Mint, Soda). The Truffle Mac & Cheese is a great bite if you’re not overly hungry.
Highlights: They host themed nights (I went to Harry Potter night after the release of The Cursed Child) and paint parties, making this the perfect spot to go with a group of your closest friends.
Photos courtesy of each establishment and Yelp