The Best Underground Bars in Downtown L.A.
Discover hidden bars beneath the streets
There are so many fun bars in L.A. but there is something about descending below-ground that conjures feelings of mystery and adventure - just ask Alice. In few places is this more true than the underground bar. Secret entrances, darkened staircases, being in the know are all part of the appeal.
There's no better place to enjoy this feeling than Downtown Los Angeles. Early 20th-century architectural gems have been revived right and left since the start of the 21st - and with them the basement bars, dance clubs and jazz lounges that once served the booming city’s movers and shakers. Bank vaults, a power plant and historic speakeasies are being redesigned for the thriving Downtown L.A. nightlife scene. If you’re searching for the best underground bars Downtown read on for Downtown L.A.’s finest in subterranean drinking, dining and dancing.
Birds & Bees
Fast forward from turn-of-the-century to the postwar era and you'll find yourself at Birds & Bees, a chic Mid-Century Modern inspired speakeasy. This Downtown L.A. office tower’s bones are left exposed in the steel and concrete interiors, but the furnishings are straight from a mod bachelor pad. Follow the wooden fence alongside the red brick wall at the northwest corner of the parking lot to find the secret entrance, and descend to find an excellent cocktail menu of modernized classics. “Violet Hour” takes place from 5-7 p.m., offering discounted classic cocktails, beer and wine, making it that much easier to pretend you’re sipping an Old Fashioned with the crew from Mad Men.
After filling up on noodles and mingling with your neighbors at Peking Tavern, follow the neon sign reading “Cocktails” across the hall and through the huge vault door for a nightcap at Crane’s bar downtown. While its neighbor makes the most of tall ceilings and concrete, the atmosphere here is more that of a cozy den, with its exposed brick walls and taxidermy. Do not be fooled by the stealthy entrance, though; this is no speakeasy. There is a jukebox on the wall and a very beer-and-whiskey vibe to the place, making it just right for a neighborhood hangout.
The Crocker Club
If you’ve ever wanted to ball out with your entourage in a 1920s-era bank vault, look no further. The Crocker Club is one of those cool bars in L.A. you ought to check out. It is located in the basement of the Spring Arts Tower, a Los Angeles landmark that also houses the Last Bookstore and the Spring Arts Collective, though the scene underground is decidedly more glam than crafty. Back in the early 20th century, the first three floors of the massive structure were occupied by a bank, the huge circular steel vault door of which survives to mark the entrance to the Crocker Club. Inside you will find a public bar, dance floor and ten private VIP chambers--former safe deposit box rooms. The private back bar, or “Ghost Bar,” is reportedly prone to drop-ins from the spirit world.
This bar and venue in the sub-basement of a former power plant represents one of Downtown L.A.’s first rehabilitated industrial spaces transformed into a hip drinking den, becoming an icon of L.A. nightlife and one of the best bars downtown. The multi-purpose space touts a “blending of science, art, and industry” with a retro-futurist vibe that Fritz Lang fans will appreciate. Attractions are many: private rooms of varying size, a rock-solid craft cocktail and spirits program, occasional aerial and burlesque shows, and live music. The main source of awe remains the space’s detailed and always-surprising design, featuring numerous elements of the original plant, that creates the feeling of a gilded-age/post apocalyptic lair beneath the modern city.
If you enjoy a good cocktail and an interesting atmosphere, but dress codes and secret entrances are not your style, El Dorado one of those cool bars in Los Angeles that offers a laid-back alternative. Head down the stairs to the basement of the well-marked El Dorado Lofts in the Historic Core to find a large underground space reminiscent of a bygone era. Stained glass, dark wood, cavernous booths and art deco wallpapers project retro/refined class, but the emphasis here is on having fun. Special DJ and theme nights throughout the week keep the crowd varied, excellent cocktails and spirits keep everyone happy.
Izakaya & Bar Fu-ga
Izakaya is a Japanese term for a casual gastropub, which is exactly what you get at this L.A. underground hangout in Little Tokyo. Casual dining featuring small plates and plenty of steak cater to a good sized lunch and after-work crowd - the happy hour runs from 2-6 p.m. The bar stands out with an impressive selection of Japanese beers, sakes, shochu and hard-to-find Japanese whiskies, so it is quite possible to descend the long staircase at the entrance and pretend you’ve entered a tucked-away Tokyo pub.
Baijiu, anyone? Housed in yet another vintage bank building on Spring Street, Peking Tavern is a Chinese gastropub that specializes in Beijing street food - including hand-pulled noodles and shareable plates of dumplings - with a full bar in an airy, communal atmosphere that belies its below-ground location. It is known for being one of the few bars in L.A. (and possibly in the U.S.) to build a cocktail menu around China’s singular white spirit, baijiu. Though the liquor is notoriously rough on western palates, the drinks here are pleasant and balanced. If that’s still not your style, the beer list is extensive. Happy hour happens seven days a week, along with weeknight drink specials and 2-for-1 noodles on Tuesdays.
The LA Reserve
Looking for amazing lounges in downtown L.A., The Reserve is a massive nightclub and lounge located in the underground vault of the old Hellman’s Commercial Bank. A lavish, sprawling multi-purpose space serving cocktails and bar snacks, The Reserve often features themed events and special DJ nights in different rooms, so make sure to check the calendar. This is a true club experience: fantasy lighting, exuberant dancing, long lines, beautiful people, cover charges; all behind a bank vault door, surrounded by decor that incorporates elements like gold bars and intact safe deposit boxes. This is a destination for those looking for some kitsch with their bottle service.
A true L.A. resurrection story, the Rhythm Room Los Angeles was originally a jazz lounge in the basement of the Hotel Hayward and a hotbed of music, culture and merriment in the 1940s and 50s. The lounge closed when the hotel - along with the Financial District - fell into disrepair in the 1970s. Reopened in 2017, much of the original architecture remains intact, notably the marble staircase that leads guests down from street level to a cozy World War II-styled bar with retro furnishings. Live jazz plays as it did in the original space, and there is no shortage of entertainment in the club-house atmosphere. Darts, billiards, ping pong, and shuffleboard provide gathering points for competitive visitors, and board games line the walls for the indoor kids. Rhythm Room provides a change of pace from the area’s hushed cocktail temples and booming dance clubs.
Weiland Brewery Underground
At the time it was built in 1972, the underground City National Plaza Food Mall was the largest of its kind in the country. Take the long, long escalator ride down beneath the twin skyscraper complex to find a food court shielded from the noise of traffic and commerce at ground level. Lunch choices include fast casual takes on Indian, Lebanese, pizza, Japanese and Italian, as well as the upscale cafeteria Lemonade, a California cult favorite.
The main afterwork draw is Weiland Brewery Underground, featuring locally crafted brews and famous happy hours. Come by for discounted beer, wine and bar snacks and the company of locals from 3-7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close, Monday-Friday.
Coming Soon: Shadowbox - Clifton’s
Shadowbox is the fifth concept scheduled to open in the five-story Clifton’s Republic and is surrounded with as much mystery as hype. Like its above-ground sibling bars, which include the California-themed Monarch and the upscale Gothic Bar, Shadowbox will be an immersive fantasy experience in its decor and presentation. The subterranean cocktail lounge and cabaret will reportedly be an “otherworldly environment inspired by scientific curiosities,” including fossilized dinosaur eggs beneath a plexiglass screen in the floor. Cocktails inspired by science and alchemy are meant to delight customers’ senses as much as the stage performances.