Northeast LA's Most Accessible Bars For Disabled People
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So you're a human who enjoys the world enough to venture out into it. You're also a practical person and nothing spoils your fun like a bar that's so aggravating, you wish you'd brought your own nachos, flask and couch from home, so that you could enjoy the socializing and skip the rest. We all reckon with the grim spectre of The Impossible Bar but for the 20% or so of us with a disability, navigating the social scene is that much harder.
I walk with a cane so stairs aren't my favorite although a few steps aren't a deal-breaker for me the way they can be for some disabled people. A flight of stairs, however, is another story. My balance and spatial relations are shaky, so I prefer venues that don't feel too cramped. I also need a place to sit. That is non-negotiable.
In my ideal pub life, the seats are plentiful and comfy. There's a convenient spot for me to place my cane without it getting in anyone's way. There are enough bathroom stalls so that lines rarely form, because standing in the same place for more than five minutes is no good for that broken bone in my spine. I'll never love a place that's too loud, too cacophonous or has too many complicated sounds, a common source of frustration for anyone who's not neurotypical (not to mention anyone who wants to have a conversation). Oh, and before we get there: Is parking a thing? Because if it is, let's go somewhere else. Like maybe to my living room where the sparkling wine flows like tap water.
For me, what separates a great bar from a tolerable one is that it moves beyond ADA requirements and toward full inclusivity. Was accessibility built into the concept from the start? Or was there a sniff of resentment when they installed the ramp out front? Am I catching side-eye for venturing out with my cane? Or do I feel like I'm welcome there?
Fortunately, Highland Park and Eagle Rock have a ton of great, accessible spots where you can get drinks. So bottoms up to an aggravation-free experience.
Up the ramp and behind the unassuming exterior lies a land of laid-back fanciness that changes with the seasons. For mid-century charm, put on your best Hawaiian shirt, drop in on Tiki Tuesday and order a a Panamanian Devil. Get some SPAM tempura to go with it or maybe fried chicken, cauliflower fritters and duck liver pâté.
You can take your drink to one of the four high-backed, brown leather booths or to one of the cozy two-tops in the dark wood-paneled dining room, which is behind a mirrored wall that separates the bar from the lounge. The dining room is quieter and more intimate. You can hear yourself think but it has enough of a buzz to still feel festive. You could definitely get loungey with your wheelchair in here. It helps that the whole place feels like a speakeasy. The opening panel on the front door is perfect for a steely bouncer to peer through and ask, "What's the password?" Thanks to its soft lighting, Sonny's Hideaway is also a good choice if you're prone to brightness-induced migraines or if you need to arrange a clandestine rendezvous with your favorite informant.
For all its hidden nooks, the joint doesn't feel cramped. The bar is great if, like me, you use a cane. It has plenty of hooks for hanging things and several high-backed bar stools with La-Z-Boy levels of comfort. I didn't, however, see a spot at the counter that would easily accommodate a wheelchair. Every encounter I've had with the staff has been genuinely pleasant and they've been eager to help. The restrooms are sleek, stylish, and easy to get to. Free street parking is usually attainable but there's a paid LADOT parking lot about a block away (5033 Lincoln Ave.).
5137 York Blvd., Highland Park. 323-255-2000.
The Greyhound Bar & Grill
The Greyhound can get rowdy during Dodgers games due to their popular "blue hour" specials. When it's not gameday, the cozy booths are great for chatting with a friend or typing on a laptop. The only problem is that the cocktails may lure you away from your work. No stairs stand in the way of you and your good time and the seating is wheelchair-friendly, with low tables, chairs that can be easily moved to make way for wheels and enough room to navigate. I found the bar stools comfortable and the bar had places where I could hang my purse and cane. The bathrooms are spacious, clean and have easy-to-open door handles.
The Greyhound is known for its chicken wings and rightly so. My favorites are the standard wings with mild sauce and the buttermilk-marinated cauliflower "wings" with tandoori sauce. The menu also offers an array of vegan junk food, especially during weekend breakfasts. On a quiet day, the quick-witted and friendly bar staff may test a new drink recipe on you and their beginner's luck is exceptional.
The one mark against The Greyhound's accessibility is parking. Every restaurant on Figueroa in Highland Park requires you to park much farther away than seems reasonable and you often have to walk up or down a hill. Fortunately, public transit is your friend. Tte Gold Line will take you to the Highland Park Station, just two blocks away, and there's a bus stop directly in front of the bar.
5570 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park. 323-900-0300.
Colombo's Italian Steak House and Jazz Club
Come for the old-timey charm, stay for the stiffest drinks in town. (Seriously, plan your ride home.) Colombo's, which has been "serving L.A. since 1954," is a time capsule. With live entertainment on most nights, it looks better suited to downtown Las Vegas than Eagle Rock. From the moment it opens to the moment it closes, the bar (located just past the dining room) is crowded with regulars -- but the red, pleather booths in the front dining room are a delight. No one has given me any trouble for monopolizing one of these just for drinks and appetizers. I've spent time at the bar but the tight quarters make the dining room a much better experience. If you want to go all in and eat dinner, they make a great old-school chicken parm, served with a ramekin of spicy marinara for dipping. There's a dedicated lot and street parking is ample.
Know before you go: The bathrooms are a little cramped and there's usually a line.
1833 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. 323-254-9138.
When owner Herb Gualpa and his partners took over the former Coffee Table and Eagle Rock Lounge, they preserved the character of the building while renovating the space and making it more accessible. The result is two venues.
Pub 1954 is the brew pub and it pours suds, like Eagle Rock Brewery's Populist IPA, that let you show your civic pride. On Wednesdays, flash an ID with a 90041 or 90042 zip code and you'll get 15% off. Spinning whatever vinyl strikes the bar manager's fancy -- a Hank Williams cowboy songs one minute, a punk rock anthem the next -- Pub 1954 has become a new/old neighborhood favorite. As for the fuzzy metric of feeling welcome, I definitely felt that way here. In fact, Gualpa, who was managing the bar at my last visit, tried to recruit me for their roller derby team. The low seating at the front of the bar was redone so that people in wheelchairs could truly sit "at the bar" without being segregated from the action. The best seats in any house go beyond ADA-compliance and allow full inclusion.
Next door, at Piencone Pizzeria, you'll find vegan and gluten-free pies alongside classics like margherita ("La Rita") and mushroom ("The Truffle Shuffle"). They also scoop eight flavors of house-made ice cream. You can access the restaurant via the few steps or by using the wheelchair lift or by going outside and using the stair-free exterior entrances.
The menus at Pub 1954 and both Piencone Pizzeria are both the work of co-owner and executive chef Michelle Wilton, who opened Four Café, a few blocks away on Colorado Blvd. Both spots have been beautifully and mindfully redesigned, including the bathrooms. There are no accessibility snags here. One of the best things about having a restaurant on this stretch of Colorado: Ample street parking. There's also a free parking lot located on Shearin Ave.
1954 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. 323-273-4728
Serving craft beers from Highland Park Brewery, which is located next door, and a rotating selection of 30 wines by the glass, heavy on "esoteric, natural" varietals, The Hermosillo is a great, low stakes spot. It's easy to pop in for a quick bite or settle in and make a night of it. Thursdays through Sundays, the bar opens at noon, making it York Boulevard's go-to spot before Block Party opens at 5 p.m. (Block Party didn't make this list because the path from the bar to the patio is too daunting.) With plenty of room to navigate a wheelchair or spread out with other mobility devices, The Hermosillo's layout is designed to accommodate all kinds of bodies. There are no narrow lanes to get to the bar or bathroom, no stairs to contend with. Although there are only a few huge, camel-colored leather booths, they're a great place to chill. The bar food is perfect. It's Highland Park, so yes, they serve avocado toast -- and it's only $5. The fried pickle plates and charcuterie boards are also tasty.
I'd rate the level of parking difficulty as medium. Street parking and lot parking are both available, although luck is a major factor in securing a spot.
5125 York Blvd., Eagle Rock. 323-739-6459.
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