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The Best Piano Bars In Los Angeles
There's something magical about live piano music that makes drinking infinitely more classy. Whether sipping a martini while listening Sinatra or throwing back a beer while a ragtime jazz band tears it up, the charm of a piano bar is tough to beat. From unchanged old school favorites to newer contenders, here are our favorite piano bars around Los Angeles. And, as always, share your favorites in the comment section below.
Elayne and Marty turning out the classics at The Dresden (via Facebook)
If you've gone in search of a classic cocktail in Los Feliz—or seen the movie Swingers—you've likely stumbled upon the unmistakable and endearing musical stylings of Marty and Elaine at The Dresden. The duo have been turning out jazz and lounge standards at the charmingly vintage watering hole since 1982 with nightly performances Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 9 p.m. You'll catch Marty on the upright bass or drums, while Elaine takes charge on the piano and synthesizer—and occasional flute solo—while the two take turns crooning the classics. They frequently have guest musicians play with them and on Tuesday nights host an open mic. After a few of the bar's signature Blood & Sand cocktails, you may just feel compelled to belt out a song yourself—then again, maybe you'd prefer to just sit back in a booth and enjoy the show.
The Dresden is located at 1760 N Vermont Avenue, Los Feliz, (323) 665-4294.
Joshua White, Tim Lefebvre, Damion Reid and Josh Johnson performing at Blue Whale (via Facebook)
Tucked on the third floor of Little Tokyo's Weller Court, Blue Whale has been luring dedicated jazzheads and really anyone looking to enjoy quality improvisation with a drink since 2010. The unassuming and laid-back venue offers nightly performances usually with a cover that ranges from $10 to $30. Head to the long, sleek bar to order up a cocktail, glass of wine or craft beer and grab a seat on one of the padded benches arranged throughout the modern space, which doubles as an art gallery. Settle in for a night of top-notch music, which can include everyone from emerging local acts and prominent international performers. While the menu is somewhat limited, the offerings are pretty solid like the beef bulgogi tacos and mushroom japchae (Korean sweet potato noodles).
Blue Whale is located at 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka Street #301, Little Tokyo, (213) 620-0908
Ragtime at 1642 (via Facebook)
One of our favorite hidden gems for live music and a good pour, 1642 would entirely elude passersby were it not for a faint "Beer and Wine" painted below the namesake address on Temple Street. The fittingly subtle entryway leads to a cozy, narrow space with exposed brick and original 1940s architectural touches revealed when owner Elizabeth Fischbach remodeled the former dive bar. The long wooden bar, soft lighting and small cafe tables in the back offer a laid-back, vaguely European vibe, while the thoughtfully curated selection of wines by the glass and not-your-typical craft beer selection help reinforce that fuzzy warm glow. Tucked in the far corner you'll find a vintage upright piano, which is often employed by the rotating cast of nightly musicians. From the ragtime stylings of regulars The Hi-Fi Honeydrops to old-time open jam sessions and plenty more acts, the charm of 1642 only increases as the night wears on. And if you happen to arrive between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on most Thursdays, you'll be treated to a free tamale from the shop next door when you buy a drink.
1642 is located at 1642 W Temple Street, Westlake, (213) 989-6836.
Hidden in the back of Cole's, L.A.'s oldest public house, The Varnish helped to launch the city's current obsession with vintage speakeasy-style bars and years later has still kept its cool. The intimate space offers dim and moody lighting and cozy booths, perfect for a romantic escape or quiet Prohibition-era cocktail with friends. The upright piano is most often put to great use Sunday through Tuesday after 9 p.m. with live jazz performances that are sometimes accompanied by a singer and/or an upright bass. Order up a cocktail—some of the finest in town—or opt for the bartender's choice for a pleasant surprise and settle into a booth for the performance. Beer, wine and champagne are also an option, but we definitely recommend trying at least one cocktail. And thanks to the strict policy on capacity, the bar never feels crowded, even on a busy night. Though its a good idea to arrive early to ensure a spot.
The Varnish is located at 118 E 6th Street, Downtown, (213) 265-7089.
RED LION TAVERN
This Silver Lake mainstay has everything you need for a great night out. Plenty of German brews on tap, German food (let the pretzels soak up that alcohol for you), and nightly music that starts around 9 p.m. There's a patio upstairs where you can get some fresh air with your friends, but you'll want to be in the very cozy ground floor, where the pianists play, sometimes getting everybody down there to sing along (not a hard task when they're all liquored up). Make sure to get a two- or four-liter boot for yourself—you'll be in for a long night of singing. —Carman Tse
Red Lion Tavern is located at 2366 Glendale Boulevard, Silver Lake, (323) 662-5337.
The Grand Lobby of The Culver Hotel (Photo by Seth Horowitz/The Culver Hotel)
THE CULVER HOTEL LOBBY BAR
One of our favorite spots for cozying up next to a fireplace, also happens to feature live jazz nightly on the piano with rotating accompanying acts. Head to the gorgeous lobby bar of the historic Culver Hotel to catch performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. in a wide range of styles from swing and gypsy to contemporary. The vibe is classy and elegant, but fortunately not stuffy. Settle into the comfortable couches or grab a table and order up a refreshing Garden Mule or whiskey-fueled Tinman—a nod to the castmembers of The Wizard of Oz that stayed here—and enjoy the music. You can also order some great small bites from the kitchen.
The Culver Hotel is located at 9400 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, (310) 558-9400.
THE PIANO BAR
Given a new life in 2009 after a facelift, Hollywood's Piano Bar has become the gold standard of its set. It arrogantly naming itself as the definitive one of its cohort—but who are we to argue? All are welcome, as there's no dress code or cover charge, and the music here is nightly. There's a regular rotation of upbeat, feel-good musicians that are Piano Bar regulars, everything from jazz to country and bluegrass. We'd recommend dropping in on a Wednesday or Friday for a funky jazz set from Miles Mosley and the West Coast Get Down. —Carman Tse
The Piano Bar is located at 6429 Selma Avenue, Hollywood, (323) 466-2750.
Hotel Bel-Air’s bar and lounge. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Bel-Air)
THE BAR & LOUNGE AT HOTEL BEL-AIR
This classic, pink-stuccoed Mission-style landmark has long been a glamorous destination for Hollywood stars, and the bar still maintains that Golden Era glitz and glamour with it's roaring fireplace and grand piano. A recent multi-million dollar renovation added a clean, modern look, while maintaining the charm. Nightly performances on the ivories varies from jazz standards to uptempo numbers. Sip a quality cocktail from a crystal glass, order up a delicious bite from Wolfgang Puck's menu, and settle into your seat the show.
Hotel Bel-Air is located at 701 Stone Canyon Road, Bel-Air, (310) 472-1211.
PAOLI'S PIZZERIA AND PIANO BAR
At this dyed-in-the-wool Valley favorite, you can catch live music on the piano on Thursdays through Sundays, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Settle in with a cocktail, glass of wine or beer from the bar, or bring your own wine with a $15 corkage fee. And while they offer plenty of hugely-portioned, old school Italian options, you're definitely going to want to order at least one of their deep dish pizzas. You can build your own pie, but "The Climax" with sausage, pesto and the white sauce option is the pro-move. After all of that, though, you better be ready for some serious karaoke, which takes place starting at 9 p.m. every night.
Paoli's Pizzeria and Piano Bar is located at 21020 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills, (818) 883-4136.