The Cinema Bar

I took a week off from drinking last week. And while this hindered my ability to create a column about consuming alcohol in public, it really made me feel terrific… this is a lie, breaks are for quitters, AND I AINT NO QUITER.

Good, now that that’s out of the way let’s get to what I did the other night after three glasses of Rosé (I got that box wine at Trader Joe’s thinking it was a cab and didn’t read the label L)

Image Via: LA Weekly

A childhood friend of mine had a show happening in LA and after plugging in the address I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was less than a mile from my home! Thank god because I have quickly discovered that getting anywhere in LA from Culver takes 30 minutes or the entirety of your mid 20s.

The exterior of The Cinema Bar looks like an old country saloon that the city stole from the Sony lot around the corner and stuck in between two buildings on Sepulveda. It’s wooden paneling and old neon sign were a welcome sight in a city so in love with modernization.

After successfully not being hit on my bird scooter, I met with my friend and headed inside. Once you pass through the gateway of the bar you are struck by the sheer regularity of the décor. While there is nothing wrong with a straight forward vibe, The Cinema bar makes you feel like you just stepped into every single dive bar in the mid-west. But this commonality is quickly abated by the tiny stage in the corner of the bar and the soothing music coming off of it. While I assume the genres differ by the day of the week, I loved to hear the folk music being performed. The sad soothing tunes seemed to meld with the surroundings to create an environment like none I have found in LA. And the discovery of the back patio made me resend my initial judgement of The Cinema Bar’s ordinary setting.

Image Via: LA Weekly

The bartender at CB (THAT’S RIGHT. I ABREVIATED THE CINEMA BAR. DEAL WITH IT) was straightforward and had the necessary tools to open the beer I ordered. With the show going on and the wine in my system, I had no need to focus on the service or order a cocktail. So lucky you CB, you get a 10/10 on service by default.

The prices were LA prices. No crazy costs, but definitely no cheap deals either. Yet nothing reminds you that you aren’t in a quaint Nebraska bar like paying $6 for a beer. I’m serious, go to any mid-western state and order a beer, you will think you’re in a 3rdworld country when they tell you it’s $2.

The bar is perfect for a small show. Once you get your drinks and sit down in the back, you can take in the great music and watch the locals. And when I mean locals I mean grumpy old men who call out requests and take down beers like Joey Chestnut does hot dogs.

The Cinema Bar is a lax dive with no frills but no issues. Without the live band it would be middle of the road. But with the incorporation of the music and the eclectic locals, this standard spot transforms to somewhat of a hidden gem. If you are looking for a new place to hear up and coming bands, or want to find a venue where a drunk 60 year old man might yell “play free bird” like he coined the phrase, then I highly suggest you make a stop here.

(All rankings out of 5)

Décor: **

Bartenders: ****

Bar Flies: *****

Price: $$

Overall score: 80/100

The Tattle Tale Room

What’s that you’re reading? The musings of your 234thfavorite writer? Can it be? Yes folks, I have returned. After a long hiatus I have jumped back on my journey of discovering my city through it’s watering holes, endless bars, and countless clubs.

My life has had a series of twists and turns over my multi-month break, but one that directly affects this column is the fact that I have moved to the beautiful city of Culver. No longer do I side step trash and avoid getting hit by cars at every corner, now it’s just calm tree lined streets… oh and brand new places to drink.

Culver City has a cornucopia of exciting restaurants, fancy bars, happy hours, and fantastic pubs. But what better way to get to know your neighborhood then by going to your local dive bar. And with it being a Monday night and my terrible San Francisco 49ers playing my good friend’s also terrible Green Bay Packers, we decided to head over to The Tattle Tale Room.

Photo Via: SmartPricer

The Tattle Tale Room sits at the edge of a strip mall in South Culver, and this spot pulls no punches in letting you know it’s there. The bright blue building with screaming red trim beacons you in from Sepulveda, and the Packers flag outside lets you know what this place is ALL about. The second we stepped inside we were met by a ferocious roar as Aaron Rodgers threw for a first down against my porous and sad defense. While I normally don’t indulge in sports bars that are directly rooting against my team (“The Tattle Tale is an official Green Bay Packers bar”), The Tattle Tale will always be an exception. Dimly lit, and sporadically decorated, the small bar hits all the bench marks for what you want your dive to be. This no-frills spot with posters, signs, and mirrors plastered on every wall, makes you feel like you have briefly escaped the superficial and material world that is LA.

The energy inside the bar was electric to say the least. Packed from wall to wall with green jerseys and a couple cheese heads, the patrons were having the time of their life. And while navigating a crowded bar with liquored up adults can sometimes lead to rude exchanges and even fights, it could not have been more opposite here. As we pushed our way through the congested entrance to find a spot to watch the game, people moved aside, ushered us through, and shepherded us to a fantastic position (maybe people are just nicer over here or maybe it’s because my buddy Stokes was in his Packers jersey). As the game progressed it was amazing to see this community come together in support of their team. Say what you will about football’s clear and undeniable danger to the health and well-being of its players… nothing brings strangers together like one man laying out another on national TV.

The Bartenders at Tattle Tale were quick, kind, and efficient. With over 75 people packed into the tight space and a very limited countertop, it was fantastic to see no one waiting more than one to two minutes to get their drink. While I like to experiment with my cocktail orders to get the feel for a bar, this night called for beer. And my long day called for a tall can. So with my tall boy in hand and my #1 Packers friend having the same, we leaned back and relaxed as I lost money on yet another bad Niners game. But it wasn’t all bad, just like the patrons and the bartenders, other people working the bar made the night fantastic. Employees kept the vibe up with DJ sets during commercials and raffles during time outs. Every staff member at this bar worked cohesively to keep the energy up and the party going.

The prices were wonderful. Standard cheap beers/well cocktails and $7 tall cans, what more could you ask for? Tattle Tale also has drink specials for the Packers and free pool on Tuesdays, so if you’re looking for a fun evening that won’t break the bank, this is your spot.

While I didn’t see a menu anywhere at the bar, pizza was everywhere. Tattle Tale seems to have free or cheap food at different times throughout the week. And if you need something more, there is a kebab shop one door down and plenty of fast food within walking distance.

Tattle Tale is a fantastic dive bar, and with 10 TVs it’s also a perfect sports bar for any team (unless they have a strict “No Vikings Game” policy, which wouldn’t surprise me). This local gem has been going strong for over 45 years, and once you get inside you will see why. So do yourself a favor and get over to Culver City, there’s plenty waiting for you at The Tattle Tale Room.

(All rankings out of 5)

Décor: ****

Bartenders: *****

Bar Flies: *****

Price: $

Overall score: 90/100

Sassafras Saloon

There are only a few phrases that I will always say yes to; do you want the rest of my food? I’m buying the next round, do you want a drink? And, let’s go to Sassafras, you down? Sassafras saloon is one of my favorite bars in Los Angeles, and with so many unexplored neighborhoods and establishments, it’s a good sign when a bar can bring me back time and time again.

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Located right off Fountain and Vine, this Hollywood saloon lives up to the old timey vibe its name suggests. Bottles of whiskey hanging from a rotating conveyer belt, decorations looking like a scene straight from Westworld, and a stage two stories up for live music. Sassafras goes all out to capture the bar of the past, and while most establishment’s attempts at this seem tacky, they hit the nail on the head.

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While music and décor are important, the crowning achievement of this bar is the alcohol and the people who serve it. Friendly and fast bartenders churn out craft cocktails and beers like a well-oiled assembly line. I normally get nervous watching a man with mustache wax work on my whiskey sour like it’s his dissertation. Yet, here they perform with such speed and precision I would trust them with an open heart surgery…if I was in a pinch. The cocktails aren’t cheap, but if you are like me and believe that Miller high life is the answer to all your problems, then order some of these $5 babies and enjoy yourself.

If money is really tight, then I suggest you hit this spot on Tax Day. While this day of misery and despair (shouts out all you freelancers out there) comes once a year to wreck our bank accounts and our lives, you can offset your pain with a trip to Sassafras. “$1 old fashions for as long as supplies lasts”. That’s all I needed to hear last year and I was off like a bat out of hell. And after this past Tax Day I am batting 1.000 with getting absolutely wrecked on my 9th favorite cocktail.

The Managing Editor of Lowupside, Craig Horlbeck enjoying his first Tax Day at Sassafras

The patrons of this bar seem to rotate like the whiskey bottles dangling above their heads. One night you have ex-frat stars showing off their money from their first paycheck at Paramount, the next the dance floor is a minefield of swing dancers boogying to the loudest music you have ever heard (sometimes it is legitimately too loud. Maybe I’m getting to the age yet where every bar is too loud, but it can get RIDICULOUS). But all in all, the people of Sassafras are there to get drunk and have a good time. I have yet to have a bad experience with a fellow costumer, but I also have never been on a Monday, so maybe I will have to try that out.

© Sassafras

Sassafras is the perfect bar for a fun evening with friends, or a great 2nd or 3rd date spot. Also, if you are new to the area and your buddy from college told you about this awesome bar called Davey Wayne’s, you are most likely going to spend 45 minutes in a seeminlgy stationay line. When that happens, try walking down Vine to Sassafras. The longest wait is 5 minutes, and you’ll look like a seasoned Angelino for knowing this hidden gem in plain site.

(All rankings out of 5)

Décor: *****

Bartenders: *****

Bar Flies: ***

Price: $$$

Overall score: 98/100

Tended: Malibu Wines

Instagram has transformed the way we spend our time. Many of us plan out our days, trips, and experiences just to show our followers what we did. Maybe it’s a good thing though. Whatever gets us out of the house and into the “real world” is fine by me, even if it’s to show off for the artificial world we have built around us. Let me climb off my high horse and tell you how Instagram landed me at my next location.

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If you live in Los Angeles there are three places you will see your friends post on their “story” time, and time again; Runyon Canyon, The Observatory and the place I spent my last Sunday at…Malibu Wines. This trendy winery is tucked deep away in the Malibu Hills. So far in fact, that you will absolutely want to designate a driver or risk paying an Uber bill the size of your rent check.

After making the hour plus drive to the winery you are quickly told to clear out of the loading zone and travel further into the hills to the designated parking lot, “just up the road.” Once you pull into the packed lot, you’re squeezed on to quaint trollies that take you back down to where you just were. The winery serves as a refuge from the cityscape down below. Gorgeous trees, tasteful decorations, and vast hillsides of vines surround it. Yet the whole time I couldn’t help but feel like I was in every white girl’s “Wedding Goals” Pinterest Page. 

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As I ponied up to the bar I made the quick discovery that this establishment serves either bottles or tastings. So despite my bank account screaming “NO! DON’T DO THIS, PLEASE JUST FOR ONCE BE RESPONSIBLE”, I purchased a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc and trekked up the hillside for a better view of the stunning surroundings. As I poured the bottle for my girlfriend and myself, I thought “how great of a time this is, the location, the weather, the company, all truly fantastic.” As I started to sink into pure bliss the local wine touched my lips and slid down my throat. With what can only be described as a soapy start with a vodka finish, this wine was without a doubt the worst wine I had ever tasted (and I buy a lot of cheap wine). I thought to myself, “No, this can’t be that bad. It cost $40, that means it has to be good”.” I took another sip and said to my date, “is it me, or is this wine terrible?” I quickly found out that it was not just me. Yet being the strong couple we are, we powered through and finished the trash bottle in honor of the money I lost just minutes before.


Yet wine is wine, and the buzz I got from the bottle gave an extra sparkle to the space before me. It’s almost impossible to be in a bad mood at Malibu Wines. The fresh air and nature lifted me up, and the live band kept me going. We headed back to the bar for another tasting. I will save you the time of reading more of my rants and just say this… it was all trash. But what this winery lacked in quality wine, it made up for in sub par, somewhat rude, and sloppy service.

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The pourers didn’t seem interested in the wine at all. They were slow, hard to talk to, and made you almost feel bad to ask for anything at all. And I normally will give people the benefit of the doubt as food service is one of the most taxing and strenuous jobs out there. It is EXTREMELY hard to maintain a calm and inviting presence when you’re 8 hours into a double shift and you have 30 people yelling at you. But this was not that. Almost all the wait staff we came in contact with seemed disinterested and cold, so they are getting my full wrath! Which I guess is just a negative review in an article they will never read.

The place was absolutely packed. People from all walks of life seem to flock to this hidden purveyor of trash liquid. While there were no classic “bar fly’s,” the place was chalk full of Angelenos. I don’t know if it was the alcohol or the location, but Malibu Wines somehow brought together a patchwork of the LA community deep into the hidden hills, high above the smog and fame.

Malibu Wines has the potential to be great. The picturesque scenery, elegant décor and hidden locale score a 10/10, yet the quality of the wine and service drop this hot spot deep into the gutters of my ratings. Don’t get me wrong, while I was unhappy with major aspects of this establishment, I will absolutely be back. With moderate prices, amusing music, and plenty of space to relax, this is a fantastic group hangout. But with that being said, I will for sure be sneaking in my own wine and snacks in order to avoid ever drinking that poison juice again.

(All rankings out of 5)

Décor: *****

Bartenders: *

Bar Flies: ****

Price: $$$

Overall score: 65/100

Tended: Lono Hollywood

© Wonho Frank Lee

There’s something about Hollywood that seems to keep pulling me back. No matter how much I try to stay away, I seem to end up there at least once a week. Maybe it’s the grit, maybe it’s the streets full of both hope and despair, or maybe it’s just the fact that I live five minutes away and there are new bars to try (it’s the last one).

This week I stepped out onto those star-lined streets to try Lono, an “urban oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood Boulevard.” Where, “a curated adventure awaits the intrepid explorer in all of us in this classy homage to the escapist drinking palaces of yesteryear.” First of all, can we ban the use of “Urban Oasis” from now on? The fact that I have only gone to four bars for this column and two of them have used this joke of a description is preposterous.

© Wonho Frank Lee

Walking into Lono is a delight. Where as most Tiki bars over do it, Lono’s homage to Hawaiian culture is beautiful and fun. The tasteful décor and inviting ambiance draws you in, and the bar doesn’t seem to stop. The space is massive, cascading from a bar/sit-down dining area to a massive lounge; Lono utilizes what I’m sure is a considerable monthly rent check.

I got to the bar around 6:30pm this past Tuesday. And while Tuesday night isn’t exactly the best night to see a bar in full swing, I have my reasons (I don’t like waiting in lines). The crowd was small and quiet, post-work colleagues enjoying cocktails and appetizers as well as some ex-fratstars out for an early evening on the town. While it was a slow night, Lono has the potential to be a cracking Friday or Saturday night spot. It’s size, location, and multiple bars make it an excellent hot spot to attend if you want to see Youtube stars living their “Best Lives.”

The bartender at Lono was professional, fast, and skilled. I ordered the Curse of Lono, which, “as tradition dictates, this recipe has been entrusted only to the proprietors. They’ll only say that it is a special blend of exotic juices, intense spices & intoxicating spirits served in a fiery chalice…” Basically it was a sweet rum cocktail with a splash of 151 set on fire. While I have lit too many tables on fire trying to make them at home, I will always jump at the chance to have a burning cocktail where someone else is responsible. My date had the Ring of Fire (mezcal, aged cachaca, aperol, fresh lime, pineapple, ginger, habanero & togarashi spice), and they were both amazing. It’s becoming rarer and rarer to feel welcomed at a bar, and I know many bars see hundreds of patrons a night. But when a bartender can engage with you, answer all your questions, and make you feel right at home, he or she will be getting 10/10 from me every time. And that’s exactly what the staff at Lono managed to do.

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Lono stuck to the script when it came to LA prices. Everything was expensive, but with the intricate cocktail options, skilled service, and high alcohol content, I didn’t mind one bit. And as if they had read my past reviews, the happy hour prices were great! Cheap beer and appetizers a plenty, make it possible to do this sweet spot on a low budget.

While I didn’t know I would be hungry, the menu at Lono sure got me there. I got an order of the Yakisoba Madripoor (ramen noodle stir-fry, charred market vegetables, golden chive, kimchi) that was FANTASTIC. The salty/sweet sauce coating the perfectly pan fried noodles was accented by crunchy veggie bits and a ridiculous kimchi. The rest of the menu looked eclectic and delicious. With great bar snacks and what looked like terrific entrées, Lono doubles as a great date night dining vibe, as well as a hip Friday night hang.

© Wonho Frank Lee

Lono is a modern Tiki bar and an amazing escape from the streets of Hollywood. Unique drinks, personal service, and a beautiful setting make this spot the perfect tropical storm. So if it’s your turn to pick the spot for date night, or you want to wake up with a rum headache because you’re feeling nostalgic about college, get over to Lono, you won’t regret it.

(All rankings out of 5)

Décor: *****

Bartenders: *****

Bar Flies: **

Price: $$$$

Overall score: 93/100