Los Angeles is a hell of a city. Debatably it’s the city of the moment. A city that has too much of everything. With eight professional sports teams, what feels like a million different restaurants and a never-ending sea of new people coming to chase their dreams and clog up traffic, it can be a little overwhelming at times. But to my absolute delight, this plethora of options spills over into the world of bars. So, so many Bars.
I’m David Ledwith and I absolutely love to drink. I love the social nature of it, I love the taste, I love the feeling and beyond all else I love a great bar. Yet, just like so many others I fall prey to the fact that it’s remarkably easy to do nothing at all. Not getting dressed up, not spending money and not going out are beautiful things. And it’s strikingly simple to look back at your week and realize that you just wasted 7 days of what my Dad’s friend Michael describes as, “your glory years son”.
And so, to better take advantage of the city home to California’s steepest street (TAKE THAT SAN FRANCSICO), I plan to dive deep into LA’s historic and hidden bars, searching each week for history, fun and lots of drinks.
For my first attempt at trying to mask my functioning alcoholism with journalism, I decided to head down the block from my apartment to Tom Bergin’s, an Irish pub going strong in the Mid City Area since 1936. Bergin’s exterior looks like a cross between a quaint Galway cabin and a steak house where old producers sit in the back and make comments about the waitresses’ figures. With plenty of parking in the lot out front, it’s a perfect place for the idiots who still drive to bars when Lyft and Uber exist.
The bright neon sign out front beckoned me, and the sound of trivia coming from inside pulled me right in. When you walk into Bergin’s you immediately notice the shamrocks plastered on seemingly every inch of wall space in the bar, ceiling included. And unlike other “Irish Pubs” in the area, who try to fake their authenticity through Leprechauns and Guinness signs from Urban Outfitters, Bergin’s transports you to another part of the world. The wood work combined with the old Hollywood memorabilia makes for a straight forward, no bullshit Irish pub that doesn’t try to pretend like it’s not smack dab in the heart of LA.
While I didn’t try the food, or the Irish Coffee, I went for a drink that can be a hit or miss for me at any bar. An Old Fashion will tell you right away if the Bartender has been around for a while, or if they are doing this just to pay the bills for their acting lessons. To my delight, it was clear… Bergin’s meant business.
Once I finished my first drink I had to know what the hell the over 1300 shamrocks in this place were all about. Name after name as far as you could see. After asking the bartender who without a doubt, gets asked the same question 10-15 times a day, she kindly explained how every name on every shamrock is or was a regular of the bar, all the way from when they opened to now. Names of men and women I’ll never know anything about, and names of men and women that will go down in history. It seems that Bergin’s has been host to regular patrons like Julia Roberts, Ronald Regan, and even Cary Grant, who’s shamrock sits framed above his old booth near the back of the restaurant. And touting LAs 2nd oldest Liquor License (claimed not confirmed), there is no telling how many of tinsel town’s most historic asses have sat on these barstools.
As most of my drinking experiences go, after my first drink I wanted another. And when a bar has a beer and a shot combo, I’m going to take it. I went with one of their three “Boilermakers”, a Harp and a shot of Jameson Black Barrel. As I tilted my head up to put back the whiskey I noticed that Rams memorabilia adorning the wooden guts of the bar. Signed posters, banners and more, not only was I in a great pub, but what seemed to be a pretty decent sports bar. So if you’re like 80% of this city and you just became a fan of the local teams because you have no allegiance to your city back home (go Niners), this could be the place for you!
The clientele of a bar can be as important as the people that staff it. While I love a good dive bar, the threat of a stabbing could keep me away. And I’m all for a roof top lounge, but if all I’m going to hear about is someone’s great new web series and auditions they almost got, I’m going to throw myself off that same roof. Bergin’s seemed to have a pretty solid neighborhood feel. With a median age floating around 30 to 35, the crowd was a little old. But no one acted their age. Loud hoots and hollers, a couple of black outs and some people just enjoying a late dinner, it was a perfect mix of calm and rowdy.
After driving by Tom Bergin’s at least 5 times a week for the past year, it was a pleasant surprise to find out I lived so close to such a great Bar. What the establishment lacks in cheap prices, it makes up for in charm, history, authenticity and damn good cocktails. So if you find yourself in the mid city area, and you need a place to watch Todd Gurley light up defenses, or just want a good stiff drink, stop by Bergin’s, you wont be disappointed.
(All rankings out of 5)
Bar Flies: ***
Overall score: 90/100