How convenient: Los Angeles' new park 'n' meet bars

THE EVENINGS are a little nippier (despite the Santa Anas), the holidays are around the corner, and meeting up with friends for a good brew is a brilliant idea. Fortunately, a smattering of bars and wine bars have opened that are ideal meet-up spots, with convenient parking and location, good food, plentiful seating and conversation-encouraging ambience (no blaring TVs or too-loud music). Happy hour 'til 8 p.m. is a plus.

How convenient: park 'n' meet bars . Alibi Room. One by one, as the sunset slants into the handsome room's west-facing windows, after-work drop-ins of various ages take stools along the three sides of the triangle bar. Ten minutes later, each has greeted an arriving friend or lover and grabbed cocktails ($7 to $10), local craft drafts ($6 to $7) or glasses of wine ($7 to $9); some have migrated to the sofas and patio. Equidistant between Santa Monica and Inglewood, handy to the Marina and Culver City, the Alibi -- with its dive-bar past (and, hence, small parking lot) is also great for anyone desperate to take a break from the 405. There's nothing like it for miles around -- intimate, stylish, smoothly backgrounded with a tune-in, tune-out playlist of indies and cult classics. It's a place to focus on the one you're with. And maybe on some tasty, honest modern bar food such as the updated ham 'n' cheese sandwich (speck-mozzarella panini) or fresh hot fries. 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. 12236 Washington Blvd. (near Centinela Avenue), Los Angeles, (310) 390-9300, Bacaro. Just a couple of blocks from the intersection of Hoover Street and West Adams Boulevard, not far from USC, there's a nifty, newish wine bar that is clearly targeted to university denizens, but the habitués seem like, you know, poetic, deep-thinking Trojans. Finesse is the watchword here when it comes to wine selection, food preparation and connecting with locals. Park in the back (enter on 24th Street) or easily on the street. Whether it's a moody Monday night, with small groups untangling life's little problems over small plates ($7 each) of grilled octopus, grilled hanger steak, crostini trios or roasted root vegetables; or a Beefsteak Sunday, a monthly all-you-can-eat/drink bacchanal of beef, bread, butter, fries, red wine and beer ($25, call for reservations), there's no slacking on the freshness or quality of the terrific food. The blackboard wall of wine choices, heavy on less-familiar international wine regions, would be entertainment enough, but the room's design is engaging too-- look up at a ceiling niche filled with empty wine bottles shish-kebabed above you. Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 2308 S. Union Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 748-7205, City Sip. Tucked into a storefront not far from where Sunset Boulevard meets Alvarado Street is a new wine bar opened by Nicole Daddio, a self-proclaimed wine enthusiast -- not to be confused with a connoisseur, she says (the sign out front, after all, reads "wine for the people"). It fills a big gap on the Eastside. Heretofore, Echo Park had been dotted with dive bars that more recently have succumbed to hipster-fication, if not gentrification. Who doesn't love the Short Stop? But alas, a glass of Soave or Bardolino with charcuterie or a Spanish chorizo plate is too tall an order for the likes of the Short Stop. Daddio has a selection of salumi and charcuterie, along with a smoked trout plate, and she treats her cheeses with care and serves them with fresh bread, lavender honey, nuts, olives and membrillo. Wines are written on a chalkboard on the wall. There's plenty of street parking; it's metered, but after 6 p.m., no change is necessary -- and it's not unheard of to find a spot in front of the bar. It's also a midway point between Glendale/Pasadena and the Westside/Hollywood. 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. 2150 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, (213) 483-9463, El Prado. Yet more in Echo Park? El Prado's a beer bar (but not just any beer -- there's classy beer such as Affligem, Franziskaner Hefeweizen and St. Bernardus, $4 to $7) that might someday be a wine bar, if co-owners Jeff Ellermeyer and Mitchell Frank are so inclined. Ellermeyer outfitted the former dive (where a lot more than beer drinking used to go down) with a long wooden bar (that looks as if it's made with wood reclaimed from a barn), brass taps, chevron-patterned wood panels on the walls and an artfully placed triangular mirror that seems to channel the album cover of "The Dark Side of the Moon." There's also plenty of seating along the brick wall and a communal table in the back. A few snacks: radishes, apples, cherries, bread, butter, almonds, olives, chocolate. On the record player are LPs from Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart and David Bowie. Neo-rocker-esque types discussing their latest screenplay? Check. Great beer and nibbles? Check. Parking? Check. 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily. 1805 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, no phone, Laurel Tavern. On a traffic-heavy stretch of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City (a.k.a. Sushi Row), Laurel Tavern has a small lot that wraps around the side and back of the building, offering some hope that you and your cohorts might easily drive up and walk directly into this new "contemporary American pub" in the former Sapphire space. That is to say, parking might not be abundant, but your chances are better here than at, for example, the Village Idiot on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Plus, it's convenient from the 101 and just two blocks east of Laurel Canyon. The décor is handsome, with electric blue stools accenting the woodwork. Studio operatives might be yucking it up in one corner while a couple of ladies in scarves sip an Oktoberfest ale or two at the parquet bar. Few seem to be paying attention to the flat screens behind the bartenders. The "Laurel burger" is meaty and juicy, with caramelized onions, Gruyère and arugula, and the steak fries are given a tumble in pork fat (as they are at the Library Bar -- same owners). 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday; opens at noon Saturday and Sunday. 11938 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 506-0777, Mission Cantina. Offering a respite from the overcrowded, overdone bars that populate central Hollywood (let's not even talk about the clubs along the Cahuenga Boulevard corridor), Mission Cantina is a local hangout from bar owner George Abou-Daoud, also responsible for the Bowery and Delancey in the same neighborhood. The bar stocks dozens of tequilas: Arette, Chinaco, D Los Altos, Cazadores, Don Julio. . . . more than enough to please aficionados. A friendly bartender might describe to you how she chopped fresh fruit for her seasonal margarita (recently it was watermelon) at the start of her shift. And you might notice the Roman numerals on the stained-glass windows -- they're years that mark significant events in Mexican history (1821, independence from Spain; 1862, the Battle of Pueblo). The music ranges from Joan Jett to Wilco, and the top tacos are: beef barbacoa, carnitas and chicken with mole poblano. Street parking is plentiful, along the meters on Sunset or around the corner on Gordon Street or Bronson Avenue. 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily; 5 to 8 p.m. happy hour Monday to Friday. 5946 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 469-3130. Sgt. Recruiter. There are only 14 seats, but there's usually room enough for a small group at this wine bar next to Steven Arroyo's Los Feliz outpost of Cobras & Matadors. It's named after Sgt. Recruiter in Paris and is decked out with welcoming coat hooks, old-fashioned light bulbs and cloudy, heavy-framed mirrors. The bartender says the space used to be where the steaks were aged when it was once part of the Hillmont steakhouse. Now there's hanger steak with frites, as well as snacks such as pork rillettes and brandade in the form of croquettes with a dollop of lemon aioli and some fried capers on top. Wines are, appropriately for a Paris-meets-Hollywood boîte, either French or Californian -- say, a Bandol or Chablis or a Sonoma Zin. A good spot for a chilly fall evening. 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; open until midnight Friday and Saturday. 4655 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 669-3922. Twisted Vine Wine Bar and Shop. Minutes from the Anaheim Convention Center, freeway-easy and two blocks from the transportation center (Metrolink/Amtrak), this handsome wine bar is located in a semi-restored midcentury downtown block with lot parking encircled by storefronts. It's an open-arms establishment that conveys ease in many ways: plenty of room in a space defined by wood and wine racks, lots of tables, well-priced flights, generous small-plates portions -- aaahh, no need to jostle or fight for attention. On a weeknight, the bar fills up first as regulars stop in after work and unwind to the smart classic-rock sounds. The kitchen's on its game. An amusing caprese salad on skewers -- heirloom cherries and bocconcini, lightly dressed -- is a tasty expression of California summer-to-fall; an order of three just-made dips and toasts could easily appease four; puff-pastry empanadas are fresh and flavorful. Weekly changing wine and beer flights (spotlighted on the website) are a welcome diversion for groups; the by-glass list ($6 to $24) invites exploration but is also an easy gateway to deciding on a bottle to share. 5 to 11 p.m. Monday; 3 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon to 1 a.m. Saturday; noon to 11 p.m. Sunday; 127 W. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-1200; Zinc Lounge. In a part of the world where "bar" usually means waterfront honky-tonk, Zinc, in Shade -- a boutique hotel in Manhattan Beach's Metlox Plaza -- is a cool sip of water. It's lively but not frantic, with a mixed crowd of hotel guests, locals and friends meeting up. Situated about four blocks from the pier, on top of several levels of underground 75-cents-per-hour metered parking, Metlox Plaza is a town gathering spot. After drinks and snacks at Zinc, you're within steps of plenty of restaurants and walking distance to the beach. There's a modern marine feel to the lounge (part of the hotel lobby) with its terrace seating under sea-green shades, blue-green couches, aqua walls, glass-topped tables. There's an unobtrusive flat-screen area of the bar (as well as $7 SoCal microbrews on draft) for travelers who can't miss the game, but more often the mood favors a delicious Pink Zinc (sparkling wine and guava nectar, $10), a fresh-fruit martini ($13) or a brand-name California wine ($10 to $20 a glass) to sip with beach-themed small plates such as lobster ceviche (a martini-glass sundae of lobster in coconut milk with limes and chiles) or mini corn dogs (really, they're fun). Parties of six or more can reserve a table. 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. 1221 N. Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach, (310) 698-5559; -- Betty Hallock and Susan LaTempa

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad