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Where to see history in the old bars of Los Angeles

The neon sign outside the Frolic Room in Hollywood, California.
The neon sign outside the Frolic Room in Hollywood, California.
Photo by Guzzle & Nosh (aka guzzleandnosh) via Flickr

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When you want to order an Old Fashioned that lives up to its name, it turns out L.A. is the right city to find one.

A list from the site counted 29 historic bars in California, more than any other state. Nine of them are in Los Angeles, and to hear more about them and some other historic watering holes around, Libby Denkmann spoke with Alison Martino of Vintage Los Angeles.

Interview highlights

On why California has so many historic bars:

"I think we had such incredible architecture back in the 1930s especially, and a lot of those bars — like The Frolic Room and The Formosa — were built around that time, and they're historic... and a lot of them aren't landmarked. ...[People on Vintage Los Angeles] always ask me, they want to go to a historic bar—not the new thing—they want to see something historic so I send them off to those places. Mike has to make you an honorary member — he gives you a shot of slivovits — and if you take a shot of that, you're in."

On where you can see the history in these bars:

"I think Cole's is a great example and Musso & Frank's because they have that long mahogany bar and a lot of the original fixtures inside. A great place also is The Mint on Pico, where Harry Dean Stanton plays every now and then... and that's a dive but it's also very historic inside, a lot of original fixtures. And again, you gotta go to El Coyote, because that is beyond kitsch—all the stained glass and the old booths."

On her favorite historic spot:

"My favorite bar is Dantana's, which is an Italian restaurant established in 1964, and the bartender there since 1965—he's fantastic, Mike—and that's in the West Hollywood area. The Eagles came in there and wrote a few songs at the bar there and he's told those stories a few times because it's right next to The Troubadour. All these musicians from the 60's and 70's have come through there."

To listen to the full interview, click the blue audio player.