When you’re stuck inside all day, you look for ways to justify it. You tell yourself there’s free coffee, fast internet, and virtually zero chance a bird will poop on your head.
But then you make the mistake of looking out the window, or going down the block to pick up your lunch, and you realize how much you’d rather be outside. And that leads to the inevitable 3pm “drinks after work?” group text, because you live in Los Angeles, and you should enjoy that fact. These are the best places to eat and drink outside after work.
Lanea is a bright Mexican restaurant in Downtown Santa Monica, and the kind of place that will raise your spirits no matter how many passive-aggressive emails you received that day. With over 400 different kinds of tequila and mezcal, the margaritas are the way to go. But come hungry too, because their menu is from the people behind Barba Kush, one of East LA’s best taquerias. Get the perfectly-spiced lamb barbacoa.
There are a number of excellent hotel rooftops Downtown these days, but for after-work drinks, you’ll find us at Broken Shaker. Located on top of the Freehand, this pool bar has excellent cocktails, snacks that range from fried fish tacos and $3 oysters, and a fun energy that never gets too rowdy.
This upscale rooftop restaurant in Culver City is great for many occasions, but particularly useful for grabbing a drink after work. Its location at The Platform is right next to the train stop and only a few blocks from downtown Culver, making it convenient for people who work in the area while also providing an option for a safe commute home if you have one too many gin and tonics.
Downtown Santa Monica is heavy on mall restaurants and coffee chains, but a lot lighter on nice places to drink outside. Esters, though, is an excellent wine shop with a huge bottle selection and a great menu of sandwiches and cheese boards. Head straight to their patio, where there are some longer tables that can fit larger groups.
Mama Shelter is a rooftop bar with great views of the Hills and a blessed lack of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of a Real Housewife. Which means it should be at the top of your after-work list. Come with a couple friends, order one of the eight versions of Moscow mules, and sit on brightly-colored chairs while you argue with each other about how tall the Hollywood sign actually is.
With its views of the marina and Seal Beach, Ballast Point is the best place to drink outdoors in Long Beach. It’s much calmer after work than on weekends, when it can feel a bit like a frat party. Almost everyone here will be coworkers and friends meeting up to drink IPAs you can’t find in a grocery store, and eat things from a solid menu of bar snacks.
Alta in West Adams has a menu full of interesting takes on Southern staples, like oxtails and rice, black-eyed peas (in fritter form), and some of the crispiest fried chicken in town. It also has one of LA’s best patios - we especially like it because Alta’s cocktails seem specifically designed to be consumed outside (like the “Bikini Bottom,” with mezcal, pineapple, and cilantro).
After another sh*tty day of staring blankly at Excel spreadsheets when you’d really rather be working in the Galapagos as a Planet Earth key grip, head to this dive bar/biergarten in Silver Lake. There aren’t any blue-footed boobies here, but on the patio on a weekday, it does feel like you’ve escaped LA. It’s dark, quiet, and, like when you’re chilling with a bunch of birds, no one is going to talk to you about expense reports.
You know a place is doing something right when hanging out on their patio feels more like a vacation than a trip to Downtown - and that’s exactly what it’s like going to Rappahannock Oyster Bar at the Row. You can pretend you’ve picked up and moved to Chesapeake Bay, with cobblestone streets all around you, string lights, and a big tree looming over the patio. There’s a good list of wine and beer, and oysters that come from the restaurant’s own farm in Virginia. If you want something more substantial, the lobster roll is also up there with the best in town.
The patio at Connie and Ted’s used to be one of the most crowded spots in LA. Fortunately, things have calmed down some, so now you don’t have to plan ahead when you want the best New England-style seafood in LA. Close your eyes while you’re eating the seafood boil, and you can almost imagine you’re on a dock in Cape Cod. That’s impressive considering you’re on one of the busier parts of Santa Monica Blvd.
You and the other former assistants from your first job in LA still have a group text to keep track of your terrible old bosses. And to also occasionally plan random nights where you all meet up and have too much beer together. The next time it’s one of those nights, go to the Fat Dog. Even though they have the same studio worker crowd as other North Hollywood and Studio City spots, there are a lot fewer people talking about work than you usually get. Take advantage of the good cocktail and beer lists, and order some potato skins for the table while you talk about whose old boss finally got fired.
This Glassell Park bar doesn’t look like much from the outside, but head inside and out the back, you’ll find a biergarten you probably never knew existed. They’ve got 20 beers on tap, including some hard-to-find stuff from places like Kern River Brewing, and DJs playing music you actually want to listen to. You can also get rowdy here on a weeknight, if you want to - they always have deals on picklebacks, and affordable shots of good whiskey. Technically, there’s no food here, but there always a few food trucks parked out front.