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Watering Holes

The L.A. Taco Guide to Sweet Dive Bars in the Valley, Vol. 1

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he Valley gets a bad rap sometimes, but do not be fooled. There’s glory there, and you’ll find it hidden amongst modest, unassuming strip malls (with plenty of free parking). Sprawling over 224 square miles, the San Fernando Valley is divvied up into 34 neighborhoods within L.A. city limits, with an array of cultures, cuisines, and also an array of excellent dive bars. I’ve been drawn to these dimly lit haunts with killer jukeboxes since I was old enough to order a beer. These hidden gems of Southern California have holiday lights that stay up year-round, walls that will tell you stories (along with the regulars), and weird liquors that seem to only exist in dive bars across America — looking at you, Blackberry Brandy. When you’re ready to get away from the usual L.A. thing, check out these sweet Valley dives.

The Blue Room

Open daily from 10am - 2am / Cash only! / 323-849-2779

916 S San Fernando Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502

Out front, on San Fernando Boulevard, the neon sign beckons. Walking into the bar, the door squeals loudly as your eyes adjust to the dimly lit room. It’s beautiful in here and nearly impossible to tell what year it is anymore. This is The Blue Room and it’s been here since 1947. Regulars know to come in through the rear entrance where there is a parking lot and a relaxing outdoor smoking patio to enjoy the last few hours of daylight. This place ticks all the boxes: groovy booths for getting cozy or talking trash, relaxed vibe, and a jukebox with everything from Kendrick Lamar to Amy Winehouse to Van Halen. On Thursday nights there’s a live open jam that really livens the mood. Be sure to bring some cash, but if you forget, there in an ATM inside. There is a happy hour, but the prices are on the cheap side no matter what time it is.

Chimneysweep Lounge

Open Monday - Saturday 1pm - 2am / Sundays 10am - 1:45am / 818-783-3348

4354 Woodman Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

The ’Sweep is so glorious I couldn’t bring myself to take photos inside; you’ll just have to experience it for yourself. I love bringing folks here from out of town or catching up with pals over burritos, picked up at Cactus a few steps away. On the wall above the jukebox (which is free on Sundays and Mondays), you’ll see a list of the regulars celebrating a birthday that month. In the corner near the game room is a popcorn machine for your inevitable salty snack attack. When I was there a couple weeks back, Mercyful Fate blared out of the jukebox on a rainy night. It was a perfect evening for chilling out near the fireplace. Happy hour is from 4 to 7 pm.

RELATED: Where Locals Eat Good Tacos In the Santa Clarita Valley ~ The L.A. Taco Guide

The Snug, March 2018.
the snug, march 2018

The Snug

Monday - Saturday Noon - 2am and Sundays 9:30am - 2am / 818-557-0018

4108 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505

With a name like “The Snug” how can you resist? This little neighborhood spot has an Irish pub vibe with comfortable booths, a well-stocked whisky selection, crafty beers, and free pretzels. There’s a jukebox that plays everything from Mariah Carey to the stoner metal jams of Sleep. You can’t go wrong with their friendly bartenders and affordable prices. There’s always plenty of street parking and happy hour is from 4pm - 7pm weekdays with three-dollar beer, wine, and wells.

The Universal Bar and Grill

Open Monday - Saturday 11am - 2am, Sundays 10am - 2am / 818-766-2114

4093 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91602

The Universal is one of those spots you might miss unless you’re looking for it. Sandwiched between the L.A. River and a marijuana dispensary, this Studio City/North Hollywood bar and grill is frequented by the folks behind the scenes of your favorite films and television shows. From the very first time I walked in, I was hooked; it just felt comfortable to me from the get-go. Grab a beer and sit outside on the patio to watch the sunlight change from gold to pink and every shade in between. Red velvet wallpaper lines the walls in a room off to the side if you wanna relax while the daytime regulars watch Wheel of Fortune. They have live entertainment, with comedy and music on the calendar from time to time. To be honest though, the best part of this bar is just relaxing and soaking in the scenery. Enjoy yourself.

RELATED: Tracing L.A.’s Mexican and Irish Connection for St. Patrick’s Day

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