Atwater Village’s the Roost a comforting kind of dive bar
The Roost: Because you like drinking with your grandpa — or just that guy at the end of the bar who looks like him. A dyed-in-the-wool dive in Atwater Village, the Roost is the kind of place you go to get lost. It’s dark inside, day and night, with the sole illumination coming from a series of hanging lights equipped with dim red bulbs that make the place feel comfortingly womb-like.
Worn, red booths line the walls, and the tables are topped with faux-wood Formica that is peeling up at the corners. The jukebox is loaded with classics such as Tom Petty, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, and the bartenders (who work alone and always seem to be tough women) have wrists looser than Justin Bieber’s pants. Food isn’t served, but sometimes a regular will bring in a boxed pizza and leave it out on a table by the bar. Or you can just opt to dish up a paper bag of salty popcorn coated in orange mystery dust from the bar’s old-fashioned popcorn machine. Nibble on that with your smudged glass of whiskey from the well and forget. Just forget.
Located on a particularly hopping stretch of Los Feliz Boulevard, the Roost is within walking distance of three other worthy bars: the cheeky Scottish-themed Tam O’ Shanter (which has been open for more than 90 years and is worth a visit in its own right); the ski-lodge-on-acid that is the Bigfoot Lodge; and the more modern, but still vaguely woodsy Griffin. By contrast, the Roost aspires to be nothing but what it is — a frills-free room for drinking, easy conversation and late-night soul searching.
The Roost has changed hands many times, and attempts to peg down an actual opening date have been unsuccessful, but the bar once had a wigwam on its roof and was called, fittingly, the Wigwam. This was likely in the 1950s or ‘60s, according to one bartender. It was also formerly known as Donna’s Red Carpet and Robin’s Roost. The notoriously heartbroken late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith used to frequent the bar, which makes sense because to this day after a given hour (around 10 p.m.) the craggy, old regulars are replaced with a consciously disheveled crowd of musicians and artists.
Places like the Roost are quickly becoming extinct in Los Angeles. The counterculture lifestyle as defined by the modern hipster is morphing into the mainstream, as is its habit of appropriating places, fashions and art once considered marginal by the masses. One day someone will buy the Roost and turn it into a fancy simulacrum of itself and you’ll be sad that you didn’t know it back when.
Mixed drinks are strong and cheap here, and something in the air at the Roost (maybe the smell of popcorn mixed with a legacy of stale smoke) makes a simple gin and tonic or vodka soda taste like the stuff of gods. Don’t be afraid to order from the well. Yeah, it’s gut-rot level stuff, but this is where you drink from the lowest shelf — and like it.
Where: 3100 Los Feliz Blvd., L.A.
Hours: Daily, 12 p.m.-2 a.m.
Info: (323) 664-7272
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