This must be West Hollywood

Pickle is an imposing figure. In her uniform of vibrant pageant dresses and a bouffant blond wig, the vivacious, live-singing drag queen is hard to miss both on and off the stage. Perhaps a good quality to have as the inaugural official Drag Laureate of West Hollywood.

A native of Los Angeles, Pickle came up in the bars and clubs that cluster around the west end of Santa Monica Boulevard, a.k.a. the backbone of this tiny city-within-a-city. As one of only two official Drag Laureates in the country (the other is in San Francisco), Pickle has been tasked with highlighting and enhancing the appreciation and impact of drag culture in West Hollywood. “There’s an unofficial saying: So goes WeHo, so goes California, so goes the nation,” Pickle says. “WeHo is such a young city. … It’s just a really vibrant patch of land.”

Get to know Los Angeles through the places that bring it to life. From restaurants to shops to outdoor spaces, here’s what to discover now.

For a city that stands at just 1.9 square miles, West Hollywood punches way above its weight in terms of cultural impact. As an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County until a coalition of LGBTQ activists, seniors and renters came together to establish the first city council in 1984, it has been the backdrop for the hippie movement of the 1960s and ’70s, the punk rock scene of the ’80s and a home to L.A.’s queer community since its inception.

It’s also been the unofficial playground of Hollywood since Hollywood began. WeHo landmarks like Chateau Marmont and the Sunset Tower Hotel have been the stomping grounds of the biggest celebrities in the world, and music venues like the Troubadour and Whisky A Go Go birthed the careers of Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell and countless others. West Hollywood also knows how to party. Every October, ghouls, goblins, sexy firefighters and the like roam the open streets in one of the country’s biggest Halloween carnivals, and come June, WeHo Pride transforms West Hollywood Park into the epicenter of music, art and all-around queer joy.


When it comes to politics and social issues, West Hollywood has always been at the progressive forefront. It was one of the first cities in the nation to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2008. (After the decree, actor George Takei, known for playing Sulu in the original “Star Trek” series, and his partner, Brad Altman, were among the first wave of people to obtain the new gender-neutral marriage licenses from West Hollywood City Hall. “May equality live long and prosper,” he announced as he flashed the famous Vulcan hand salute.) WeHo also has one of the strictest rent-stabilization laws in the country, protections for senior housing and more public art per capita than any other city in the U.S.

And fun fact: The city council gave Stormy Daniels the keys to the city on May 23, 2018, naming it Stormy Daniels Day.

When I first moved to Los Angeles from New York, I didn’t know West Hollywood was an independent city. What I did know is that my husband and I were nervous about leaving NYC’s public transportation behind. So we made it a priority to find a neighborhood that was relatively central and had at least a few restaurants and shops within walking distance. Eleven years later and we still haven’t left WeHo’s wildly irregular borders. (Is it a tiny pistol? An aging T. rex?)

Thanks to traffic, nothing in L.A. is close. But the beauty of West Hollywood is that everything feels easy to get to. Eastside neighborhoods like Silver Lake or Los Feliz are a straight shot east on Fountain Avenue. I like twisting my way west on Sunset Boulevard to get to the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu, snaking through the posh ZIP Codes of Bel-Air, Westwood and the Pacific Palisades. DTLA is a quick trip down the 101, and hiking in the hills is even easier.


And if we don’t feel like traveling, there’s plenty to do right in our own backyard. The Pickup, a free trolley service that runs the length of the city along Santa Monica Boulevard Friday through Sunday evenings, is an easy way to get to Or Bar or Schmitty’s, our favorite watering holes, without having to worry about who’s driving home or paying for the Uber.

This is the little city in the center of it all, in a city with no real geographical center.

This must be West Hollywood.

What's included in this guide

Anyone who’s lived in a major metropolis can tell you that neighborhoods are a tricky thing. They’re eternally malleable and evoke sociological questions around how we place our homes, our neighbors and our communities within a wider tapestry. In the name of neighborly generosity, we included gems that may linger outside of technical parameters. Instead of leaning into stark definitions, we hope to celebrate all of the places that make us love where we live.

Showing  Places
Swimmer Cody Epperson, in a black bathing cap and goggles, perches at the edge of a pool
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Start your day with a few laps at the West Hollywood Aquatics Center

West Hollywood Public Pool
One of the greatest things about being part of a small town within a larger city is the access to pretty impressive public spaces. And a shiny newish example of that is the West Hollywood Aquatics Center, which sits next to the equally impressive West Hollywood Library on the south side of West Hollywood Park.

Here you’ll find WeHo residents enjoying a $3 lap swim ($7.50 for nonresidents) in 85-degree water in two rooftop pools that also offer enchanting views of the Hollywood Hills and DTLA in between strokes. Inside, there’s a large court for ball playing (basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, etc.) and five community rooms that can be rented for group activities or meetings. The facility also houses West Hollywood’s Public Access TV studio, with memberships and workshops available for any aspiring filmmakers out there (this town probably has a few of those).
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A bearded smiling man carries a bucket of flowers at an outdoor farmers market
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Find fresh goodies (and do some fancy window shopping) at the Melrose Place Farmers Market

Beverly Grove Farmers Market
Every Sunday morning, in the shadow of the blue, red and green Pacific Design Center, local vendors set up tables under white tents to peddle their wares at the Melrose Place Farmers Market. Stroll the booths of certified organic fruits and vegetables, grab a bouquet of freshly grown flowers or load up on prepared foods like hot pupusas or fresh pastries. I always make a beeline for the Brothers Products stand and grab some of my favorite dips, like the homemade “Kitchen Sink” hummus, an addictive blend of chickpeas, jalapeños, cilantro, artichokes and roasted red peppers.

Once you’ve made your purchases, it’s always fun to stroll back to your car by way of the outer sidewalks of Melrose Place so that you can do a little window shopping at stores like the Row, Oscar de la Renta and Marni. Sadly, there’s no actual apartment complex where hot Angelenos behave badly like on the famous prime-time drama of the ’90s. But there is the original Alfred Coffee shop, where hot Angelenos sit around and check their DMs. It’s kind of the same thing if you think about it.
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A person on a yellow ladder that's leaning against full black bookshelves
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Meet your favorite author at Book Soup

West Hollywood Bookstore
I love the smell of a bookstore. There’s something about the aromatic combination of paper and low-pile carpeting that comforts me. Whenever I feel the need for something new to read, I head to Book Soup. The zigzag-shaped shelves that flank the two sides of the shop are packed with books of all genres and bindings. I always find myself standing in front of the wall of travel books, whether I have travel plans or not, flipping through random guidebooks. And the magazine stand out front is always a fun — and sadly nostalgic — peruse.

But the best part of a local bookstore, like video rental stores before it, are the staff picks and recommendations. On a recent visit, I walked out with the novel “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune (staffer Sydney noted that this “cozy fantasy is perfect for the weird kids”) and Nora Ephron’s 1983 memoir “Heartburn” (staffer Asha’s recommendation).

Founded by two UCLA grad students in 1975 and in its current location since 1980, Book Soup has seen its stretch of Sunset Boulevard evolve from the heady (and sometimes seedy) days of the 1970s and ’80s when it was sandwiched between head shops. Over the years, it has hosted events for literary greats including Gore Vidal, Edward Albee and Tom Stoppard. Check the shop’s calendar to find out who’ll be stopping by next.
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Purses, clothing and other vintage items on display
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Put together the perfect fit at Jet Rag Vintage

Fairfax Vintage Store
Vintage shopping is hot again in L.A. And with more shops popping up, you could be just one rack of old denim away from finding a hidden designer gem. Still, with the resurging interest comes surging prices — think $60 for a threadbare “Space Jam” tee.

For now, Jet Rag is bucking that trend. The cavernous space on La Brea is packed with inventory, all carefully organized by color, size and clothing type. And all with prices grounded in reality. On a recent outing, I picked up a black beret, a women’s black shawl and a string of pearls that were perfect for a last-minute Mama Fratelli costume for a “Goonies”-themed dinner party, along with a plaid button-down shirt and red bandanna for hiking, all for about $50.

For the real bargain hunters, the main action happens on Sundays when Jet Rag has its $1 parking lot sale. Show up by 10 a.m. and casually sift through the clothes already on the parking lot pavement. Around 10:30 a.m., giant bundles are neatly placed in parallel rows, and at about 10:45 a.m., a Jet Rag employee will give everyone the ground rules and then proceed to cut the cable ties around each bundle. Once the last one is open, the madness begins. Pro tip: Don’t hesitate, just dive in and grab as much as you can, then take your loot to the side and go through it, discarding rejects back into the main pile.
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The corner of a pink building juts up into the blue sky.
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Get the perfect selfie at the Pink Wall

Beverly Grove Photo Op
Real talk: For the better part of 11 years. I’ve driven by this bright pink wall with the biggest eye roll as hordes of tourists and content chasers would line up and clog the Paul Smith parking lot in a quest for the perfect shot. But then it hit me. For more than a decade, people have been flocking to this corner of West Hollywood to take the same picture over and over. In the fast-moving world of social media trends, that seems unheard of. That’s staying power.

Originally painted before Instagram was really even a thing, the pink hue is unique to Paul Smith, who holds the trademark so no one else can order it. And, fun trivia, the wall gets repainted roughly every three months and must be cleaned by hand, as hosing it down will degrade the color.

So yes, it’s a little ridiculous to think that people still plan visits so that they get the perfect light for their perfect pose against the perfect vibrant pink wall. But given what it’s seen over its lifetime, maybe it’s time we give it a little respect.
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A brick arch over an ornate door.
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Walk through West Hollywood’s golden era of architecture

West Hollywood Walk
In the 1920s, West Hollywood was the center of lavish apartment living for Hollywood stars, writers and decked-out-in-diamonds socialites. Architects of the day created ornate masterpieces that still stand proud, all within a four-block radius.

Start at Villa d’Este at 1355 N. Laurel Ave. You’ll marvel at the striking Romanesque villa, built and designed by architect brothers Walter and Pierpont Davis, known for championing the built-around-a-courtyard style apartments seen all over the city. Next door at 1343 Laurel Ave. is Tara House, the landmark building named after Tara from “Gone With the Wind.” Built in 1914 with nickelodeon money (the first iteration of theaters, not the network), its owner, Elsie Weisman, hosted star-studded parties with brilliant thinkers like Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Keep going north to 1403 N. Laurel Ave. and you’ll see F. Scott Fitzgerald’s apartment where he wrote his final book, “The Last Tycoon.”

Crossing up and over to Havenhurst Drive, you’ll see hit after hit, including the Andalusia (1471 Havenhurst Drive), the Colonial House (1416 Havenhurst Drive), the “Ship’s Bow” Apartments (1415 Havenhurst Drive), and La Ronda (1400 Havenhurst Drive), where the Marx brothers once lived.
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A man at the window of a colorful burger stand
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Grab one of L.A.’s best burgers at Irv’s Burgers

West Hollywood Burgers
There’s something to be said for a burger joint that’s opened and reopened three times, each with a joyful sigh of relief from loyal fans. It’s true what they say: You just can’t keep a good thing down. Irv’s was first established in 1946 and run by Irv Glendis. In 2000, the Hong family took it over and have run it ever since, and their love for the business of burgers and the community they serve has cemented their status as local luminaries.

The current iteration of Irv’s, still run by the beloved Hong family, stands at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Laurel Avenue, just five blocks west of its original location. (Look for the historical marker in front of what is now Arden’s Restaurant, highlighting Irv’s original date.) The classic burger stand offers classic burger stand things: The Original Roadside Burger with tomato, pickle, American cheese and just enough Irv’s sauce to fill the corners of your mouth is a go-to order, as are the chili cheese dog and BLT. It should go without saying, but everything should come alongside an order of cheese fries. Grab a stool at the sidewalk counter or pop into the glass-enclosed dining room and take in the wall of fame that highlights the joint’s celebrated history.
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The Chateau Marmont Hotel.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP)

Lunch with the Hollywood crowd at Chateau Marmont

Hollywood Hills West Historic Hotel
No matter how many times I’ve been here, my heart always starts to beat a little faster as I walk up the stairs and into the posh lobby of this famed hotel. There’s an intoxicating blend of Hollywood history and, well, money that both excites me and makes me question my wardrobe choices. Swing a left at the cozy lobby bar and head out to the outdoor restaurant, where you’ll dine under Moroccan-style canopies and try hard not to stare at the famous clientele. If you want to blend in, here are a few tips:
  • Make a reservation. Regardless of the meal, tables are hard to come by. And preference is given to guests of the hotel. So either call or reserve online up to two weeks in advance.
  • Dress for the occasion, but don’t overdo it. Especially for a lunch date, business casual is more than enough. This is L.A. after all; the sloppier you look, the more important you seem!
  • Don’t take pictures. Yes, that’s Natasha Lyonne and Chris Rock having dinner at the next table. And you did spot Tracee Ellis Ross having a casual lunch with a friend on your way to the bathroom. But tuck those images into your memory bank, because your camera phone is unwelcome.
  • Finally, have a good time. Unlike other hot spots around town, everyone here is actually pretty friendly. From the hostess who greets you with a gentle smile to the waiter who’ll very discreetly remind you of the above camera policy, everyone is chill and happy you’re there.
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Penne in a red sauce in a white bowl
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Or become a lunchtime regular at Mauro Cafe

Beverly Grove Restaurant
Tucked away on the parking lot side of a low-slung, ivy-covered building on Melrose, Mauro Cafe is a small, unassuming restaurant serving light, coastal Italian fare to L.A.’s “quiet luxury” crowd. Grab a table inside, on the patio or in the garden (a.k.a. the gazebo constructed in the parking lot during the pandemic) and enjoy a casual lunch among people who seem to “do lunch” as a profession.

Opened in 1992, the restaurant used to share the building with the famed department store Fred Segal, which led to excellent people-watching as well-heeled shoppers treated the parking lot like a runway. But at the end of last year, the store mysteriously closed. At Mauro Cafe, that’s more reason to focus on the lively crowd seated around you. Many guests are greeted by name by servers who seem able to call up their favorite dishes, holiday plans and family members as if they’re old friends.

The menu here is not extensive or inventive. But not everything has to be. What it lacks in originality, it makes up in comfort. The penne Bolognese is as good as you’ll have anywhere, the prosciutto di Parma sandwich perfect for a light meal. You aren’t going to write home about the food, but you will be coming back regularly.
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A crowd stands outside under a big yellow lighted Barney's Beanery sign at the restaurant
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Throw some darts at Barney’s Beanery

West Hollywood Dive Bar
It’s kind of hard to believe that this dive bar on Holloway Drive has been around for 100 years, but once you’ve parked yourself at a booth or the bar for an evening, it’s easy to see why. The vibe is chill, the drinks aren’t ridiculously overpriced, and if you hang out there often enough, the brassy but friendly waitstaff is bound to start remembering your order. In a section of town that always seems to be after the hot new thing, it’s comforting to know that Barney’s walls covered in license plates, vinyl booths with decoupaged tabletops and dart boards in the back room remain constant.

Given that it’s been around for a century, Barney’s is no stranger to being on and off the Best Of lists. It had a big heyday in the early 2000s when the likes of the Kardashian sisters were regulars, then was kinda quiet in the 2010s. But it seems to have once again found its footing with the Gen Z crowd. If you’re heading there on a weekend to watch a game, make a reservation.
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People in a booth with cocktails under a disco ball
(Silvia Rázgová / For The Times)

Get your drag fix at Hamburger Mary’s

West Hollywood Restaurant
There’s more to Hamburger Mary’s than drag bingo, the legendary event that mixes bingo, stiff margaritas and drag queens lovingly (but aggressively) taunting its patrons every Tuesday and Wednesday. There’s also drag brunch on weekends, drag cabaret on Saturday nights and drag karaoke (Maryoke) on Tuesday nights. Hamburger Mary’s is a drag-themed burger restaurant, so get into it.

Though the sashaying queens lip-syncing to Ariana Grande might be the main attraction, the food is pretty legit. Staples like the Barbara-Q Bacon Burger, covered in spicy sweet barbecue sauce and Jack and cheddar cheese, and the Love Me Tenders (chicken strips) are crowd favorites. For the table, opt for the Mary’s Handbag Sampler (tenders, fries, fried pickles, onion rings) and frozen margaritas. Then, as the lights dim and the disco ball starts to spin, bask in the neon pink glow of the sign encouraging patrons to “Eat, Drink and Be Mary.”
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The Woods West Hollywood Koi pond and view of smoking bungalows.
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Giggle gleefully in a jungle oasis at the Woods and Ganja Giggle Garden

West Hollywood Cannabis Store
You’re probably thinking, “A weed shop in L.A.? Groundbreaking.” But the Woods isn’t your run-of-the-mill dispensary designed to feel like you’re shopping at an Apple store. Sandwiched in an ivy-covered building next to Norah and across from Hamburger Mary’s, it’s packed with whimsical personality. First off, this place has some serious star power — Bill Maher, John McEnroe and local herbal enthusiast Woody Harrelson all have a stake in it. Harrelson is even known to shoot the breeze with guests when he’s hanging out there.

And just behind the pot shop, there’s the Ganja Giggle Garden, a lush, leafy sanctuary decked out with Buddha statues, koi fish the size of small dogs and cozy cabanas perfect for enjoying your smoke in style. Book one for yourself, or join in the communal area for a spontaneous smoke session in a green oasis.
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Sunset Tower Hotel exterior with palm trees
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Sip a cocktail at the Tower Bar at Sunset Tower Hotel and watch Hollywood do its thing

Hollywood Hills West Historic Hotel
Built in 1929, the Sunset Tower Hotel started off as a luxury apartment building for stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne. It became the luxury hotel it is now when hotelier Jeff Klein and his then-business partner Peter Krulewitch purchased the property in 2004 and enlisted designer Paul Fortune to bring it back to its original glory.

You don’t need to book a room to get a taste of that Old Hollywood luxury. Just grab a table at the Tower Bar restaurant and watch Hollywood come to you. Opened in 2005 in what was originally Bugsy Malone’s ground-floor apartment, the restaurant is split into two areas: The Tower Bar is more formal, with walnut-paneled walls and velvet booths tucked away in dark corners, while the Terrace Bar has a brighter, more airy vibe, with custom pink suede semicircular banquettes and sofas accented by potted palm trees. At the Terrace Bar, snag a reservation near the floor-to-ceiling windows for a spectacular view of the pool and downtown L.A. Visiting this Art Deco landmark is something every Angeleno should experience at least once.
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A drum kit and amplifiers in a blue-lighted room under a sign that says Whisky
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Discover a new band at Whisky A Go Go

Hollywood Hills West Live Music Venue
Nestled along the Sunset Strip, the Whisky A Go Go isn’t just a live-music venue — it’s a living, breathing monument to rock ’n’ roll history. This iconic club has been a launchpad for musical legends and a hub for cultural rebellion. Picture this: the hallowed stage where the Doors lit up the night, Led Zeppelin made its American debut and the Rolling Stones left an indelible mark.

Stepping inside feels like you’re entering a time capsule of rock mythology. The dark intimate space almost makes you nostalgic for indoor smoking. And the stage is surprisingly accessible, making it feel like you’re watching a band perform in someone’s living room rather than a legendary locale.

Despite its rock ’n’ roll pedigree, the Whisky a Go Go is still a haven for fans and musicians alike who are seeking a taste of the rebellious spirit that once defined L.A.’s music scene. Thanks to its open-mic night, new acts are testing their chops in front of live audiences every week. On one memorable visit, I saw a Japanese rockabilly band, the Nuggets, make their L.A. debut while on their first tour through the U.S., where they gained more than a few new fans.
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A restaurant with candles and floral decorations
(Curatable Co. / TomTom)

Live out your reality TV fantasies at TomTom

West Hollywood Restaurant
Let’s be honest, there are three reasons why you’re heading to TomTom: Lisa Vanderpump, Tom Schwartz and Tom Sandoval, the restaurant’s co-owners and sometimes bartenders. Sitting at the bar on a Friday night and watching all the wide-eyed out-of-towners hoping for a “Vanderpump Rules” cast member sighting is entertaining in itself (although it should be noted that the gang doesn’t usually hang out there when they’re not filming).

But TomTom stands on its own as a decent night out. The decor is classic Lisa Vanderpump: dark wood walls, lots of dramatic light fixtures and giant floral arrangements on as many surfaces as possible. Sit at the bar and you’ll find the non-reality-star bartenders to be nice and knowledgeable about their craft. And while the cocktails are the highlight of the place, the food isn’t bad either. Reality TV fans will know that the goat cheese meatballs “are famous,” and rightly so.

Also good to know: TomTom is more of a sit-down establishment, and if you’re hoping to snag a table you’ve seen on TV, like on the back patio, you’ll need a reservation, especially on weekends.
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The entry to the Viper Room nightclub.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP)

Discover your new favorite band at the Viper Room

West Hollywood Live Music Venue
The most surprising thing when you walk into the Viper Room for the first time is its size. It’s tiny. But the history that’s packed into the microscopic single-stage main room is palpable.

When the Viper Room opened in 1993, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined the inaugural evening. Thanks, probably, to its once co-owner Johnny Depp, a diverse array of celebrities, ranging from Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz to Courtney Love, Jared Leto and Drew Barrymore, were regulars. And lesser-known acts such as the Wallflowers gained recognition on its stage. Additionally, from 1995 to 2001, burlesque troupe the Pussycat Dolls captivated audiences with its Thursday night performances.

While the venue has gone through its fair share of scandal and tragedy (RIP River Phoenix) and may be slightly out of the pop culture limelight today, the atmosphere still crackles with anticipation, mingling the scent of stale beer with the wall-shaking reverb of rock music. The dimly lit interior, now fitted with VIP booths, a refurbished bar and artful graffiti around the walls, sets the stage for the eclectic mix of new acts. It’s a space where leather-clad rebels and starry-eyed dreamers converge under the same roof, seeking solace in the power of live music.
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A brick-floored bar with high ceilings and stained glass windows
(Amy Dickerson / For The Times)

Dance all night at the Abbey and stay for drag brunch the next day

West Hollywood Bar
Even if you’ve never been to the Abbey, you know the Abbey. It’s the type of L.A. institution that’s woven into the fabric of Los Angeles culture, gay or otherwise. Around since the 1990s, it’s become one of the most recognizable gay bars in the country. And while it’s come in and out of relevancy, it still stands as a linchpin in the West Hollywood gay scene.

What started as a coffeehouse and bakery in 1991 has expanded into 14,000 square feet that includes bar space, a dance floor, indoor and outdoor dining and another bar, the Chapel at the Abbey, next door. Like a lot of the scene in WeHo, weekends see the dance floor and bars packed with tourists and the L.A. version of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd, so if you’re looking for a more local vibe, hit it up on a weeknight. And while it may seem anachronistic to have brunch at the same place you spent all night twirling to the remix of “We Can’t Be Friends,” don’t overlook drag brunch on Saturday and Sunday. The food is actually pretty good and things have a tendency to get weird (in the best way).
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