There’s something magical about the Hollywood Hills. Whether you’re hiking the Hollywood sign or Bronson Canyon, or even just driving the winding roads through the canyons, there’s always some fascinating historical oddity waiting around the corner.
From the famous Chemosphere house to the secret military film studio that is now owned by Jared Leto, the hills are home to many beautiful and bizarre secrets.
But it’s not all off-limits to those of us in the great unwashed. From Laurel Canyon to Franklin Village, there are many hidden gems where you can escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood proper and enjoy a quiet cocktail or a coffee in one of the most glamorous and storied areas of Los Angeles.
Laurel Canyon Country Store
This local deli and corner store may not look like much, but it’s actually a key piece of LA’s musical history. It’s not a music venue, but during the 60s and 70s, when many famous musicians and artists lived in Laurel Canyon, you would often find neighborhood icons like Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash hanging out on the patio. Other artists known to have frequented the establishment include Jim Morrison, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger–who allegedly purchased his imported English Kit Kats there.
American Legion Hollywood Post 43
Unfortunately, the incredible, all-original Art Deco Bar in the basement of Post 43 isn’t open to everyone. However, if you’re a veteran or a family member of a veteran, you may be eligible to become a member. There’s a small fee, but you’ll get a range of benefits, including exclusive access to the “longest continuously operating speakeasy in Hollywood.”
A Simple Bar
Located in an unassuming strip mall on Cahuenga near Universal Studios, A Simple Bar opened up earlier in the year and has quickly become known for its relaxed vibe, relatively inexpensive drinks, and hip North Hollywood crowd. There’s a regular happy hour every day from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., as well as DJs, local bands, and dance parties.
This storied Hollywood eatery opened over 100 years ago and boasts incredible sweeping views of Los Angeles from its perch in the Hollywood Hills. The menu features quality Japanese and Asian-inspired fare and high-end cocktails, but really you’re here to experience the architecture (the building was modeled on a Kyoto palace), sprawling grounds, Japanese gardens, and haunted history. That’s right: the place is supposed to be crawling with ghosts, including a weeping woman in an upstairs bridal room whose silhouette can supposedly be seen from the garden.
The Hollywood Hills is all about glamour, mystery, and classy cocktails—and you’ll find these in spades at Minibar. The bar is the brainchild of Warner Ebbink and Brandon Boudet of Little Dom’s fame, so you know you’re in for a quality experience. Choose a cocktail from the whimsical and idiosyncratic list or order a top-shelf whiskey from their incredible selection.
Nestled in Beachwood Canyon, deep in the Hollywood Hills, Beachwood Café is a charming local breakfast spot that’s worth the (five-minute) drive up from Franklin Village. The menu features fresh, farm-to-table fare, with everything made from scratch on the premises. If you need something a little stronger than coffee after hiking the Hollywood Sign, they also offer a selection of local wines and beers.
The quote on the website says, “Art is to refuse mediocrity.” It sounds a little over the top, but I have to concur that there is definitely an art to offering a gourmet, seasonal three-course Parisian meal for $33. All the produce is sourced locally, and the wine list includes exotic selections from Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and other parts of Europe.
Franklin and Co.
This comfy Franklin Village hangout offers a strong craft beer selection and quality whiskies along with traditional pub fare like fish and chips and burgers. Perhaps the best thing about it is the outdoor seating—it’s the perfect place to kick back on a sunny afternoon and watch the world roll by.
This dog-friendly French bistro is known for its delicious cocktails and traditional French fare, including classics like coq au vin, moules-frites, and crème brûlée. The classy but low-key vibe and outdoor seating also make it the ideal date place.
This hidden gem in Laurel Canyon serves up seasonal Italian fare in a dark, romantic setting that’s perfect for impressing a date. Though it’s only a 10-minute drive to the hustle and bustle of Hollywood, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away—that said, you will probably need a reservation.