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After years of living in West Los Angeles, I decided to compile my list of favorite dive bars and maybe a few dive restaurants. Having lived in the Midwest for almost 10 years I feel qualified to know and judge the real dive bars in my hood. I have also come up with a ranking system to determine the” realness” factor associated with each dive bar. Each bar below with be ranked in “Old Dudes” at the bar at any one time, with 5 bald heads being the max. As any dive bar aficionado knows, a legit dive bar is often empty with only a handful of “Old Dudes” in the place at any one time with as many as half of them asleep at any one time.
Here goes:

1. Philly West (http://www.phillywestbarandgrill.com/)

The food at Philly West is awesome. I recommend the chicken sandwich and the cheeseburger. The kitchen is open until 11 PM and the fries are great. Brian is the mainstay behind the bar. I miss Kim, one of the old bartenders, who left a few months ago. One thing is the free Christmas Eve spread that the owner Mark puts on for the regulars. It’s really a place where everyone knows your name. You would be surprised by some of the conversations that go in there; everything from post WWII occupied Japan to Marcel Proust.

“Old Dude” Rating – Full 5 Bald Heads

2. The Joker (http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-joker-santa-monica)

This place is also pretty “real” with respect to it’s dive barness. The only bartender I have ever seen in there is some older gentleman with a heavy English accent. I think it’s English. Do not try and bring the TV remote into the bathroom if you happen to have it on you (which I am not sure why). I almost saw the bartender drop some B’s on a patron for doing that. Also, I would not order food at this place. There is a pool table in the house as well.

“Old Dude” Rating – Four Bald Heads

3. Del’s Saloon (http://www.delssaloon.com/index.html)

Okay, if you click on the link, and view the pictures on the Del’s Saloon website, you might get the impression that this place could be filled with young, attractive 20 somethings. This is not the case. This place is divey and is great. Let me put it to you this way, if you want to eat at this place, you can bring your own food. They also open at 6 AM, which coincides with their happy hour, which is hardcore for LA.

“Old Dude” Rating – Four Bald Heads

4. San Francisco Saloon (http://www.yelp.com/biz/san-francisco-saloon-co-los-angeles)

This place is a little more on the nicer side of diveyness, if that is indeed possible.  While the SF Saloon may be a good place to start off the night at happy hour, it’s not really a place you want to end up at the end of the night, unless you are heading off to 4Play, located a few down.  The inside is old skool and everyone is made out of wood, expect for the TVs.

“Old Dude” Rating – Two and 1/2 Bald Heads

4. Karaoke Bleu (http://www.yelp.com/biz/karaoke-bleu-los-angeles)

This place is the best Japanese dive/karaoke bar in existence. It is hit or miss. Some nights it is packed, other nights the only thing going is some older Japanese gentlemen chilling and smoking cigarettes. It’s like something out of an old movie. The crowd is a mix of students and people from Japan. The drink pricing seems random and weird. The decor looks like something from an early 1980’s Miami dance club. There is something about this place though I love. Maybe it’s the wasabi peas.

“Old Dude” Rating – Three Bald Heads

6. Backstage (http://www.backstageculvercity.com/)

Okay, this is where the realness starts to end. There are simply too many young people that frequent Backstage to warrant a true dive bar rating. This place is always packed though and has the typical dive bar set up. It also has what I consider to be one of the greatest inventions since the Internet, which is Karaoke. This place is fun, packed and everyone is there to have a good time.

“Old Dude” Rating – No Bald Heads

7. New Japan Also Takeout (http://losangeles.citysearch.com/profile/47198/)

I love the signage above New Japan. Not only does it say “New Japan”, it also has in cursive just below the name the wording “Also Takeout”. This place underwent a massive overhaul in 2004 that saw the replacing of its aquarium-like decor with a sleek all black look. The old cracked projection TV was also replaced which reduced its divey-ness but allowed you to actually, well, watch TV. This is also the only dive restaurant to make the list. If you want American chow, try the Delores diner down the street. It’s also divey.

This is pretty much all I can think of at this minute. I did find a good resource that I hope can also help point you in the right direction: The My Dive Bar Website http://www.mydivebar.com/lareviews.htm#westla

And: The World Dive Bar Tour Website http://www.worlddivebartour.com/v1/

I guess we have some homework to do.

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