Check out these top 5 L.A. places to sip cocktails with spirits and imbibe with apparitions…
By James T. Bartlett
True crime shows are top of the TV charts, and in the spirit of poison, jealousy, despair, serial killers, scandals, guns, and the ghost stories left behind, we offer you five of the best places to drink and dine with the dead in the City of Angels… if you dare!
A taqueria opened by widow Encarnación Gomez in the late 1920s, El Carmen is now a tequila bar with a lucha libre theme, a mean happy hour and an eclectic group of regulars (the classic line up of Fleetwood Mac was formed over tequilas here back in the 1970s).
Staff have long felt cold spots in this joint, but there have also been gifts of candy – but from whom? Encarnación, her sister Hortencia and step-daughter Martha were known for being sweet long ago – maybe they’ll come back from the grave to do the same for you?
If not, console yourself with these wicked drinks: a Bloody Maria (house sangrita, Vida Mezcal, Lime juice, Worchester, cilantro, lime juice, lemon juice, chipotle sauce and a pinch of salt) or a bloody True Blood (Tapatio 110 Blanco, house hibiscus syrup, Canton ginger, lime juice, Guajillo chili and cucumber slices in a Tajin-rimmed glass).
8138 W. 3rd Street, Los Angeles 90048
One of the original luxury downtown hotels, the Biltmore is a glitzy world of chandeliers, endless staircases, tinkling piano and afternoon tea and cake.
Some of the early Oscar ceremonies were held here, and it was the “Hotel Sedgewick” in 1984’s original Ghostbusters – Ray, Egon and Peter caught “Slimer” the hungry ghost in what’s now the lobby.
Ghost stories are everywhere here (a man in a stovepipe hat, kids running around a remote balcony), but most famously it was the last place “Black Dahlia” victim Elizabeth Short was seen alive (unless you believe the stories at the Frolic Room in Hollywood).
Either way, the opulent Gallery Bar offers the Black Dahlia cocktail (vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, Kahlua), so take a sip and then look around for something more heavenly: the “Biltmore Angel” is everywhere, watching just what you’re up to….
506 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90071
King Eddy Saloon
The King Edward Hotel opened over a century ago, but its King Eddy bar has grabbed all the headlines. It sold “pianos” during Prohibition, with drinkers sneaking in through a tunnel into the basement bootleg speakeasy.
After becoming a favorite of boozy novelists John Fante and Charles Bukowski the King Eddy became a skid row legend, and was it Fante’s autobiographical Ask the Dust that gave this place the legendary story of the ghostly hitchhiker?
It’s a hipper place now, but they couldn’t get erase the dark past of the neighbor hotel – soon after opening, one of the guests, Benjamin E Smith, committed suicide in his room after a three-day binge, taking an ounce of laudanum before writing a suicide letter that read:
“Minnie, you killed me.”
131 E. 5th Street, Los Angeles 90013
Towering over Hollywood Boulevard (and neighbor to another haunted legend, The Magic Castle), Yamashiro has maybe the best view in town – and a century’s worth of history to back it all up.
A fabulous Japanese-inspired “mountain palace,” its original owner Thomas O. Glover still walks the inner court – it’s where his ashes were laid to rest – and there are plenty of other apparitions here; just ask any of the staff!
Keeping nighttime security guards has always been a problem, and if you can, book table 9 in the Sunset Room – it’s said to be the place where an unhappy lady spirit sits, waiting endlessly for her guest to arrive…
1999 N. Sycamore Ave, Hollywood 90068
Tom Bergin’s Tavern
Festooned with shamrocks honoring top drinkers, this famous Irish bar was said to be the first place to serve Irish coffee, and was probably the inspiration for the TV series “Cheers.”
It’s an eternal home to some of its regulars too: an elderly lady passed away quietly one night at her regular seat here – it was marked by a plaque until recent renovations – and the late Tom Bergin himself is still a regular.
People smell his cigarette smoke at his favorite booth, and many night cleaning crews have split when they saw his ghost sitting by the fireplace; they even say that the flickering neon sign outside is his way of saying “come in for a drink!”
840 S. Fairfax, Los Angeles 90036
James T. Bartlett is the author of Gourmet Ghosts 2, a new murder, mystery, history and ghost guide book to haunted bars and hotels across L.A. It’s available at Amazon and across Los Angeles, plus he’ll be signing copies and telling more bloody and weird stories in October – full details at www.gourmetghosts.com and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.