Sports are wonderful. They’re a last bastion of must-see live TV, endlessly symbolic and affecting, a repository for emotions, and a perfect vehicle for catharsis. The sports bar, on the other hand, is pretty awful—garish, loud, and full of shit beer and fried food that was actually fried in some industrial processing facility 800 miles away and then microwaved to order, coated in a goopy sauce, and rung up at like $13.
Thankfully, this is L.A., and it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a multitude of quiet places with good food, nice drinks, and pleasant atmospheres, grown-up spots that just happen to have a television or two (or ten) that just happen to be tuned to the day’s big game. What follows is a list of our six favorite non-sports-bar type places for watching sports.
Eagle Rock has an abundance of places to watch games, but the top spot in the neighborhood is the one you’d least expect. Cacao Mexicatessen is best known for its thoughtful riffs on classic tacos—crunchy-smushy fried avocado, chicharrones with a sharp pesto from Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, the legendary duck carnitas—but they also have killer micheladas, fine craft ales, Mexican wines, and a bar with a few nice TVs hanging under dusty brown cowboy hats. You may not have guessed it, but it turns out the best match for Kershaw’s curveball is an order of duck carnitas tacos.
1576 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock.
Way back during the ramen arms race of the mid-2010s, Little Tokyo’s Men Oh Tokushima was a safe harbor. When lines for Daikokuya, Shin-Sen-Gumi, and Orochon stretched over an hour, Men Oh was calm and accessible and every bit as good. The Tokushima-style ramen is just as rich as your favorite tonkotsu with an earthy, savory twist of soy, and the house noodles are perfectly springy. Tensions have cooled a touch in Little Tokyo, but Men Oh remains both mellow and excellent, with a single TV hanging over the low bar, at just the right height so that you can slurp noodles and still keep your eyes on the game. Now if only they could get broadcasts of the Yakult Swallows.
456 E. 2nd St., downtown.
You walk in to the corner spot in a quiet strip mall in the SGV and are immediately under sensory assault, walloped by the distinctive barnyard pungency of stinky tofu, the flash of lights strung around a fake oak tree, and the sonorous banality of Joe Buck thumping from elevated speakers. Uncle Yu’s is not Indian in the way you may be imagining—instead, it is a Taiwanese restaurant with a cheesy, potentially problematic Native American theme and a million and a half giant TVs bolted to every surface that isn’t plastic vegetation. The grilled skewers are wonderful, the Three Flavor Sauce is delicious, and the pitchers of beer are big and cold and come with tiny glasses so emptying and refilling is an endless loop of fizzy yellow pleasure—a stunningly good accompaniment for any and all sporting occasions.
633 S. San Gabriel Blvd., Suite 105, San Gabriel.
If your team has maybe fallen off a bit in recent years and can’t quite recapture its former glory, we’ve got just the spot for you. The Smoke House is an Old Hollywood-style steak house with a so-uncool-it’s-cool sort of faded charm, nestled between Universal and Warner Brothers. There are a handful of big, outdated TVs around the bar and signed headshots of celebrities on the wall, none of which is more recent than 1988, which was right about the last time your favorite team had any real success, too. The food is old-school adequate and the drinks are strong, so as the game clock ticks away you’ll find yourself slowly melting into the sepia-toned good old days.
4420 W. Lakeside Dr., Burbank.
Located in a cavernous brick warehouse in a small industrial park in Hawthorne, Common Space is open and airy with gleaming steel equipment and stylish seating. The brewery’s beers lean crisp and carbonated, tiny bubbles streaming up tall taster glasses and hefty pints. There are just three TVs but they’re well placed and clearly visible from everywhere, so it’s exactly the right spot to casually catch a game of interest. And if that game begins to head in the wrong direction, you can always head out to their expansive and lovely TV-free patio to lick your wounds and sip their sharp Negroni Saison or juicy Food Fight hazy IPA.
3411 W. El Segundo Blvd., Hawthorne.
This is as close as we’ll get to recommending a traditional sports bar—Bludso’s is big and nice, with a ton of TVs and regular game promotions. But they also have excellent cocktails (homemade falernum!), good beer (El Segundo Citra Pale Ale and no Bud Light!), and some of the city’s very best stationary BBQ. The vibe can get a little rowdy for the right games, even though the crowd is weighed down by pounds of brisket, black-crusted and pink-ringed in perfect Texan style. And if you’re lucky enough for the game to go into overtime, there are Nicole Rucker’s magical pies to help you manage all that stress.
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