Barhopping Through the Upgraded LAX

Find the best spots to grab pre-flight drinks in the newly renovated airport

First let me get this out of the way: You can get kicked off an airplane if you’re wasted. Now, having said that, LAX has several brand-new options for imbibing (and eating), thanks to a multi-million-dollar makeover throughout the terminals. I’m not talking chain restaurants and bars but downsized versions of your favorite Los Angeles venues like Cole’s, Petrossian, and Lotería Grill. So if you’re about to leave L.A. for an extended amount of time or you’re back and miss drinking in your favorite West Coast city, you now have ways to get your fix .

All the terminals have been or are in the process of being enhanced, accomplishing what was once unimaginable: making travelers less angry about long layovers and delayed flights. Plus, if you have an international ticket scheduled for the same day, you can traverse between the terminals for your own pre-flight barhop!

Here are some of the best places to grab a drink in the new LAX.  (There will be more next year when Terminal 1’s new eateries start opening up in late summer; Terminal 2 will be completed in 2015 as well.)

Cole’s, Inventors of the French Dip (Terminal 4): For cocktails done the way you like, 213 Nightlife’s LAX outpost would be the spot; the bartenders here were trained and certified at the downtown location. And I wouldn’t blame you for holing up there til your flight. Just look at that menu. For a late-morning liftoff, order up Cole’s infamous Bloody Mary, complete with its spicy atomic pickle garnish. Or you can’t go wrong with an Old Fashioned made with Old Granddad and sporting a hand-cut ice cube.

Rock & Brews (Terminal 5): Even though the LAX version of this El Segundo rock n’ roll restaurant has less than half the beer taps of the original — 24 instead of 52, which are rotated seasonally — that’s still pretty impressive. Initially it was difficult to get craft beer on draft. But through working with suppliers, Strand Brewing Co. drafts are available, and Santa Monica Brew Works is a potential addition. The “beertenders” are required to go to beer school monthly, so expect pro pours. Do up one of two beer flights: a Trans-Atlantic with European brews or a Continental with domestics.

Ford’s Filling Station (Terminal 5): The Culver City restaurant has closed, but you can still enjoy chef Ben Ford’s gastropub fare in LAX (as well as at his forthcoming restaurant at L.A. Live). Make your stomach happy by pairing up vino with the mushroom-and-kale flatbread or the smoked turkey sandwich with jalapeno slaw.

Lotería Grill (Terminal 5): There’s actually a Farmers Market designed after the famous one on Third and Fairfax, and it’s complete with a Monsieur Marcel counter as well as a Dog Bakery kiosk. But there’s nothing like kickstarting your vacation in warmer climes with a watermelon margarita, mango margarita, and jalapeño margarita at Jimmy Shaw’s beloved restaurant, which first opened in the outdoor market.

Petrossian Caviar and Champagne Bar (Tom Bradley International Terminal): Recover from your TSA pat-down by nibbling on a caviar-topped blini and washing it down with a glass of the finest champagne. Another decadent option is the $18 Petrossian martini garnished with caviar. The bar features 15 to 20 bubblies ranging from approachable sparkling California wines to the $1,050-a-bottle Cristal Rose. “I realize not everyone is going to want that experience, but if you’re on your honeymoon or you secured a big business deal in L.A. and you’re flying back home, there’s a lot of reasons to take time in an airport, to have caviar, champagne.  To have a high-end experience,” says Petrossian general manager Christopher Klapp.

The Larder at Tavern (Tom Bradley International Terminal): Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s eatery is perfect for grabbing a gourmet box picnic to enjoy on the flight. But it’s also the ideal spot to partake of a wine selection picked out by Styne herself. For the best vino to chill with, she suggests “Hocus Pocus Syrah — dark, kind of rich and will definitely leave you feeling warm and sedated.”