If you’ve ever owned a rock album—any rock album—it’s worth your time to stop in for a meal at The Rainbow Bar & Grill (9015 W. Sunset Blvd., 310/278-4232, www.rainbowbarandgrill.com, lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., dinner daily 4 p.m.–2 a.m., $13–30). You’ll find a lack of fancy sauces, and an amazing myriad of rock and roll memorabilia in this dark (but no longer smoky) restaurant. To the surprise of some intrepid diners, the hallowed haven, in which countless rockers have been serviced by innumerable groupies, does serve a darn tasty cheeseburger.
If you show up for lunch on a weekday, you’re likely to have the cavernous space almost to yourself to enjoy your salad and make your slow way along the walls checking out the endless parade of photos, guitars, newspaper snippets, and other cool stuff. In the even dimmer bar area, you can play a for-real game of authentic table Ms. Pac-Man as you sip your favorite cocktail or quaff a beer.
Nighttime is a whole different story. The crowds start trickling into the Rainbow as the sun goes down. By the time the shows let out at the Roxy and the Whisky, your chances of finding a booth diminish significantly. The good news is that the rockers still gather here after playing shows in the neighborhood.
You never know who you’ll bump into as you weave your way through the main dining room and outdoor patio to get your next drink. The back rooms also open up late, and you’ll find dancing, drinking, smoking (shhh!), and fun upstairs in a warren-like space that includes either two or three separate bar-and-club spaces on any given night, depending on whose tales you believe.
As for amenities, expect woefully inadequate and difficult-to-access bathrooms, particularly if you happen to be female. Wait staff runs to cute and buxom young women. You can take your cigarettes just outside of the exits to be legal.
If you prefer to combine your love of live acts and your need for food, head for the Hotel Café (16231/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., 323/461-2040, www.hotelcafe.com, daily 7 p.m.–close, $10–30, 21 and over). Food choices run to the casual here—paninis, salads, and desserts, but the restaurant has a beer list, a wine list, and a full bar. The restaurant opens early; it’s easiest to secure a table if you show up before the show starts. After 7 p.m., prepare for things to get loud. If you do love yourself some new-to-the-scene music, stick around.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition