Skip to main content

Downtown LA’s Coolest Bar is Upstairs

upstairs bar at ace hotel downtown los angeles
Los Angeles has plenty of rooftop bars, but most don’t have a giant neon “Jesus Saves” sign shining down on them, automatically downgrading the other options. Upstairs Bar at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles offers an oasis of epically cool calm while still allowing you to bask in the glittering skyline.

ace hotel gothic inspired upstairs barThe building itself is worth the trip: built in 1927 as the theatre and offices for the newly created United Artists
(UA) company, formed by screen goddess Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith, the guy known as “The Inventor of Hollywood.” (When at the bar, please try to channel Griffith’s ghost and ask for his opinion about all the remakes, specifically “Splash” starring Channing Tatum as a mermaid. That’s a real remake that’s happening). Pickford, a mogul in her day, was a big fan of Spanish Gothic, so the building reflects that: the massive tower– the centerpiece of the Upstairs Bar–looks like she pulled a Hearst and stole it from some Catalonian cathedral. The theatre downstairs, once used to screen UA movies, is a marvel, having been lovingly restored by Ace Hotel who rents it out for concerts, premiers, conferences, etc.– if you get a chance, attend something there. It’s like being in Spanish Gothic church of entertainment.

Related Videos

Moroccan -inspired lounge at upstairs bar

Upstairs Bar has its own entrance, so no need to go through the lobby. You’ll take an elevator up to the 14th floor rooftop, which at one point was the highest spot in LA. You’re immediately welcomed in a cozy Moroccan-inspired nook, graphic tapestries hung overhead, and a wall of windows under the long booth, showcasing the skyline, but keeping out the noise. If you need a breeze, feel free to open a window.

Turn the corner into the open courtyard directly underneath the gothic tower. LA’s skyline surrounds you on all sides. A roaring fireplace anchors the center of the room, along with a massive coral tree that makes the space feel either romantic or casual–whatever the moment demands. The seating is shockingly ample, leather, Equipale-style chairs, bench seating with pillows made of salvaged kilims, a kind of Turkish rug, and wooden tables and stools of pencil cedar made by renowned artist Alma Allen. The faint reddish glow comes from the massive “Jesus Saves” sign, which dates from when the theatre was used as a church.

upstairs bar ample artistic seating

Walk through the “bunker-like bar” as Ace Hotel lovingly calls it, of concrete and theatrical lights sourced from the theatre downstairs and you’ll find the glowing concrete rooftop pool. The view and the poolside lounges cannot be beat.

The food and drinks menu is courtesy of Jud Mongell, of Brooklyn’s Five Leaves. This ain’t your average bar food: the plates are relatively small, but some deliciously hint at the decor with Moroccan inspiration. You’ve got a classic lobster roll, a pretzel dog: bratwurst fennel kraut, mustard and pickled red onion smooshed into a pretzel bun; Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with harrisa, orange, avocado, and corn nuts; Tandoori lamb with cucumber riata, mint yogurt, and shallots on flatbread, hell even half a dozen oysters in a white balsamic
cucumber mignonette. You can’t go wrong.

upstairs bar pool side

As for drinks, the menu is cleverly laid out like a metro map, with a key noting the flavors each drink offers: Fruity, Light & Refreshing, Boozy & Spirited, Herbaceous, Complex, or Tart & Sour. Never has ordering a cocktail been this fun or easy. Take their Little Tokyo, marked as Complex, Herbaceous, as well as Light & Refreshing. It’s made of green tea vodka, plum wine, salted honey, Douglas Fir eau de vie, ponzu, cremant di limoux, and dried chili tincture. Or maybe you consider yourself Complex and Boozy & Spirited: order yourself the Covent Garden: vodka, Stumptown cold brew, Cynar, pineapple orgeat, and cacao bitters. You can order by the pitcher, for lack of a better word, by ordering from the “Transit Hub” section of the menu where each offering serves 6 to 8 people, or “straphangers” as Upstairs calls us. They’ve got a decent beer list with a lot of lesser-known breweries, but they’re all can-served. Nothing on tap.

Now here’s a pro tip that will save you a lot of time. There are servers! You won’t know this because they wear plain clothes so they look just like other bar-goers. But if you sit down at a table, they’ll magically appear. There is a service bar dedicated for the servers, so instead of waiting in line in the “bunker bar,” which admittedly, even at quiet moments is quite slow, you can get much quicker service with a server.

Everyone from the very best of LA’s tragically hip to business-folk to out-of-towners staying at the hotel can be found up there on any given night. It’s a relaxed vibe, that creates the sense you’re at a bar in Morocco, run by a Spanish artist, who lived in Los Angeles for a while.

Editors' Recommendations

A Wine Guide to Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Thirty years ago, winos would be forgiven for not knowing about the Willamette Valley. Today, it's arguably the most exciting wine region in America, home to an outstanding combination of intrepid producers, bar-setting quality, and scenery for days. Ask a sommelier or wine buyer or chef what they're into right now and they're more than likely to drop the name of Oregon's most iconic valley.

The Willamette Valley stretches about 100 miles from Portland to Eugene. It's bookended by mountain ranges, the Cascades to the east and the Coastal Range to the west. Within its fertile and evergreen-strewn folds, there are nine American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), unique subsections capable of producing distinctive wines. So while the area has long been lauded for its Pinot Noir, it is also where countless other varietals are made, making it all the more appealing to wine fans. Better still, much of the activity is just a short drive from Portland, the valley's cultural headquarters.

Read more
Cheers to Bourbonism and How It Shapes Louisville Culture
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer toasts a glass of bourbon to Louisville's 'Bourbonism' growth.

As the mint julep is the drink of choice at the upcoming Kentucky Derby, its main ingredient, bourbon, is Louisville’s characteristic cultural libation. As the home of the Derby, the city even instituted Bourbonism, an economic development plan to drive downtown tourism and business growth.

Upon arrival at the Muhammad Ali International Airport, visitors can partake in the bourbon experience with options in the terminal. Downtown, an 11-foot barrel art installation marks the entrance to the Bourbon District. Beyond, Louisville serves up 10 distillery experiences, many included on the Urban Bourbon Experience, a city trail stuffed with award-winning micro-distilleries, exhibits, and craft cocktail destinations. On a revitalized Main Street, restaurants serve up delicious enough edibles to find themselves ranked among Southern Living’s Top 10 Food Cities in the South. The drinks, of course, are world-class as bartenders compete to develop the most imaginative, entrancing bourbon cocktails.

Read more
A New Cookbook from a Leading Voice of West Coast Barbecue
Pitmaster Matt Horn stoking a fire for bbq.

Pitmaster Matt Horn is a self-taught craftsman. On most days, the California native is busy smoking and perfecting a unique culinary art -- West Coast-style barbecue. As a leading authority on this unique barbecue region, Horn's accolades are many, ranging from his acclaimed Horn Barbecue restaurant (awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand) in Oakland, California, to being named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in America.

Now, Horn has authored a new cookbook, Horn Barbecue: Recipes and Techniques from a Master of the Art of BBQ, documenting every glorious detail of his distinctive style. The book is a testament to Horn's passion for the art of barbecue, a craft that represents a greater life purpose beyond the accolades.
"I just wanted to do something for once that wasn't driven by money, but something that touched my soul, something that really moved me," said Horn.
West Coast Style Barbecue
Pitmaster Matt Horn

Read more