Across a small parking lot from The Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip is the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Opened in 1972 by the some of same team as started Whisky A Go Go, it is the longest continually operating restaurant and club on the Sunset Strip (the Whisky opened first, but was closed for 4 years). People often refer to it mistakenly as the Rainbow Room in LA, but it's technically in the city of West Hollywood, and the Rainbow Room is actually a historic restaurant and nightclub in New York.
Before it became the Rainbow Bar & Grill, it was the Villa Nova Restaurant, which was owned by film director Vincente Minelli. He proposed to Judy Garland at the restaurant in 1945. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio had their first date there in 1953.
Despite its name and its West Hollywood location, "The Bow" is not a gay bar, but a rock n' roll icon. When it opened, the name was meant to reflect the peace and freedom of the post-Vietnam 70s and the persistence of the music culture on the Sunset Strip after the curfew riots a few years earlier.
The opening event for the Rainbow Bar & Grill in 1972 was a party for Elton John which set the tone for a pop-rock parade of stars that evolved from 70s idols John Lennon, Keith Moon, Grace Slick, Ringo Starr, Neil Diamond, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, and Alice Cooper to the heavy metal bands that took over The Strip in the 80s, like Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Guns N' Roses.
Lemmy from Motorhead lived a couple blocks away and had a designated chair at the back bar.
The restaurant downstairs and the small Over the Rainbow music & dance club upstairs are still frequented by the musicians that play The Strip and the ones who used to or wanted to, as well as an interesting assortment of retired and current porn stars.
The Rainbow is an old-school casual restaurant and dive bar downstairs with big red vinyl booths, dark wood and every centimeter of wall space crammed with rock star snapshots. You could easily picture it as the setting for a gangster movie, but you might actually have seen it in a few Guns N' Roses music videos.
There's an outdoor patio with tables and plastic chairs where you can sit and enjoy the constant flow of eccentric humanity passing through to the dark interior. Up a steep stairway, the wood-floored Over the Rainbow has live music or DJs and dancing with a bar and stools along one side. Most of the bands are rock and blues with a Monday open mic night.
The Restaurant is known for having decent Italian and American food and not outrageous prices for the neighborhood. Their pizza, burgers and Caesar salad are highly regarded. The bar is popular for serving reasonably strong drinks for the price, but nothing too fru fru.
The Rainbow Bar & Grill has stopped keeping an entertainment calendar on their website. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to see who's playing.
The Rainbow Bar & Grill
9015 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11 am - 4 pm
Dinner: 7 days 5 pm - 2 am
Over the Rainbow: 9 pm - 2 am
There's a $5 charge after 9 pm on weeknights and $10 on weekends that is redeemable for that value in food or drinks inside.
Valet parking is often reported to be slow.