Revolver (formerly East West Lounge), on Santa Monica Boulevard
A-listers and gay movers and shakers have long frequented this elegant space on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Larrabee Street, in the heart of gay West Hollywood. For many years, during the '80s and '90s, the iconic gay video bar was known as Revolver. Then for a time it morphed into a similarly swanky and hip bar called East West. In fall 2011, new owners completely redesigned the beautiful space and brought back its previous name, Revolver (8851 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-694-0430).
It's great to see this lively spot remaining one of the best gay hangouts in the metro L.A. region. Music videos and classic, camp TV and movie clips show on the more than 20 flat-screen TVs set around the sleek main bar, with its exposed-brick walls, high ceilings, a soaring bottle display, and mod lighting. There's also a back room with billiards and darts and a few more video screens. This is a great stop along any bar crawl through West Hollywood, with a strong following from late afternoon until last call.
The Abbey Food and Bar, on North Robertson Boulevard
What began as a relatively modest gay coffeehouse several years ago, The Abbey (692 N. Robertson Blvd.) has blossomed into one of West Hollywood's hottest hangouts, gay or straight. This elegant Spanish Mediterranean-style compound on North Roberston Boulevard (right next to Here Lounge) has lush landscaping, gurgling fountains, and plenty of patio seating. The kitchen turns out tasty and creative American fare, and the bar is a sophisticated venues for cocktails and hobnobbing with West Hollywood scenesters.
Fubar, a dark and sexy men's cruise bar on Santa Monica Boulevard
A happily sexy and sleazy (in the best possible way) gay bar on Santa Monica Boulevard, Fubar (7994 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-654-0396) has long been an edgier, darker alternative to the usual stand-and-model gay bars along the main WeHo gay bar strip (which is several blocks west). With an eclectic, cruisy crowd of regular guys of all ages, cool music that deviates from the usual dance beats, and super-dark lighting, Fubar feels as though it was airlifted from Silver Lake - in fact, plenty of the patrons here also frequent Akbar and the other grittier gay nightspots in the Silver Lake area. The friendly and flirty staff and refreshing lack of attitude make this a very fun hangout.
Pacific Design Center, at corner of San Vicente and Melrose
Lovingly referred to as "the Blue Whale," the Cesar Pelli-designed Pacific Design Center is one of Los Angeles's - and most definitely West Hollywood's - architectural icons. The massive space comprising huge blue, green, and - most recently built - red wings holds more than 130 design, furniture, and home-furnishing showrooms as well as the Wolfgang Puck's trendy Red Seven restaurant, a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Pacific Design Center), the Design Cafe, and the offices of the West Hollywood Marketing and Visitors Bureau, which is ground-zero for picking up visitor and tourism information on the city and the gay community. The building is at the corner of San Vicente and Melrose, just a half block south of Santa Monica Boulevard and across the street from the dazzling new West Hollywood Library, which contains exhibits on the city's GLBT history.
Los Angeles Farmers Market, at 3rd and Fairfax
One of L.A.'s longest-running and most revered culinary and retail institutions (open since 1934), not to mention a terrific spot for people-watching, the Los Angeles Farmers Market (W. 3rd St. and S. Fairfax Ave.) is just southeast of West Hollywood and contains dozens of wonderful little open-air food stalls and cafes, including Bob's Coffee & Doughnuts and the Gumbo Pot. It's always packed with interesting people, including employees of nearby CBS studios. Next door is the less-interesting but still handy Grove outdoor mall.
Here Lounge West Hollywood, on North Robertson Boulevard
Run by the same folks who operate the similarly fabulous G Lounge in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood, the swank Here Lounge (696 N. Robertson Blvd.) has become a gay clubbing fixture in West Hollywood over the years. It's right beside the white-hot Abbey gay lounge and cafe, and around the corner from the old-school Mother Lode. Here has a successful flavor-of-the-week style, with different themes for different evenings. On it's the Here's Jackie drag show, Tuesdays usually have private parties, Wednesdays is the sleazy Scratch & Sniff party, Thursday are a more mixed gay/straight hip-hop and reggae night, Fridays have the fabulous lesbian party known as Truck Stop Girlz, Saturdays bring in a come-one, come-all party with go-go dancers called Popular, and Sundays are known for Size, which pulls in different DJs from around the country. Here changes the lineup from time to time, but this gives a good sense of what you can expect.
Basix Cafe, a gay-friendly eatery on Santa Monica Boulevard
A favorite breakfast spot in West Hollywood that also serves tasty lunch and dinner fare (try the grilled polenta Florentine in the morning or Chinese chicken salad at lunch), Basix Cafe (8333 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-848-2460) sits along a sunny stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard and is one of the city's top gay-friendly eateries. The same owners operate the excellent Marix Tex Mex Cafe, next door, which is known for its tangy and potent margaritas (Marix also has a branch in Santa Monica), and such tempting Mexican dishes as seared ahi tuna tacos (this and many other dishes here are more Cal-Mex than Tex-Mex, but delicious just the same).
Ramada Plaza West Hollywood, Santa Monica Boulevard
Few accommodations in greater Los Angeles have a more fervent gay following than the Ramada Plaza West Hollywood (8585 Santa Monica Blvd.), which is set right in the heart of Boystown along Santa Monica Boulevard, an easy walk from countless gay-popular bars, restaurants, and shops - it's right down the street from the fabulous cup-cakery Cake and Art. The art deco Ramada has 176 rooms, including a number of two-story loft suites, as well as a large pool with Wi-Fi.
Santa Monica Boulevard, as it passes through Boys Town
West Hollywood's so-called "Boys Town" area is centered along the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Cienega Boulevard and North Robertson Boulevard. Along here, you'll find countless gay-popular bars, restaurants, shops, and other businesses. Here's a view looking west along the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard, home to (right to left) Revolver, the former A Different Light Bookstore (which closed in 2009), and Micky's (which reopened in 2009 following a major fire).
Beverly Center Mall, on the West Hollywood-Beverly Hills border
One of L.A.'s great retail hubs, the Beverly Center mall is just south of West Hollywood city limits, on the edge of Beverly Hills (at the intersection of N. La Cienega Blvd. and Beverly Blvd.), and contains more than 160 mid- to high-end shops as well as a food court and the Beverly Center movie theater, and several restaurants. Generally packed with stylish lesbians and gay men, the Beverly Center is especially popular for its many clothiers and other trendy chain shops, including H&M, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Ben Sherman, Apple, Aveda, Armani Exchange, Bloomingdale's, Club Monaco, Diesel, D&G, Ed Hardy, Gucci, Guess, Hugo Boss, Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors, True Religion, Tumi, Yves Saint Laurent, and Macy's.
Flaming Saddles West Hollywood, on Santa Monica Boulevard
Flaming Saddles West Hollywood (8811 Santa Monica Blvd.), formerly Eleven Nightclub, is a lively country-western-theme gay club with a casual Tex-Mex restaurant and multiple dance floors.
Shops and restaurants along West Hollywood's famed Sunset Strip
West Hollywood's Sunset Strip is lined with posh, gay-friendly shops, restaurants, and hotels (such as the swank Chateau Marmont), and backed by the scenic Hollywood Hills. There's less of a gay scene along Sunset Boulevard than there is to the south on Santa Monica Boulevard, but this is a great area for celebrity-spotting.
Hamburger Haven, corner of Robertson and Santa Monica
An unassuming little burger stand at the corner of Santa Monica and North Robertson boulevards, Hamburger Haven (8954 Santa Monica Blvd.) turns out decent burgers and other fast-food standbys - it's nothing special, but plenty of gay boys and lesbians appreciate this place around midnight, when they're starving and looking for a quick snack that's in the heart of West Hollywood's gay clubbing district, steps from Here Lounge, the Mother Lode, and The Abbey.
Petit Ermitage Hotel, West Hollywood
Tucked away on a quiet side street just a couple of blocks north of Santa Monica Boulevard, the gay-popular Petit Ermitage Hotel (formerly known as the Valadon Hotel, and before that Le Reve Hotel) (8822 Cynthia St., 310-854-1114) is an all-suite property with a rooftop pool that offers great views of the neighborhood and the Hollywood Hills.
The Hollywood Hills, viewed from the Beverly Center mall
As viewed from the Beverly Center shopping mall, the Hollywood Hills form the steep northern boundary of West Hollywood.
Micky's Gay Bar, on Santa Monica Boulevard
One of the gay nightlife mainstays along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, Micky's (8857 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-657-1156) continues to pack 'em in with such festive parties as Hot Rod Wednesdays and great happy hour specials. Micky's Grill serves eclectic American fare, and the boys come here in droves on weekend mornings for a festive brunch. Although the club suffered a major fire in 2007, it reopened after an impressive redesign in 2009 and has been going strong ever since.
Chateau Marmont Hotel and Bungalows, on Sunset Boulevard
The glamorous and world-famous Chateau Marmont, at 8821 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, has been a favorite haunt of celebs and industry types since it opened in the 1920s. Comedian and actor John Belushi died in a bungalow here of a drug overdose in 1982, James Dean auditioned here for Rebel Without a Cause, famed photographer Helmut Newton was killed in a car accident outside the hotel in 2004. It's one of L.A.'s snazziest addresses.
Le Montrose Suite Hotel, between Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards
In a quite neighborhood near the Beverly Hills-West Hollywood border, and within walking distance of both the Sunset Strip and the gay bars and restaurants along Santa Monica Boulevard, Le Montrose Suite Hotel (900 Hammond St.) has long been one of West Hollywood's most gay-popular accommodations. Rooms are spacious, and some have kitchens. Amenities include a rooftop pool with great views of the Hollywood Hills.
Champagne French Bakery Cafe, on Santa Monica Boulevard
The Santa Monica Boulevard branch of the popular Southern California chain Champagne French Bakery Cafe (8917 Santa Monica Blvd.) is a favorite gay hangout. Stop in for an artichoke-and-veggie crepe, Nicoise salad, curry-chicken salad croissant, or strawberry tart.
The Grove outdoor shopping mall, at the L.A. Farmers Market
Adjacent to the famed L.A. Farmers Market, The Grove is an open-air, tree-lined marketplace packed with popular shops and restaurants. The Grove is just east of the Farmers Market, on The Grove Dr. between Beverly Boulevard and West 3rd Street.
Businesses here include Abercrombie & Fitch, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Barneys New York Co-Op, Cheesecake Factory, Coach, Crate & Barrel, Forever 21, Fresh, Janie and Jack, Kiehl's, Lucky Brand, Maggiano's Little Italy, Michael Kors, Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro, Nordstrom, Victoria's Secret, and Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill. There's also a multi-screen movie theater, Pacific Theatres at the Grove.
American Apparel West Hollywood
One of more than a dozen American Apparel stores in greater Los Angeles, the West Hollywood-San Vicente branch, at 802 N. San Vicente at Santa Monica Boulevard, is one of the most gay-popular outlets in this well-known chain.
North Formosa Drive, off of Santa Monica Boulevard
If you venture off West Hollywood's main commercial drags, such as Sunset Boulevard and San Monica Boulevard, you'll discover block after block of tree-lined residential streets with attractive homes. Here's a shot of a very typical West Hollywood residential street, North Formosa Drive, facing north from near Santa Monica Boulevard it's not far from the Formosa Cafe.
Hamburger Mary's West Hollywood, on Santa Monica Boulevard
Here's the West Hollywood branch of the gay-popular restaurant chain Hamburger Mary's, which has several locations in gay neighborhoods around the country. It's a good place to meet up with friends for drinks, or to devour a whole tasty meal of massive burgers with all kinds of toppings, plus pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. This affordable, campy spot is at 8288 Santa Monica Boulevard, not far from French Quarter Market Place.
Kokomo Cafe, on Beverly Boulevard
Note: the photo here is of Kokomo's former location at the Farmers Market.
Jodie Foster and Drew Barrymore are among the celebs who have been known to dine at Kokomo Cafe (7385 Beverly Blvd., 323-933-0773), a hip yet unpretentious diner-style restaurant open daily for breakfast and lunch (it closes at 4 pm).
Kokomo was for many years an open-air diner inside the venerable L.A. Farmers Market. It moved to its new, bigger, and brighter location in 2009. The food here is fresh, delicious, and creative, and breakfast is available throughout the day - expect Southern, home-style influences in the food here. Some favorites include pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon butter; red turkey hash with shredded potatoes, beets, onion, herbs, and parmesan cheese; country-fried chicken and eggs; lime-curry chicken salad with mango chutney and cashews; and mahimahi BLTs on sourdough bread - the burgers are good, too, and come with a wide variety of toppings. It's also an excellent spot for coffee drinks and smoothies.
Art Galleries on La Cienega Boulevard, in West Hollywood
West Hollywood's La Cienega Boulevard, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, is lined with a number of art galleries - it's part of the city's Avenues of Art and Design
Circus of Books, gay bookstores and sex shop
Since 1960, Circus of Books (8230 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-656-6533, has been serving the GLBT community with a wide array of fiction, nonfiction, erotic titles, novelty gifts, smoking paraphernalia, gay-themed DVDs, gay adult movies, erotic calendars, gay magazines (porn and non-adult titles), sex toys, lube, condoms, newspapers, periodicals, and much more. There's a second branch of Circus of Books in Silverlake (4001 Sunset Blvd., 323-666-1304). Both branches are open daily from 6 am until 2 am.
For gay erotica, this is one of the best stores on the West Coast - there's a huge selection, including a notable collection of vintage men's "physique" magazines from the 1950s and '60s.
Fiesta Cantina, on Santa Monica Boulevard
Snug between the gay bars Rage and Micky's, Fiesta Cantina (8865 Santa Monica Blvd.) is a festive, if somewhat kitschy, Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood with a mostly gay following. It's a fine place to while away a sunny afternoon, snacking on chips and salsa and downing margaritas. Grab a sidewalk table overlooking Santa Monica Boulevard for the best people-watching.
Rage West Hollywood, on Santa Monica Boulevard
The Gumbo Pot, at the L.A. Farmers Market
One of the many fine and very popular restaurants in the L.A. Farmers Market, the open-air Gumbo Pot serves up delicious New Orleans-inspired Cajun and Creole fare, including soft-shell-crab po'boys, cornmeal-fried alligator bits, Cajun-style meatloaf, and blackened-chicken salad.
Mother Lode gay bar, on Santa Monica Boulevard
There's nothing fancy about the raffish, B.S.-free Mother Lode (8944 Santa Monica Blvd.), an old-school gay bar that's been drawing regular guys and locals for years - this is just a solid, friendly, and somewhat cruisy hangout that's a good bet when you don't feel like dressing up and dealing with the stand-and-model scene at some of the glammier bars across Santa Monica Boulevard. It's next to the gay erotic and porn shop, Unicorn Books.
Cake and Art Bakery, on Santa Monica Boulevard
After picking up a latte or ice cappuccino down Santa Monica Boulevard at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, bring your drink to Cake and Art (8709 Santa Monica Blvd.) and buy some tantalizing sweets, such as chocolate-covered chocolate-chip cookies, chocolate-dipped walnut brownies, or gingerbread Village People. Even image-conscious guys watching their weight occasionally cheat with a treat from this cake-maker to the stars, which counts Oprah, Barry Manilow, Gwen Stefani, Cher, and Dolly Parton among its loyal customers. The cupcakes here are especially delicious - try the vanilla-toffee crunch kind, or the one with a rich s'more topping. It's just down the block from the Ramada Plaza West Hollywood.
Formosa Cafe, beside West Hollywood Gateway shopping center
At the eastern edge of West Hollywood, the fabled Formosa Cafe (7156 Santa Monica Blvd.) has been seating celebrities since it opened in 1939 - the dining room is lined with black-and-white photos of the stars who have eaten here, from Liz Taylor to James Dean. Nearly torn down to make way for the West Hollywood Gateway shopping center next door, Formosa was saved and remains a neighborhood icon. It's not especially gay as West Hollywood goes, but you'll often see family in here noshing on Pan-Asian food.
Gym Sports Bar, on the Santa Monica gay bar strip
Like the popular Gym Bar in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood (which is run by the same management), Gym Sportsbar West Hollywood (8737 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-659-2004) is a favorite hangout of GLBT jocks and players in the area's gay sports leagues. There are bottomless "beer blasts" on Saturdays and Sundays, and other nights, the happy hour specials make this sports-themed spot popular after work. Locker Room Fridays are another favorite theme evening. Gym is right along the main gay bar strip on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Factory and Ultra Suede, mega-warehouse discos on North Robertson
A massive complex comprising two separate gay-clubbing venues, Factory and Ultra Suede adjoin each other but with their entrances on different streets (Factory is at 652 N. LaPeer Dr., and Ultra Suede is at 661 N. Robertson Blvd.). The 15,000-square-foot, multi-level Factory is an event space with GLBT and other parties held most weekends - these include the PopStarz on Fridays at the Factory, Hype on Fridays at Ultra Suede, and a warehouse-style party, Cherry Pop, on Saturdays at Ultra Suede. Although cover charges and steep drinks prices can make a night at these parties a bit spendy, they're nevertheless among the best gay parties in Los Angeles for fans of circuit-style clubbing.
Bayou Bar & Grill (formerly Debauchery), on Santa Monica Boulevard
NOTE: The photo above is of this space when it was known as Skewers. It's since been redesigned and renamed Bayou Bar and Grill (8939 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-273-3303). As with most of the bars and restaurants along this thoroughfare, the crowd is heavily GLBT.
Trunks Sports Bar, on Santa Monica Boulevard
Le Parc Suite Hotel
On a quiet residential street just a few blocks east of the Pacific Design Center and a short walk from Santa Monica Boulevard's many gay bars, restaurants, and shops, the gay-friendly Le Parc Suite Hotel (733 N.W. Knoll Dr.) has 154 large rooms (all 650 square feet or bigger) with free high-speed Internet, two TVs, DVD players, stereo-CD players, and plenty of other perks. Up on the roof there's a tennis court, pool, and cabanas, all affording nice views of the neighborhood and the Hollywood Hills.
Melrose Spa, a gay bathhouse on Melrose Avenue near La Brea
Melrose Spa (7269 Melrose Ave., 323-937-2122) is part of the Midtown Spa gay bathhouse chain, which has two other locations in the Los Angeles area. For more on the scene, check out the Los Angeles Gay Sex Clubs and Bathhouse guide.
Baby Jane of Hollywood (store closed, internet business only)
Note: Baby Jane is now an Internet-only business; the physical store in West Hollywood has closed
Inside the popular and tres gay French Quarter Market Place, Baby Jane of Hollywood is a one-stop for celebrity autographs, costumes, photographs, and movie posters, many of them of gay interest. It's at 7985 Santa Monica Boulevard.
Bob's Coffee & Doughnuts at the L.A. Farmers Market
Inside the famed, open-air L.A. Farmers Market, just south of the West Hollywood city limits, Bob's Coffee & Doughnuts is one of the region's top spots for people-watching, chocolate-glazed donuts, cinnamon rolls, blended coffee, lemonade, hot cocoa, and more. You can also grab a dish of homemade ice cream next door at Bennett's.
Hamilton-Selway Fine Art Gallery, across from Pacific Design Center
Across from the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood's Avenues of Art and Design area, Hamilton-Selway (8678 Melrose Ave.) is a must for fans of pop art - this prestigious gallery carries some of the best pop art in the country, including countless originals by gay icons like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Jean Michel Basquiat, and many others. Even if you're not in the market for a Roy Lichtenstein or Jasper Johns paintings, it's worth dropping in just for a chance to admire these works up-close.
Le Pain Quotidien West Hollywood, on Melrose Avenue
The fabulous Belgian coffee and bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien has a particularly gay-popular and appealing branch at 8607 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, just down the street from the Pacific Design Center. Here you can savor outstanding coffees, creative sandwiches, delicious breakfast fare, ans such tantalizing treats as caramel tarts and chocolate bombs.
Coast Playhouse, a popular theater venue for gay-themed plays
A popular venue for gay-themed theater (from The Boys in the Band to Puppetry of the Penis), the Coast Playhouse (8325 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-965-9996 for tickets) is a fixture along Santa Monica Boulevard, within easy walking distance of such popular hangouts as Fubar and Basix. This is a relatively intimate venue, with great seating, and it books some top-notch plays.
French Quarter Market Place, on Santa Monica Boulevard (closed)
Note: French Quarter Market Place in West Hollywood has closed
On the east side of West Hollywood, the French Quarter Market Place (7985 Santa Monica Blvd.) is a favorite gathering place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner - the restaurant serves decent and affordable diner-style fare, with a few New Orleans dishes on the menu. Also inside are a few gay-oriented shops and businesses, such as Baby Jane of Hollywood, for vintage movie posters, celeb autographs, and photos.
The Palms, long-running lesbian bar (closed)
Note: The Palms lesbian bar has closed
For more than 40 years, as quite a few other gay bars along Santa Monica Boulevard have come and gone, the esteemed Palms lesbian bar (8572 Santa Monica Blvd.) has kept the lights on, welcoming an eclectic crowd of women from all over metro Los Angeles (plus a good many gay guys and straight friends). Celebrities ranging from Ellen DeGeneres to Melissa Etheridge have visited this attractive bar and dance club. Popular parties include Thursday's Club Martini, with live music performances; and Sundays comedy and karaoke.
Unicorn Books gay adult bookstore (closed)
Note: Unicorn books has closed
Unicorn Books (8940 Santa Monica Blvd., 310-652-6253) is another of the very popular gay adult bookstores and video shops on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood - it's near the long-running Mother Lode gay bar.