Like a bit of vintage drinking in the hull of a ship.
Los Angeles dive bars tend to feel more like cozy neighborhood lounges than true dives, HMS Bounty in the city’s Koreatown neighborhood one such example. Named and decorated in honor of the ship of the same name, the predictably nautical interior goes so far as to include a scale model of the HMS Bounty itself behind the bar. And though the theme may be nautical, the vibe here is old school Hollywood steakhouse down to the affordably-priced Baseball steak as HMS Bounty’s signature item.
Contemporary Los Angeles has much to offer, but it’s hard not to fall in love with the city’s rich past and HMS Bounty is a perfect place to do just that. The nautically-themed Koreatown institution conjures memories of the city’s 1960s-era lounge culture thanks to founder Gordon Fields, who opened the dive bar in 1962 within the Gaylord Apartment Building. The building itself dates back to 1924, erected at huge expense across the street from the famous Ambassador Hotel.
Upon opening, the space operated for over 20 years as the Fountain Room, a lounge and ballroom combination. In honor of Henry Gaylord Wilshire, who developed much of the surrounding area and gives the road outside HMS Bounty its name, the next incarnation of the space was known as The Gay Room, opened in 1948. Jane Assell’s Gaylord Dining Room came next, followed by Dimsdale’s Secret Harbor, so named for brothers and owners Seymour and Harold Dimsdale. The pair also owned what was then known as The Windsor, today fellow Los Angeles dive bar The Prince.
The HMS Bounty space was briefly named Golden Anchor after Dimsdale’s Secret Harbor faded away before finally ending the game of bar name roulette and settling into life as the Bounty. Though the HMS Bounty name installed a very specific theme within the space, the nautical surroundings date back to some of those prior incarnations of the lounge, most likely life as Dimsdale’s Secret Harbor, many of the existing decorations original to that time.
Of course as a Hollywood-adjacent dive bar across from what was a high profile hotel, celebrity sightings were numerous across all versions of the HMS Bounty. Plaques at each of the original booths that line the space depict the names of celebrities who preferred that seating location, ranging from William Randolph Hearst to Winston Churchill. Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and many other celebrities have made appearances over the years, today more likely due to the low-key, unassuming nature of the Los Angeles dive bar.
That low-key aesthetic starts outside, where the nautical theme is in full effect thanks to very ship-like wood paneling that sits under a simple green awning. The name of the bar sits above the front door, back lit and illuminated, but the more intriguing sign outside HMS Bounty is the small structure that sits above the main sign that includes a bit of neon proclaiming the name of the bar and the attractive promise of “Food & Grog” inside. A metal piece of artwork that also includes the words “HMS Bounty” can be seen from the front window where a handful of other themed decorations can be found.
The HMS Bounty walls do well as a shrine to the Los Angeles dive bar, capturing multiple photos of regulars, owners and celebrities through the years. HMS Bounty’s interior is split into two main areas, one the bar area and another the restaurant, which takes up most of the space. The nautical theme is, of course, played out inside as well, ship rope lining the dining area and a set of portholes installed above a handful of booths. Deep red carpet, dark wood and green paint create a very ship-friendly palette, accentuated by the brown padding on the HMS Bounty’s ancient, but well-kept booths. A back room serves as overflow seating for the restaurant, a space that was once the filming location for a Mad Men scene.
The bar area can feel a bit snug thanks to the partition that separates it from the rest of the HMS Bounty, the square footage here just barely enough to cover the bar back and the stools that surround it. This designated bar area feels very much like the kind of bar one would find at a sea-themed steakhouse, glasses suspended from a rack over head and a long mirror running behind the liquor selection. String lights add a little ambiance and the entire construction is centered around the scale model of the HMS Bounty itself encased in glass behind the bar.
Though the Baseball steak is the signature HMS Bounty offering, the menu is fairly extensive, everything affordable by Los Angeles standards. A familiar set of bar-friendly appetizers is matched by a long list of steak, seafood and pasta options, topping out with high-end options like a porterhouse or broiled sea bass. The Los Angeles dive bar’s Sunday special is particularly hard to beat, offering a cheeseburger, fries and soda for $7 between the hours of noon and 3 PM.