Rare is the dive bar where pushing a button for service is an accepted practice.
In any other city, it would be a considerable stretch to refer to Los Angeles institution The Prince as a dive bar given its plush, red-ringed interior and beautiful bar as centerpiece to an expansive space. But this is Los Angeles, where dive bars take on a bit more of a lounge-like vibe, something The Prince offers in abundance. Maybe more importantly, under the Hollywood-friendly looks of The Prince lies a deep history with links to the city’s formative years.
The Tudor-style building that houses The Prince was erected in 1926 and quickly played host to a garden café under the name Windsor Inn that used some of the space currently occupied by The Prince. In 1949, Ben Dimsdale purchased the space and renamed it The Windsor, the Dimsdale family one of the most prominent restauranteur groups of the time, including nearby Los Angeles dive bar HMS Bounty, once aptly named Dimsdale’s Secret Harbor. The shift to The Windsor included a migration indoors, ditching the garden café concept for a classic bar & restaurant layout largely replicated by The Prince’s current interior.
Back in The Windsor days, the center of gravity in the Los Angeles dive bar’s neighborhood was no doubt the Ambassador Hotel and associated Cocanut Grove restaurant and lounge. At its peak, the Ambassador Hotel hosted the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and pretty much every celebrity active in Los Angeles during the 1960s. Nearby institutions like HMS Bounty and The Windsor benefitted from the activity, serving as secondary locations when the party traveled to an additional stop or two.
Eventually the ongoing exposure to celebrity put The Windsor, now The Prince, on the radar of location scouts in Hollywood, producing what would be a long and still-active string of starring roles for the space. The most notable old-school use of the space can be found in 1974’s Chinatown, where a particularly tense exchange between Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway takes place within the comfortable confines of The Windsor.
Over time, Thank You For Smoking, Mad Men and a handful of other programs have used the Los Angeles dive bar as a filming location, none more prevalently than television show New Girl, which used the bar as a centerpiece so often that the production eventually constructed their own version of The Prince on a soundstage to save money. Even Anthony Bourdain paid a visit to The Prince during an episode of his short-lived Travel Channel series, The Layover.
In 1991, the space changed hands and officially took on the name The Prince, the menu swapped out to a fittingly Korean theme given the bar’s Koreatown neighborhood location. Korean staples are well represented on The Prince’s menu, but the Korean-style fried chicken is a particularly popular option. Thankfully, these changes came at no great expanse to The Prince’s interior environment, most of the fixtures inside preserved and well-maintained.
The Prince’s rich interior comes as a bit of a surprise given its curb appeal that consists of a simple red door, a pair of plaques that read “Prince” and a red awning jutting out of an otherwise nondescript, if towering building. Parking can be found in back (with valet because it is Los Angeles after all), but the street The Prince inhabits is a bit sleepy by Los Angeles standards, making the first moment of opening The Prince’s front door a bit of an experience.
The Prince explodes in red, from carpet to ceiling to vintage wallpaper to plush booths that ring the space, everything embodies some shade of red playing off of every other red surface in the building. Rather than dive bar-style knick knacks, The Prince is decorated in paintings and decorative lamps. Even the unexpected dive bar items here run a bit upscale in the form of a grand piano in the center of one space and a suit of armor near the front door. And there is plenty of space to fill, the footprint of The Prince seemingly endless thanks to a winding path that links a main space, bar area, front lounge area and back seating area together.
Among the many eye-catching attractions, the bar stands out, a structure no stranger to New Girl fans. This curved, wooden counter sits in the center of The Prince giving off very upscale vibes thanks to a pairing of dark, brown wood and select, illuminated liquor bottles displayed behind the counter and along the adjoining wall. A small ledge drops out of the ceiling, tracing the line of the bar beneath it and decorated with a mosaic-style design of glass tiles that make for one of the more impressive dive bar drinking areas if even The Prince can be classified as such.
The balance of the square footage here is devoted to curved, red booths that line every wall of the space, supported by short red tables and just enough separation from neighboring seating areas to feel distinct. Orders here are taken by a server prompted by a button pressed, typically making for an extremely efficient flow of alcohol and Korean food to each of the countless tables nestled along the outside ring of The Prince. Taken together, from the beautiful bar to the profound dedication to ornate wallpaper, The Prince is a dive bar in Los Angeles terminology and general affordability only, the space well-deserving of its frequent cinematic cameos.