The Guiness & a shot paired with Yellow Curry can't be wrong.
While the classic Los Angeles dive bar feels a bit more like a lounge than a grungy, dimly-lit hole-in-the-wall, The Roost is a throwback, not so much a lounge as it is a divey hovel on the corner of an Atwater Village intersection. But controversial is the recent history of The Roost, a potential victim of renovations that have removed a layer or two of what made the space such a popular, if somewhat grimy spot among neighborhood locals.
Even the LA Times had trouble pinning down an opening date for the structure that today houses The Roost, adding to the Los Angeles dive bar’s status as a relative enigma. Word of mouth history suggests that the space dates back to the 1950s or 1960s when it was known as the Wigwam and featured, because of course it did, a wigwam atop the bar’s roof. Stints as Donna’s Red Carpet and Robin’s Roost eventually gave way to a simplified title of The Roost, most recently in control of eponymous ex-bartender Sia, who ushered in a set of changes not everyone agreed with.
Gone is the signature carnival-style popcorn machine found in the longing stories of many a regular and replaced is the timeless, analog jukebox that once ranked as one of the best in Los Angeles. What remains is about as straightforward a dive bar experience as possible, a handful of stools, a few booths and a long bar in a one-room schoolhouse of a space. Green string lighting is probably the bar’s most prevalent feature, bathing the dark brown wood in a vaguely Irish color palette, the green light bouncing off of chairs, tables and red, plush booths.
What The Roost does excel at is dim lighting, the string lights no match for the evaporation of sunlight that takes place thanks to permanently shuttered shades and a persistently dark array of interior features. The walls in particular show some of the age of the space, the dark brown boards scuffed up in places and entirely efficient at overpowering any suggestion of daylight within The Roost. The bar is cash only, which comes as no surprise, and there is an ATM on site though the fee is not insignificant so prior arrangements are encouraged.
Cards are however taken for food, The Roost featuring a parodically Thai-influenced menu complete with Yellow Curry and Pad See Ewe. Fries, wings and tenders have been thrown in for good dive bar measure, but on-site and takeaway food here leans heavily into Thai favorites. As a quirk of the liquor license held by The Roost, food must be served here but also interestingly, the businesses are operated separately, enabling the cash-only bar and credit-accepted restaurant to co-exist.
Singer Elliott Smith is said to have preferred a drink within the dimly-lit Roost, a drink that was certainly surrounded by a muted set of colors. Breaking some of that monotony is the collection of rooster-themed knick knacks that rings the interior space. Along the thin windows near the ceiling with their perpetually closed blinds, a dozen or so rooster status can be found. They run the gamut between stained-glass pieces and straightforward sculptures, representing the Los Angeles dive bar’s theme well.
Maybe the most dive bar-like feature at The Roost is the building itself, stonework angled toward a corner door outside that looks well-aged. A stacked series of plastic signage travels vertically from the bar’s front wall, capped by a yellow and red rectangle proclaiming the name of the bar in its signature script. In addition to the helpful guidance to “Park in Rear,” two of the dive bar’s chief amenities are described through this signage as well, first through the understandable decree of “Cocktails” and the aggressive depiction of “BIG TV” in yes, all capital letters. The television inside The Roost is, a bit disappointingly, a standard-sized television, but points to the sign for selling a bit of sizzle on what is otherwise a pretty basic screen.