The Dresden is a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a time capsule. Though it’s drawn recognition serving as a backdrop in films like Swingers, this bar / restaurant / lounge act is more rightly famous for its Rat Pack era atmosphere and musical acts, and deserves a spot on anyone’s late night itinerary of Los Angeles. Other bars may chase trends and tastes, but the Dresden knows what it likes and sticks with it. And what it likes is the year 1954, the year it first opened, a time when a dinner was a steak, a martini hinged on gin, and Sinatra was king.
Enter the main doors on Vermont Avenue and you’ll immediately see the bar, which divides the Dresden into the restaurant on the left and the lounge on the right. Bartenders in bow ties serve the busy barstool crowd under the dim glow of candelabra light reflecting off the wood and stone paneling. These are brisk, efficient, no-nonsense older gentlemen who’ve made more drinks than their clientele has drank in their entire lives. The less busy restaurant offers a dinner menu that is solidly 1950s, serving prime rib, steaks, seafood and protein heavy pastas. The lounge is laid out with wall booths and small tables (two drink minimum) clustered around a piano, which serves as the centerpiece and scene for the Dresden’s main draw — the music acts.
The Dresden has live music seven days a week but their headliner is the husband and wife duo of Marty and Elayne, who play Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 pm to 1 am. With a wink and a nod, this pair belt out jazz, swing, and big band tunes. Having sung together for over thirty years, they’ve built up quite the following of local musicians (and the occasional rock star) who show up nightly to sing with them. For the amateur set, they offer an open-mike night on Tuesdays if you want to try your own rendition of “My Way” but be warned: the wait list is long and the singers are tiptop. Crowds are steady during the week with weekend nights being the busiest. They come for a drink, a song, and a scene that is like no other in Los Angeles.
Details: 1760 N Vermont Ave Los Angeles, CA 90027. Open from around 5 pm to 2 am.
Getting There: On the metro, take the Red Line to Sunset/Vermont station and walk north a few blocks. By car, take the 5 Freeway to Los Feliz Blvd, then down Vermont, or take the 101 Freeway to Hollywood Blvd, then north on Vermont. Parking is available for $3.50. Otherwise, try looking for a parking a block or two away, as Vermont is a busy street.