user's guide

Where to Party on New Year's Eve Without Getting Gouged

"Punchfest" will take-over at Villains TavernPhoto: Villains Tavern

If you're anything like us, you can't stand greeting the new year by parting with your hard-earned cash as bars and restaurants crank up the cover charges and roll out the overpriced pre-fixes. You're sure as hell not staying home, but where can you go without joining a party where the financial obligations add extra pressure for the crowd to force a good time. Hoping to relieve like minds and thin wallets, we combed through reams of planned parties and bougie bar nights to come up with a list of some well-priced and no cover options for your New Year's Eve. Take a look!

The Abbey: There will be no cover charge here as The Abbey descends into an Aztec apocalypse theme, with sexy warriors and "sacrificial" go-go dancers. Packages, which include a hosted bar and food, are available, but not required (though always appreciated here nonetheless).

Bar Pintxo: Joe Miller's place is celebrating the Spanish New Year's tradition of Nochevieja, wherein every guest gets 12 grapes to cram in their mouths at midnight, with each order. At 9:00 P.M., a $10 cover allows you to party here until 2:00 P.M., with complimentary manchego and tomato tapas, party favors, entertainment, and a free cava toast at midnight.

Basement Tavern: The Victorian-bound bar will take over three-stories, packing them with two bands (Howlin' Woods and Paul Chesne) and DJ Oscar Rangel. $25 pre-sale tickets can be purchased anytime.

Casa Vega: A no cover party will feature the full menu, along with Carnivale dancers and a band until 2:00 A.M.

Drago Centro: Chef Ian Gresik has a four-course pre-fixe menu for $65, featuring wild mushroom spaghetti and filet mignon. Reservations at 213-228-8998.

Il Covo: Possibly the most romantic new restaurant space, Il Covo offers a $65 four-course pre-fixe from chef Roberto Maggioni featuring scallop ravioli, lobster with sea urchin, and cotechino with lentils. With reservations required at 310-858-0020.

Mezze: One of our favorite new restaurants of 2011, Mezze is keeping it simple with an open bar priced at $35 from the end of dinner service until closing. If you need a base for all that booze, Micah Wexler plans a three-course dinner for $65. Reservations at 310-657-4103.

Playa: John Sedlar's place plans no "pretense or prix fixe pressure," serving its menu a la carte, with the option for a $100 luxury tequila flight featuring the chefs own 6-year aged anejo, and for the rest of us, a $25 flight othat includes three mezcals (Vida, Chichicapa, and Joven Illegal). Walk ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended at 323-933-5300.

Rush Street: If there's any night when mounting a stripper pole is at all socially acceptable, it's New Year's Eve. Culver City's frat-tastic ode to Chicago is planning a no-cover night that kicks off at 5:30 P.M. with dinner and drink specials downstairs. One word of warning: At 8:00 P.M., the upstairs becomes a playing field for the ultimate gouge, bottle-service!

The Six Studio City: The new Valley location of the gastropub will serve its usual menu all night at normal prices, only with the addition of free endless champagne. Reservations required at 818-861-2319.

Villains Tavern: Dana Hollister knows how to entertain, mixing equal parts weird and traditional in her eclectic bar spaces. On New Year's Eve, her Downtown bar Villains Tavern plans to continue its ongoing punchfest with pints of five to seven varieties of punch that go down in price by one dollar every hour until midnight, starting at $11 at 7:00 P.M. and falling to $6 by midnight, when a free champagne toast is also scheduled. Possibly foreshadowing the steampunky demographic that could unite here, a band called "Steamhead" is taking the stage at 10:00, while admission is completely free all night.

Umami Burger: It may not be the most celebratory event, but it is a good way to fuel up for the night. Or, you know, to prep your stomach for all the alcohol you just consumed. All Umami Burger locations will offer the Kombu Meal--a Holiday BIrd turkey burger, sweet potato fries and a split of Karma sparkling wine--for $21.

The Churchill: The newish Third Street hot spot has a few things going for it: great decor, fun vibe, and a good bar. Before 8pm, get a three-course menu for $45 (regular menu also available). Some dishes to choose from include chestnut potato soup, mussels and frites, roasted pork chop, bouillabaisse, and espresso-chocolate pot de crème. From 9pm-2am, $80 gets you an open bar, midnight Champagne toast, DJ, photo booth and free valet. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Stay tuned, as we plan to update the above list as new options become known to us.

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