Now that the restrictions that come with a vegan diet fail to faze him, Jeremy Lake, in his second cocktail menu since Crossroads has opened, made efforts to advance the drinks even further and towards a healthful mindset. And if any restaurant in Los Angeles has been successful at reframing how a diet with no animal by-products is viewed, it’s Crossroads. Everything here is delicious – without mention of the usual apologetics – and the new fall cocktail menu is no exception.
While we’ve gone back and forth for awhile, the weather has gotten pretty warm and I’m sure that it’s here to stay. Well, besides June Gloom in a couple weeks, that is.
But it’s hard to argue that Los Angeles is the place to be in Spring, and Comme Ça, fresh off their remodel, is the perfect place to celebrate and clink glasses. They’ve got quite an impressive cocktail menu that has been out for a couple weeks. Looks are deceiving, because while the Basil Blush, for instance, looks like your typical strawberry-basil cooler, it actually packs quite a punch thanks to its freshly muddled ingredients and tasty, spicy white rum.
The Hudson has been at the center of many a West Hollywood scene. So when they shuttered over the new year for 3 weeks to renovate their interior, they had in mind to update the feel of the place – without doing so much as to disrupt the reasons their patrons have become regulars. What you’ll feel immediately when you walk in is the added height – 8 feet, to be exact – and a now-exposed, beautiful A-frame ceiling.
There are some restaurants in Los Angeles that have achieved a sort of double-edged iconic status. Their names have been cemented in history due to the decades of their resilience – a resulting longevity which suggests, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Yet. We can all agree that the definition of “ain’t broke,” or “competent,” has evolved in regards to the way we have grown to consider cocktails today, which is in itself a wonderful thing. Kate Mantelini, a place that is all at once regarded as a Beverly Hills “coffee shop” [Zagat], power lunch hub and pinpoint on every star map in existence, has effectively shed their 1980s-era defunct ways of creating and enjoying cocktails thanks to the new menu by Devon Espinoza.
There was a point in time about a year ago where, upon first meeting other Angelenos and exchanging which neighborhoods we lived in, I stopped getting as many wrinkled noses and, “How’s THAT going for you?’s” in response to my living in Hollywood. But I still get them, to my own bemusement. It’s a revealing comment about the inquisitor, divulging more about their assumptions than I care to disprove. When it comes to drinking and the requisite clubbing, there has sprung up plenty of spots to disprove those stereotypes for a few years now (Library Bar, Harvard & Stone, The Spare Room, Sadie – three of which I can walk to, the other I can Metro to).
There’s something about being a Hollywood resident that lends itself to glossing over most of the food and drink choices in my neighborhood. Believe you me, I love my area and all the conveniences it affords – but it’s because they all outweigh the inconveniences.
There are inconveniences like the annoyances of walking past the Thursday through Saturday night crowd, as well as the douche spots themselves that I’d avoid any day of the week. Hemingway’s is an example of a place that I’d go and see Alex Straus make cocktails earlier in the evening but avoid at all costs at peak times. But now, I can add Lexington Social House to that secret non-peak-time list.
I was invited to take a peak at their Social Hour, their thematically dubbed happy hour. And it’s not shabby in the least. With the launch of their new menu, it’sÂ a great opportunity to try new items during LSH Lite, which goes on at the bar Tuesday through Friday from 5:30 until 8 PM and all day Sunday. Their specialty cocktails as well as their entire menu is half-off during this time! Since I love sitting at the bar, anyway, I’ll gladly take my supper club to the stools.
A sure menu bet is Mette Williams’ fried chicken tenders, an unordinarily juicy-crispy preparation. Looking for that hearty bite that doesn’t hold back? The Chipotle pork belly biscuits with aged Gouda and fried egg will be sure to satisfy you and then some.
As for the cocktails, designed by Kyle Ackley, I must applaud this Hollywood-and-Vine institution for putting the brakes on the vodka in their drink menu – just beware that there are pop rocks in one of them. My favorite cocktail, however, was the Spanish Harlem, made with tanteo cocoa infused tequila, maraschino liqueur, agave nectar and chocolate-chili bitters. It was a clean, strong yet flavorful drink and I ended up having another.
Lexington Social House is an unlikely place to find a Spago and CUT alum like Mette Williams, but alas – there she is, surprising everyone with her well-executed, comfort-driven menu. Social Hour is just the time to try it all out and wash it downÂ at half-off.Â And that beats amateur hour any day.Â
All food and cocktails were hosted.
I made my overdue visit to BÃ¤co Mercat one cold-for-LA, weekday evening. I stationed at the full bar, in full view of the construction of both BÃ¤zeracs I ordered for the duration of my meal. The red tinge of the storefront neon sign brought a welcome warmth, and it proved quite the perfect setting in which to enjoy each of the small plates that gradually came out.
They are all essentially small plates with big flavor. It sounds so simple, but only Josef Centeno can effectively achieve that. You could also oversimplify the BÃ¤co as a sandwich, but that would be the same atrocity as calling its flatbread a mere pita.
I haven’t had any of the other BÃ¤cos (an offense to be corrected over many future return visits), but the beef tongue schnitzel variety was absolutely divine. The combination of breaded beef tongue and spicy harissa with smoked aioli were like bites of heaven. And there are no words for that secret flatbread, in which Centeno uses “different fats and lebni” – you have to try it on your own. It’s more moist and dense than typical flatbreads while affording a fluffy consistency. I wanted to finish the whole thing right then and there. (Alas, I had ordered too much food.) If I had to move downtown for my daytime vocation, the lunchtime BÃ¤co alone would be a huge consolation.
The thinly sliced pork headcheese with capersÂ was a great way to start off. I also really enjoyed the brussel sprouts, which were made into a warm,Â chopped caesar salad. The Szechuan chicken “ribs” were to die for. They had a ton of spicy BBQ flavor and were super tender – and big.
The “Cocas,” or crispy, poofy flatbreads, are have a scrumptious texture further spiced up with tasty toppings – most pizzas will seem far and away plain boring in comparison once you’ve tried. Mine had a just-spicy-enough salsa verde toppingÂ with anchovies – a perfect savory treat.
There are many more dishes that I can’t wait to try at dinnertime. So between all those and all the different BÃ¤cos I have yet to try, I definitely have my work cut out for me. The full bar is yet furtherÂ enticement. It’s clear that Josef Centeno is loving having a place to truly call his own – and we, the diners, are all the better for it.
I need few reasons to return to Sotto. Alas, I may be in trouble since tonight’s launch provides two new reasons to return – daily (okay, Tuesday through Monday, to be exact).
Sotto is launching both an Aperitivo Hour and a Digestivo Hour. You’ll get to choose from a few hunger-inducing cocktails by Julian Cox during this hour for $9 each as well as from a variety of bar bites for $3 each, like Ceci Fritti, Season Crostini, Calamari Fritti, Lupini Beans Sott’aceto and Arrosticini.
The Aperitivo Hour runs from 5:30 – 6:30 PM from Tuesdays through Sundays and includes cocktails like the Sazerac Rusticum, with wild fennel infused Aperol, Grappa, herb-infused Vermouth and a Sambuca rinse; or the adorably named Rome with a View, with Campari, Dry Vermouth, fresh lime and soda. Since I’ve been loving the Negroni, lately, the Aperitivo hour may be my very own adult candy store.
Digestivo Hour runs from 9 – 10 nightly, also from Tuesdays through Sundays, where you’ll also get access to $3 bites but these particular $9 cocktails will be aimed at being a nice little nightcap, like the Il Cattivo – made with Holland gin, Italian vermouth, Branca Menta and lemon peel.
These are all available at the bar, only, so I’d recommend getting there as close to the start of the hours as you can. See you on the Westside.
I love a delicious, complex cocktail as much as the next guy but sometimes you just want something that’s a little more simple. Rugged. Or even rough.
Thankfully, I live in Hollywood so I have plenty of selection to suit my needs and desires of the moment. And yeah, I was craving something a lot less maintenance than a $14 hand-crafted cocktail plus an easyÂ snack that would satisfy my belly. So I decided to check out Frysmith’s new cover band, Loaded Rock Bar on Hollywood Blvd, which serves up their menu without the gas ‘n go truck and with the stationary bar seating, lone flatscreen andÂ nostalgic-to-the-80’s, rocker-esqueÂ soundtrack.
I’ll admit: The key is visiting on Call Whiskey Wednesdays, whereby all call whiskey is $3 per shot (If you prefer Jager, go on Mondays; tequila and Tecates, go on Thursdays). And so Makers it was, for me, which accompanied an order of Loaded Kimchi Fries with pork belly.
Beautiful. The fries were of a perfect crisp and the kimchi was more respectable than I’d honestly give a rock bar credit for.Â It would be hard to say if they’d be even better if cooked on the original truck. Thank you, Loaded, for proving me wrong. It’s apparent that the place provides its customers with a solid bar-going experienceÂ without the BS. They also have a cheapÂ food menu besides theÂ Frysmith menu, which I have yet to try, but which also comes with little risk ($5 for a burger on Hollywood Blvd? Wow!). But if you’re not hungry, count on Loaded for the whiskeys and bourbons – including evenÂ Death’s Door White Whiskey, Woodford Reserve and Basil Hayden ($7 ea). Or Macallan 12 for $8, if you were thinking something sweeter. Highland Park 12 and even Balvenie 12 are even $8 per pour.
ThinkingÂ about fitting in? A $5 PBR 24-oz pounder should be right up your alley. If you want to play middle-of-the-aisle, they also have $4 bottled Red Stripe. Are you a daytime drinker? All drinks are 2 for $1 more from 11 AM – 7 PM. Whoa.
Not bad for a rock bar with
fake Marshall Loaded ampsÂ lining the back wall.
We all have done it. We all have stood in lines. We may have even stood in lines for brunch, even though it’s our first kick-start of the day and can’t even function standing up in said line without that first cup of coffee.
So when I took my friends visiting from Milwaukee to The Alcove for the ultimate L.A. brunch, I was feeling pretty much like a sucker when I saw the line trail out their cute, tiny cottage door and onto the brick walkway. It was a Saturday morning – brunch time at one of the most popular brunch spots – and I dared think, “I don’t stand in lines.” Luckily, one of the staff caught my “explore other options” vibe and said, “There are seats at the bar in Big Bar, if you want to sit down.”Â I was fast as a rocket: “Is it full menu?” “Yes.” So I sprinted into Big Bar to claim our four spots in a flash.
Bar seating is underrated. I enjoy being a part of the action (the bar at Lazy Ox Canteen is one of my favorite places to eat solo) and witness to what goes into making the food and cocktails I’m about to consume. The best seats in the house were essentially unclaimed before we had arrived. And with Rosie Ruiz and Eugene Lee behind the bar, my friends and I were about to experience a cornucopia of delectable cocktails beyond our already-excellent Bloody Marys made with pureed in-house tomato juice and sinus-clearing horseradish.
I loved my crab cake benedict and my friends (two Jessicas and an Eric) blissfully enjoyed their scrambles and crab cake sandwich. It’s no secret that food is consistently solid at The Alcove, and I was relieved that that was still true even though it’d been awhile since I had returned. Truth be told, we stayed at The Alcove for over 3 hours, thanks to our willingness to be liquid guinea pigs and Rosie and Eugene’s gregariousness and hospitality at Big Bar’s…bar.
I never did sit in front of such a lively pair of bartenders in the morning with zero guilt. Usually, I’d validate morning drinking with a bloody mary – but why restrict it to just one cocktail? Eugene asked me what I wanted to drink next, and I picked gin. And so he put together a beautifully simple cocktail that had just the right amount of kick in it thanks to the jalapeno. Hand-crafted, tailored cocktails in the morning … I can handle that.
But I apparently can’t handle notes during brunch in the morning, since the coveted recipes are nowhere to be found in my phone. (Don’t worry, I can type without looking at my phone, under the bar. Look ma, no touch screen!) One of the lost notes includes the Lifeboat cocktail, which Eugene shared is a Kirsten Dunst favorite – to the point of returning a handful of times and bothering him during his meal to make the cocktail, just to skip out on the check.
Gah. Celebrities. It may not be Hollywood, but there’s no escaping that The Alcove is a scene, a place to be. Deservedly so. Just don’t take my seat at the bar.
P.S. – Eugene’s got tunes on the patio and at Big Bar on Wednesdays, the themes of which change every week. So, be sure to pop in for food and/or cocktails for what promises to be crazy, mid-week funtime. Big Bar itself also has some of the best bar bites I’ve had in town.
All photography by Jessica Kaminski…which is why it looks professional and stuff.