Posted by Glenn Gritzner on November 7, 2017
Hello Enthusiasts –
Here I am, back again, which means you know I’ve found somewhere that I think you need to know about – and try – immediately.
But since I like to make you wait a bit for the main event, and since I post so irregularly, I’ll just mention (and show you) a few places that I think are worth knowing about, even if they don’t get their own full post. So, jumping right in:
El Dorado, right next door to the Le Petit Paris restaurant on Spring, is a great, downstairs, dark-and-moody bar that is spacious, serves a good cocktail, and is always fun. If they’re serving a cocktail that comes with the “high five garnish”, get it. Trust me. Le Petit Paris? Not so much. Beautiful space, good for dates and whatnot … but the food and drinks should be SO much better. So, we’ll just focus on the cool bar next door. (BTW, these pictures are small, but if you click on them, they zoom. Then just hit back in your browser, and you’ll return to this wit and irreverence…)
The bar attached to Spring Restaurant (which they call Springside), at 3rd and Spring, is also a good bar attached to a restaurant that I don’t love as much as I want to (though, to be clear, Spring is WAY better than Le Petit Paris…). Casual, homey, good cocktails, attentive staff. Looks and feels way different than the restaurant, which is airy, white, and a bit austere. Jonathan Gold loooooooves the restaurant – he again put it in the top 10 of his recently issued 101 Best Restaurants in LA list. Me, not so much. It’s a little too formalized and, while I’m as much a fan of well prepared vegetables as the next person, that’s kind of what they hang their hat on (though they have all the usual French food), and I am just not so compelled by it. It’s certainly really well done food, don’t get me wrong. It’s just not so much *my* thing. So, I usually just go to the bar… (Pic doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s all I could find. It’s … cooler … than this.)
Bar Clacson recently opened on Broadway, and it’s a good neighborhood bar, co-owned by the inimitable Cedd Moses in partnership with Eric Alperin of Varnish fame. To be honest, with those all-stars, I expected a bit more, but Bar Clacson is exactly what it wants to be – a good, accessible, “easy”-but-high-quality neighborhood bar. HOWEVER, you go through the back door of Bar Clacson, and you will find yourself at Slipper Clutch, and I looove Slipper Clutch. It’s rotten and has vintage arcade games and lots of neon and, best of all, it serves highballs out of a gun. What does that mean? A highball is essentially two ingredients in a tall glass with ice – gin and tonic. Rum and coke. Whatever. The most basic of drinks. But they use really good ingredients, batch them up, and then load it into the bar gun that they usually use for soda, water, etc. So, you want a rum and coke? Sure. Ten bucks, glass full of ice, right out of the gun. Perfect for the kind of place that it is. (Bar Clacson on the top, Slipper Clutch on the bottom)
Jumping around a bit here, we’ve got Prank. Corner of Olympic and Hope. What’s cool about Prank? It’s literally an indoor/outdoor bar right on the corner. It’s got these huge floor to ceiling window doors that push to the side, and you’ve got a bar that sort of spills onto the sidewalk. Plus, it’s got a deceptively huge upstairs and the drinks are great and it’s owned by the amazing Dave Whitton of Villains Tavern fame (and one of the Seven Grand OG bartenders, which is ground zero for the cocktail movement in Los Angeles), and sitting there on the corner on a sunny afternoon sipping a cocktail as the day winds down is a quintessentially LA thing to do. Even in DTLA. (Pic doesn’t do it justice, but it shows the whole indoor/outdoor walk up thing)
OK, we’re on a roll here. Rhythm Room at 6th & Spring is a really cool spot that we need more of. First, it’s super high design. There are now a number of underground, speakeasyish bars in Downtown. But this one would give any of those a run for their design money. Attention to detail, very 30s throwback kind of thing. That being said, you *might* think “yeah, sure … but I can go to other well designed underground speakeasyish bars in Downtown”. To which I’d respond “first world problems”, but you still might say that. But then … you walk around the bar and go down a couple steps to a pretty large room and … what do we have here? Pool tables? OK, nice. Wait, is that foosball? Awesome. And shuffleboard? Even better! And ping pong tables and darts and chess and boardgames and and and?! Now we’re talking! Yes, you have to pay to partake in these activities, but welcome to LA. Rhythm Room has flown a little under the radar – definitely a hidden gem. (Rhythm Room gets a couple pics because it’s so cool. Couldn’t find one that shows allll the game options, but you get the idea. You really should click on these pics to get the full view.)
Heading over to the Arts District, and speaking of games, we have the Arts District Brewing Company. Another Cedd Moses production, ADBC (I don’t know if they go by that, but I don’t want to keep typing it) has a 15 barrel brewhouse producing 3,300 barrels a year, making over 30 original beers. The space is huge, it has a bunch of cool arcade games and, best of all, 15 restored vintage Skeeball machines. I mean, it’s Skeeball, people.
And finally, before the main event, and still in the Arts District, we have Westbound. That’s in the One Santa Fe building – the one that’s huge and people say looks like a cruise ship on its side. Westbound does lots of special tastings and has an excellent drink menu and is just one of those small bars that gets it right. Also, go during Christmas because they deck the place out. I envy the people who live in that building and have this as their “pop in for a drink” bar downstairs (though if you lived at the wrong end, that would be a looooong walk).
Phew! After all those cool spots that *didn’t* force me to sit down and write a separate blog post, you must be thinking “Sheesh. Then how cool must this new place be?” Answer: yep, cooler than all these other already-cool places. Amazing design. Superior food and super creative cocktails. Lots of different options (hence, the headline). It’s really the combination of the whole package that made me think “I’ve got to tell my loyal readers (because I know you wait on pins and needles for every blog post) about this!”
So, without further ado (and that was a lot of ado, whatever ado is), I give you the Freehand Hotel. Which, for what it’s worth, looks like this on the outside:
But really, I’m not talking about the hotel itself. I’m talking about the multitudes it offers within. I’m talking about the Exchange, which is the hotel’s restaurant that serves amazing Israeli food (yes, amazing Israeli food), and has a great cocktail list that is separate from the lobby bar. The lobby bar being Rudolph’s, which might serve the most interestingly presented drinks in Downtown, many of which are tea-focused (more on that in a minute). And I’m talking about Broken Shaker, which is their rooftop bar, and is going to give Ace and Perch a run for their money as coolest rooftop bar in Downtown (please don’t tell me you thought “what about the Standard?” If you did, you clearly haven’t been reading this blog because the Standard is terrible.)
OK, first … let’s focus on the Exchange. Check it out. Lots of wood. Warm. Welcoming.
And the food? Don’t be put off when you hear it’s Israeli food – not that there’s anything wrong with Israel, but it’s not exactly what you think of when you think “culinary hotspot”. Think Mediterranean with a twist. There will be sauces you haven’t heard of. There will be things like “grated tomato”. The pita will be house made. And it will all be delicious. It’s familiar enough to not be off putting, but just different enough to be interesting. What’s great about the Exchange is that it works for everything from a business lunch to a date night out – tough to pull off. The cocktails are creative and awesome (and different from the ones in the bar lobby, just a few feet away), the service is attentive, and the prices aren’t crazy. A super welcome addition to Downtown.
Now, we move to that hotel lobby, Rudolph’s. Pictures below. More wood, but a little more arts and crafts, a little more modern, very loungey. (And you might see “Reserved” on some of those tables if you walk in – not to worry. Those signs are there just to make sure that paying customers are sitting there, not random walk ins. So if you’re actually going to spend money there, make yourself at home.)
Most of the cocktails have some tea-based ingredient (they actually call the place Rudolph’s Bar and Tea). Which could have ended up as some combination of pretentious and/or “it sounded good on paper”. But it didn’t because the drinks are incredible. Take the Dance This Mess Around. The ingredients are “Lapsang Souchong Tea, Hennessey VS Cognac, Local Honey, Armenian Apricot Preserves, Lemon Citrus, Angostura Bitters.” A whole bunch of people wouldn’t order that. “What’s Lapsang Souchong Tea? I don’t really drink cognac. Apricot preserves? I’m just not sure.” And all those people would be making a mistake. It’s amazing, as are all the drinks I’ve had there. And the presentation is frequently part of the show. Drinks served on rugs. Drinks that smoke. Drinks that come in custom containers (you can’t really call them glasses). Probably the best “hotel lobby bar” in Downtown.
And then, we head to the roof. Broken Shaker. Check it out. This place just exudes fun.
It’s exactly what you want a rooftop bar to be. The drinks are vacation-inspired – a “Shell Beach Caiprinha” or a “Coco-Nutcase”. The vibe is urban island-y, if that’s a thing. The views are great, the bar bites work, and the pool looks ready to jump into. If you go during the day, you’ll feel like you’re on a daycation, and if you go at night, it has that “anything is possible” vibe that the best bars give off. Plus, as a comparison since I mentioned Ace and Perch, it’s less clubby/scene-y than Ace (which, to me, is a good thing) and it’s less … touristy, maybe … than Perch. And the food and drinks are WAY better than at Perch (which is, admittedly, a low bar.) I didn’t mention the Wilshire Grand – nothing beats the view from the rooftop of the Wilshire Grand, but it’s getting increasingly tough to get up there. Broken Shaker may get like that, but it’s not yet, so go now. And if you’re still not convinced, it has a drink called the “Mrs. Roper”. I mean, come on.
So, Freehand is really three great destinations in one. If you want to hit all of them, make reservations for dinner at the Exchange, get a drink at Rudolph’s beforehand, and then go to Broken Shaker for a nightcap (but, uh, pace yourself). But it’s worth repeat visits – I notice different things every time I go.
PS – Pro tip: If you don’t know this about Downtown addresses, the number can help you with location. Basically, the first number tells you which streets the establishment is in between. So, 416 S. Spring means it’s on Spring between 4th and 5th. Or, 351 S. Broadway means it’s on Broadway between 3rd and 4th. You’re welcome.
416 S. Spring St.
257 S. Spring St. (Entrance on 3rd)
351 S. Broadway
1100 S. Hope (corner of Olympic)
206 W. 6th St. (in the basement)
828 Traction Ave.
300 S. Santa Fe Ave (north end)
416 W. 8th St. (at Hill)