The Fabric of a City

Posted by Glenn Gritzner on May 5, 2009

Hello Enthusiasts –

Today’s post, and my weekend, leaves me thinking about the Fabric of a City. Let me explain.

Friday night, I had dinner at Boca at the Conga Room in L.A. Live. Great restaurant, great venue, and actually some interesting drinks. But, to be honest, it was a little dead. There wasn’t too much going on at the L.A. Live venues (Staples, Nokia, etc.), and L.A. Live was feeling the deficit.

But then, for after dinner fun, we headed to CorkBar, a wine bar on the corner of 12th and Grand. CorkBar was packed – on a Friday night, at 10 pm, on the corner of 12th and Grand, of all places. Great wines, reasonable prices, knowledgeable servers.

I’ve since had lunch at CorkBar, and it was really impressive. Let’s start with the fact that it opens at 11 am. Every day. So next time you want to meet someone for a civilized drink at a civilized hour, CorkBar is there for you.

Next, let’s talk about shrimp risotto. Or Farmers Market veggie sandwiches. Or banana bread pudding. Or the charcuterie plate. All at a cool wine bar in a part of Downtown where you really don’t expect a cool wine bar – sort of like the surprise offered by The Must, but in a different, more upscale way.

But it was empty for lunch, when it should be full, and packed on a Friday night, when you’d think it might be empty. So who are these people? Obviously, they are locals. People who, yes, actually live Downtown, near this welcome establishment.

Now, back to L.A. Live. I’ve sensed a minor backlash against L.A. Live. Yes, the places are mostly corporate and chain-y. I’ve already been to the new Trader Vic’s, which just opened, and it, too, is corporate and chain-y (though compared to the Yard House or ESPN Zone, it’s downright gritty). And people are focused on the “cool, in” places, which L.A. Live isn’t. If you read this blog, you know that I’m guilty of it, too. But.

Let’s talk about why Downtown has become what it’s become, and is still becoming. The whole deal putting Staples Center Downtown only made sense because of the economics surrounding L.A. Live. So without L.A. Live, there’s no Staples Center and vice versa.

Then, L.A. Live is announced, and that investment incentivizes developers to start building upscale lofts, because a critical mass of people will now be hanging out Downtown. And now, with those lofts and their residents online … places like CorkBar can come in and thrive. So … Staples Center begets L.A. Live begets CorkBar (and Rivera and Liberty Grill and, you could even argue, Ralphs).

The point is, it all fits together. You can’t embrace the “locals’ places” like CorkBar and shun the corporate places that L.A. Live offers, because you wouldn’t have one without the other.

I understand that the masses will have their opinions. But if you are a Downtown Enthusiast – and we are all Downtown Enthusiasts of one sort or another, right? – you can’t embrace one and turn your nose up at the other. You gotta be cool with how it all works, and be grateful that we have the options we have. It’s sorta like movies – you have to understand that movies like Wolverine are what allow us to have movies like Slumdog Millionaire. Anyway, you get the point.

So – see you at Trader Vic’s for drinks. Or CorkBar for lunch.

Keep your enthusiasm up, and happy travels.

(I was given the eminently reasonable suggestion to include contact info for places I mention in my posts, so here you go. I’m not going to go backwards and add this stuff in, but going forward I will)

Cork Bar
403 W. 12th St (at Grand)
Los Angeles, CA 90015
213-746-0050

Boca at the Conga Room
L.A. Live
Figueroa & Olympic
Los Angeles, CA
213-745-0162