The Virtues of Rebirth

Posted by Glenn Gritzner on May 29, 2012

Hello Enthusiasts –

Well, we’re springing into summer here, and that’s always a time to think about what’s new, what’s going to be on our agenda as we roll into the fun time of the year.  Or maybe it’s just a time to think about a new spot to grab a bite and a drink after work.

Speaking of what’s new, a new place has gotten me thinking about the continuing rebirth of Downtown, which is taking many forms.  And one of those forms is reinvestment by existing owners – which is probably the best news of all.  When Downtown’s pioneers sell to newcomers, you don’t quite know what you’re going to get, and catering to Downtowners takes a certain understanding.  But when existing owners of successful places decide to reinvest and reinvent, that means two good things: 1) it’s worth it for them to do that, meaning that they see the upside; and 2) it means they’re doubling down on Downtown.  And it usually means that they know what they’re doing, so their chances of success are that much higher.

Which brings me to the brand spanking new Eat. Drink. Americano.  (couldn’t find a website, so the link takes you to their Facebook page), on 3rd St. in the Arts District.  Some of you remember Cafe Metropol, the former inhabitant of the space.  I loved Cafe Metropol.  It had been there for years, and used to be a great “impress your friends” place – you would venture into the Arts District, you’d see a big empty lot to your right just after Zip Fusion, and to your left, you’d see a brick building with an unassuming sign.  Walking inside, you’d find a light airy space with brick walls, butcher paper for table covers, bud vases, local art on the walls, and French style paninis and sandwiches to eat.  It was this little oasis of simple civilization in an unexpected location.  So when I heard they were reinventing themselves, my first reaction was disappointment.

But that all disappeared when I walked into Eat. Drink.  It immediately became clear why they did it and what the new space meant about Downtown in general, and the Arts District in particular.  See, Metropol was great, but it wasn’t really “of” Downtown or the Arts District.  Sure, it had the local art on the walls, but it didn’t have an urban feel.  It had a somewhat dated, well, “exposed brick and bud vases” feel.  So, while I had a soft spot for Metropol, I quickly realized it was a nostalgic soft spot, not a current, vibrant soft spot.  The new place is much more relevant, more inviting in its own way, and certainly more attractive for residents, a must in this location.

The exterior is still its unassuming, attractive self:

 

 

 

 

 

But the interior is basically unreognizable.  Check it out (thanks, Grub Street):

 

Look at that wall in the back.  Cool, signature piece, done by a local artist with real chalk, and then sealed (so you won’t get your hip jacket dirty when you rub up against it).  And check out the chandelier made of a vintage contraption used to dry wine bottles.  Good stuff.

Loyal readers of this little vanity project will know that I’m a sucker for two things:  unexpected locations (check) and places that are “better than they have to be.”  And Eat Drink has that covered.   The menu is small, but creative and delicious.  Stuff like black cod tempura with tomato sauce.  King crab canneloni and cauliflower foam.  And a great selection of flatbreads.  Reading that makes it sound a little pretentious, but it’s not – it’s just good food in a comfortable setting.

The place is only beer and wine, but that’s OK – they carry interesting beers and wines, and they simply don’t have the space to do anything more ambitious.

Eat. Drink. also got me thinking about a different aspect of the evolution of Downtown.  Downtown is quickly growing to be more than just “Downtown”.  It really is a collection of neighborhoods, each with their own identity and charms.  The Historic Core is a collection of great bars and older lofts with tons of character (and I mean that in a legitimate way, not in a real estate-y euphemistic way) and, not unimportantly, the home of ArtWalk.  7th St. is something of a restaurant row.  South Park is swanky lofts, L.A. Live, and upscale restaurants.  Bunker Hill is where the arts live, along with the bustling Cal Plaza.  And the Arts District is where the originals hail – the people who have been living in Downtown for years, if not decades.  When a place like Cafe Metropol decides to go MORE local, you know that a neigborhood is truly mature.  (and don’t email me with all the neighborhoods I “forgot” – this is just a sampling).

You could really make a night out of the Arts District.  Start off at Eat. Drink. for a glass of wine and a snack.  Maybe dinner at Nola’s (if you can tear yourself away from Eat.’s food).  A little slice of Maple Custard pie from the Pie Hole across the street (don’t wrinkle your nose until you’ve tried it, and then scarfed it down).  And then a nightcap at Villains (and if it’s that kind of night, you’ll end up throwing some darts at Tony’s).

When the closing of a well liked place is GOOD news for a neighborhood, you know you’ve come a long way.

Happy travels.

 

Eat. Drink. Americano.

923 E. 3rd St.

(213) 620-0781