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Year End Quick Hits

Hello Enthusiasts –

My how time flies.  I’ve been keeping a list of places to write more about “when I get around to it” … and now the end of the year is here, I’m jetting off for the holidays, and this is the last thing I’m doing before leaving.  See how committed I am to you?  But the downside is that instead of separate posts, I’m going to have to wet your whistle here, and give these places the attention they deserve in 2012. (apologies that I don’t have all the particulars and/or photos for each place.  Besides, you read this for my sparkly writing, not for actual useful information, right?)

First on my list, Artisan House, at 6th & Main.  Finally, a rallying point for the Historic Core.  Sprawling, ambitious, welcoming, the Artisan House proves that *all* of Downtown is truly worth investing in – not just 7th St. and South Park.  Half market, half restaurant, offering something for everyone.  I’ve long said that 6th & Main was the best place to start an unplanned night out in Downtown because of the preponderance of options there.  Stretching around that very corner, Artisan House does two very important things:  ties 6th together with Main to make it truly a destination intersection, and perhaps even more importantly provides a great meal option, which was missing from that part of the world.  I love Cole’s, but sometimes you want more than a French Dip.  And, oh yeah, the food?  Really good, especially for being so new.  They probably wouldn’t like me saying that it’s the Historic Core’s answer to Bottega Louie … but they should, because if they become as jammed as Bottega is 24/7, they’ll be in a good place.

Next, in no particular order, Escondite.  I didn’t want to like Escondite because it’s in the old 410 Boyd space, a restaurant near and dear to my heart.  Here was a place serving lunch and dinner in what’s still a somewhat rough part of Downtown, except they’d been there at least since the mid 90’s.  Anybody who invested in Downtown then deserves a medal.  And, for those of you who know whom I’m talking about, it was Ira Yellin’s favorite place, and for that alone I loved it.  But … times change.  410 Boyd had admittedly gotten a little tired, so enter Escondite.  The decor?  Upscale western kitsch.  The food?  The best burgers in Downtown.  That’s right, you heard me.  Best burgers in Downtown (with D-Town Burger Bar a close second).  And the burgers are named things like the Herve Villachez and Dr. Joyce Brothers (although what provolone, romaine, tomato, onion, avocado, sprouts and Italian dressing have to do with a sex therapist is beyond me, but give them points for being clever).  Fun, and a little different.

Next:  Nola’s.    I’ve mentioned Nola’s before, and it’s going to get its own write up, but it’s such a unique offering for Downtown that I want to give it more love.  Great Southern food, great hospitality, great prices.  They do the necessary things right at a place like this:  *amazing* fried chicken, to die for mac n cheese, great greens.  But they also do the unnecessary things right, like potato salad.  I mean, the frickin’ potato salad is stupid good.  That shows effort.  And, they usually have live music during LUNCH.   You gotta go.  It’s in the Artists District, a couple doors down from Zip Fusion, on 3rd across Alameda.  I took one fellow Enthusiast there and, no joke, he went 6 times over the following month.

Right next door to Nola’s is the brand spankin’ new District (old website, but you’ll figure it out).  District is Korean BBQ, and boy is it good.  $13 for all you can eat lunch.  Five different kinds of meat, if you want it (including an amazing rib eye and delectable spicy pork), and probably 6 different sides.  And it’s fun because you’re sorta supposed to cook the meat yourself, but really, they do it for you.  The decor is pretty basic, and the patio where the Korean barbecues are located could use a little sprucing, but it feels like something off the beaten path. 

Last but not least, at least for now, is Mohawk Bend.  If you haven’t been, Mohawk Bend is on Sunset in Echo Park – Downtown adjacent.  They pride themselves on their local sourcing – even their spirits are local (which is taking it a bit far if you ask me.  I want my whiskey from Kentucky.)  It’s big, and the theater marquee out front is kinda fun, but the selling point for me is the patio – tucked in the back, you don’t notice it at first … but it’s mildly transporting to sit back there and take it all in.  Interesting beer selection, too.

Wait – I lied.  One more.  I can’t do a blog post without writing about Neat (the Yelp link), my friend Aidan’s bar in Glendale.  Yes, it’s in Glendale.  But you should trek there.  Why?  Because a) you won’t believe you’re drinking what you’re drinking in the location you’re in.  You’ve heard me say before that location counts, and there’s something about hitting what used to clearly be a dive bar on Pacific in Glendale, and finding great bartenders educating you about new things.  b) He’s focusing a lot on spirits, and really showing people good and interesting spirits.  Cocktails are great, but understanding what’s underneath them is interesting – you’ll be amazed at the variety.  And c) for those who don’t know, Aidan basically set up and ran all your favorite bars:  Seven Grand, the Edison, the Doheny, 1886, First & Hope – Aidan was essentially the founding bar manager for each one.  He’s kind of the PT Barnum of the LA cocktail community, so once you check out Neat and get on their list, you’ll get invited to all sorts of fun shenanigans.

So there you have it.  Each place getting shorter shrift than it deserves, but more to come in the near future.

Happy holidays, happy travels, and have a great 2012.

P.S. – As they say in Congress, a point of personal privilege:  I know you all read this blog for fun, light hearted stuff, but I just have to tell you about a new book which may seem unrelated, but really isn’t.  You know that one thread that runs through this blog is an abiding love for this sprawling, flawed, interesting, infuriating, fun, troubling, exciting, forward leaning city that we call Los Angeles.  Next year, a book is coming out by Connie Rice called Power Concedes Nothing and, while it’s a book about Connie’s life up to now, it’s really a book about Los Angeles.  If you don’t know who Connie is, Google her (or Bing her – your preference) – or just follow the link to the book’s website, which is already up.  She’s simply one of the preeminent fighters for civil and equal rights in this city.  The book is her story – I was lucky enough to read an advance copy – and boy is it a doozy.  It’s a story of a woman digging out Israeli/Palestinian peace accords to serve as a model for gang truces in South LA.  Fighting from both outside and in to reform an LAPD that was once rogue and is now almost a national model for community policing, largely thanks to her.  Fighting for the forgotten, and making us all better for it.  And a thousand other struggles, large and small, to make this city into a better version of itself.  When you hear about reduced rates of gang violence, lower crime rates, more schools getting built, and a generally more peaceful, safer city, this book will help explain why, and the fights it took to get there.  And for those of you who do know Connie, or have seen or listened to her, the book is unmistakably “her.”  Her wit, her sarcasm, her caustic observations, her passion, her unrelenting fight. 

This city is better off because she ended up here (you’ll be surprised to learn she was following a guy, the oldest “why’d you end up here?” story there is), and I’m glad she made the effort to tell us about her journey … which is far from over.