La la la la la, la la la, LA….Well beloveds you’ve made it! We’ve all been waiting with baited breath, some of us more than others, but let’s not speak of that now. Rumor is that you’ve come to the Isle of Downtown from near and far with filmed stories to share. So, only seems fair to return the favor. Shared kindness grows…. you know the drill. Now there is another rumor circulating that insinuates that film festival going is hard work and that gargantuan appetites and thirst have befallen many! Well we can’t have that. So then beloved festival weasels, please find below a list of ten good places to go in downtown Los Angeles during the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival, or just because. Off the beaten track, these places are win- win, weasel or no… you know the drill.
All are near festival venues. There a couple of bonus bits of info thrown in here, so keep your eyes peeled. So now then for your consideration and in no particular order:
CASA is a downtown Los Angeles taqueria, restaurant and bar located in the California Plaza Center. Outside you’ll notice several white stucco “casitas” on the patio, cozy little outdoor booths that accommodate parties of different sizes. Take the time to enjoy the view. The city’s buildings sparkle above and there is a dreamy quality on the patio, as though you are looking through a back side of a mirror and into the sea. Inside the lighting is low as is most of the seating. Walls are creamy and complimented with dark wood and leather accents that are reminiscent of Andalucía. But make no mistake; CASA is a mod Mexican cocina.
CASA’s menu is seasonal and you can keep it simple or hunker down with something a little more complex. If you’d like something light try the fish tacos with citrus slaw and mango salsa. Another good bet is the mini pork belly sopes with salsa negra. They aren’t spicy but perhaps could be if you asked. The food is good, very good, but don’t forget the bar.
The bar sits right between the outdoor patio and indoor restaurant, serving both. Let the talented barkeeps tempt you with the house sangria, a margarita or a Pacifico on tap. Drinks are decidedly straight forward with little to no fuss, and the bar can accommodate any reasonable request.
350 S Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90013
Beer, $4-6, Wine $7-12, Wells $8, Cocktails $9-11,
Sangria (Red or White) is $7-8 Margaritas are $8, check into their pitchers!
Beers $4-5, Wells $5, Cocktails $6-8,
Sangria is $6; Margaritas are $6
2. FAR BAR
Far Bar is on the edge of Little Tokyo, not far from Los Angeles Center Studios, a shooting facility in DTLA. Tucked off a twinkly lighted passageway that looks like it belongs to another time and place, there are three spaces that make up Far Bar. First, The Lounge, faces the street. It has dark wood tables for dining , partially divided by screens and a small area with low couches where you can take a load off. Second is The Bar, a small cozy red walled room; hidden away in the back. From here poke your head around the corner and last but certainly not least is the final stop, The Patio. It’s a brick walled and twinkly lighted spot that’s so nice they may have to force you out at the end of the night. Check their website for a list of DJ’s spinning tunes to help you chill out.
In deference to your liver, Far Bar is a full service bar carrying a large array of craft and bottled beers from Japan. The Sapporo Reserve is clean, with a light tangy finish. Another good option is the Ozeno IPA or you could also try the Coedo Kyara. It has medium body with a smoky flavor reminiscent of miso. You’ll also find a nice selection of great American and European standards and a smattering of Sakes to try. The extensive cocktail menu includes many house specialties and Far Bar mixes a Manhattan that can curl your lashes.
Now there’s one room you can’t visit, but it can visit you; the Kitchen. Far Bar serves up fusion cuisine, a fine eclectic list of small plates and sushi. Burger’s are ½ lb, and if it’s on the list they day you go try the sweet chili glazed burger with ginger walnut goat cheese and braised arugula. It’s simple, it’s complex, and it’s good. The Korean short rib tacos are also tasty or try any of the enticing appetizers, skewers or sandwiches. Just don’t wait too long because the kitchen closes 1 hour before the end of each night.
347 East 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sun – Wed 4pm-1am
Thurs- Sat 4pm -2am
Food: Small Plates $3-$8/Sushi $5-$14
$1-$2 off cocktails
Draft beers $3
$1-$2 off Craft beers
3. SPRING STREET BAR
Spring Street Bar is a friendly local’s frequented but public appreciated pub is located near the corner of 6th and Spring in downtown Los Angeles. It’s owned by veterans Michael Leko and Will Shamlian (co-owners of another well known local watering hole, The Library). Inside you’ll find a simple friendly space with modern decor that is decidedly cozy. It’s a warm mix of wood and concrete with communal tables that sit between the back wall and the bar. High windows and ceilings balance and brighten the room.
Spring Street Bar serves beer, lots of beer. There are 26 great domestics on tap in fact. Most are your steady Eddies but there’s 4-5 that roll in and out with the seasons. A good reason to stop in as often as you can. One good standard is a Firestone Hemp brown ale that’s smooth and nutty. For something lighter there is the Telegraph white. Or try the seasonal Craftsman Triple White Sage. A shame really that it’s seasonal, so try it while you can. But if you miss it, with 26 choices, it seems unlikely that you won’t find something else equally brilliant to quench your thirst. If beer’s not your thing Spring Street has great list of wines to choose from. It’s also a full bar; and that means liquor friends. There’s also a long list of non-alcoholic options, so your bases here are pretty well covered.
So now let’s talk about the snacks, starting with sandwiches. If you like burrata try Spring Street’s burrata sandwich. It’s creamy and comes on a fluffy yet chewy ciabbata roll. The Salami sandwich is also good, smooth, not spicy. There are several sandwich options including; salmon, roast beef and prosciutto. All sandwiches come with a small side of either pasta salad or zingy potato salad. There are platters for sharing (or hoarding) including charcuterie and artisanal cheese platters. Selection can vary but count yourself lucky if you taste the lavender goat cheese. Platters come with pretzel bread and a small offering of fruit and nuts.
Spring Street Bar
626-B S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Hours: Mon-Fri, 5pm – 2am; Sat- Sun, 12pm – 2am
Sandwiches – $5-6
Platters – $8-10
Small Snacks – $2-4
Mon-Fri, 5 – 8pm
Check the board
$5 well drinks, add a shot for $5
4. SWILL AUTOMATIC
Swill Automatic is a nifty wine bar in the downtown arts district. At Swill Automatic the name of the game is pay-by-the pour. A Swill Automatic patron will be able to buy a wine card and load it with the dollar amount of your choice. Mosey between several self-service wine stations (patented by Enomatic), and then you sample to your heart’s content or when the card runs out whichever comes first. You will be able to choose from a large selection of really good wines at a variety of prices or you can also get a by the glass or bottle.
In the evening the bar offers a variety of small plates and entrees. Appetizer offerings include true-blues like assorted olives and chips and guacamole as well as more substantial bites such as seafood crab cakes, bruschetta pomodoro or garlic jumbo shrimp in lemon aioli. There are several great entrée options, but one to keep an eye out for is the Dirty Mussels. Large plump juicy green mussels swim in a broth of gorgonzola, wine and bacon. Grilled bread is on the side so you don’t waste the sauce. It’s so good; you might just give up your apartment and move into the bowl, yum. There are also several really good vegetarian options.
The mornings Swill Automatic will also serve breakfast. So whether you’ve pulled an all-nighter or are just looking for a nice brunch downtown you can fill your grumbly tummies with tasty breakfasts like Texas French Toast, Eggs Benedict, or healthier options like fruit, granola or cereal. Rumor is they also pour a mean cup of coffee.
All this in a sleek yet cozy space designed to encourage social mingling. How refreshing. There’s also an outdoor patio that offers additional seating in a cool but casual setting.
1820 Industrial St
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-lateish
Fri. & Sat., 7 a.m.-lateish
Prices are moderate.
Corkbar is an elegant yet laid back wine bar in downtown Los Angeles roughly in between the fashion district and L.A. Live, sitting on the corner of 12th and Grand. Walk through their glass doors and you’ll find an airy space that is easy to inhabit. Cement floors give way to beautiful blond wood tables bar and walls lined with artfully arranged wine bottles. From there cast your eyes up into high ceilings. Then come back to earth to sit inside or settle outside on one of two patios.
The focus at Corkbar is all things Californian. Their wine menu is extensive featuring great red, white and sparkling wines from some of the best wineries in the state. The only exceptions are bottled champagnes from France. Prices by the glass vary from $10-$25 for reds, $8-$20 for whites, and $9-$23 for sparkling, Sangria is offered for $7. Or if you prefer Corkbar also serves wines by the bottle. Beers are also available and again with the exception of two Bavarian imports; all are Californian. You can choose from great draft or bottled beers prices range from $6- 10.
Happy hour is served Monday through Friday from 3-7pm. You’ll find daily wine specials for $8 and $2 off beer. What really makes Corkbar’s Happy Hour great however are the ½ price appetizers ($3.50) and select discounted sandwiches ($8-$11). Some notable appetizers include Cheddar Gougeres, Pork Bruschetta, and White Bean Puree with truffle oil (yum). Flavors feel like you are dining in Napa and portions are substantial.
Corkbar’s menu features farmer’s market ingredients. Offerings include salads, sandwiches and entrées. Corkbar also offers cheese and charcuterie boards. Look for the Crisp Prosciutto Salad, the Farmers Market Veggie Sandwich, Charcuterie Sandwich and the Spring Lamb Sandwich. The entrée menu is smaller, but search out the Root Beer Braised Short Ribs served with polenta. And quit counting calories because dessert is a strong contender with options like Banana Bread Pudding, Breakfast (cinnamon brioche with rum caramel sauce, whipped cream and bacon) and the daily (Farmer’s Market) crumble. Food runs from $7-$24. Desserts are $8-$12.
403 W. 12th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Tues- Friday 11:30am-2:00am
Sat- Monday 3:00pm-2:00am
6. THE GORBALS
The Gorbals is a downtown eatery and bar called after a Scottish housing project in Glasgow. It’s located on the ground floor of a comfortably worn grand old hotel, The Alexandria. The interior is an eclectic blend of modern and classic influences, a singular blend that’s mirrored in the menu. The décor blends dark, medium and blonde woods, painted brick, steel and flowers. Classic, beautiful, personal, edgy and cozy are seemingly contradictory qualities and elsewhere they might go down in flames. What makes it work here is joyful boldness and commitment in approach. There’s no pretension, there’s plenty of personality and most importantly a sense of adventure.
The Gorbals is owned and run by Ilan Hall an American Jewish Scottish bloke from Great, Neck New York who maybe won Season 2 of Top Chef. The menu changes daily, but one staple is the bacon wrapped matzo balls with horseradish mayonnaise. Don’t be scared, the horseradish doesn’t buck. It’s a gentle blend of flavors, and though light for matzo balls, they are hearty enough to go down well with Scotch.
Speaking of Scotch (How can you not at The Gorbals?) There are eleven, count them, eleven varieties on the Bar list as well as good smattering of other distilled delights namely Vodka, Gin, Rum, Tequila and Bourbon. They have Beer. There are signature cocktails. The wine list is short and sweet but well chosen. If you go during Happy Hour you can get it for half price. Speaking of Happy Hour The Gorbals has a “Reverse” one on Thursdays from 10:30pm – 1am.
501 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
213 -488- 3408
Dinner: Monday – Wednesday, 6pm – 12am; Thursday- Saturday, 6pm – 2am.
Happy Hour: Monday – Friday 6-8pm, ½ price beer and wine. Food options vary, so just ask. Beer/ $6-8
Wines/ by the glass $8-16; by the bottle $29-52
7. REDWOOD BAR AND GRILL
The Redwood Bar and Grill is a Pirate bar steeped in history located in downtown Los Angeles at 316 W 2nd St. Walking in is like walking into the dark hold of a pirate ship. Where is Errol Flynn when you need him? Hemp ropes wrap around posts, nets hang from the walls, and barrels are placed so that you can set your compass and get into the mood of this well worn establishment.
Take a seat or slink up to the bar. Luckily for you The Redwood bar and grill is loaded with booty for the belly. No choking down hard tack here. The Redwood’s menu is a well put together selection of pub grub. Choose from really good appetizers, burgers (half a pound served on a brioche bun) sandwiches, fresh salads, nachos, tacos and other miscellaneous pirate fare. Portions are hearty but if your appetite is on the light side, check out their rationed portions (and prices) and decent vegetarian options like their veggie burger or vegetable empanadas.
Many a good pirate washes down their grub with a little grog so why should you be any different? The Redwood bar and grill has a full bar and a great list of rum cocktails that are as fun to say as they are to consume. Try a Monkey Fist for example, a Sailors Delight or the Davy Jones Locker. Redwood also serves bottled and draft beers. See the bartender or server for their current offerings. There’s also a great line up of live music so check out the calendar on Redwood’s website and make merry mateys. Just don’t get to rowdy, else you be walkin’ the plank.
The Redwood Bar and Grill
316 W 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Sat: 5pm-2am; Sun: 11am-2am
Food $3 – $13
Cocktails $8.5- $12
Beer prices vary but are reasonable
8. 7 GRAND
7 Grand is a grand whiskey bar owned and operated by the 213 Ventures Group. You’ll find it at 515 West 7th Street, Los Angeles, near the corner of; you guessed it 7th and Grand. It’s like entering a Scottish Lord’s hunting lodge. A sentry stands guard at the gate and once you’ve been approved you climb the stairs to the Castle’s keep. That’s where they keep the treasure; otherwise known as whiskey. On your way in notice the Scottish tartan carpet and hunting trophies and dark wood walls. It’s smart and cozy and tells you it’s not just the whiskey that’ll keep the fog at bay (depending on the fog that is).
Donner up to the bar and nicely ask the Barman for the menu. On it you’ll find approximately 300 + Whiskeys, Ryes and bourbons to choose from. They can be served straight or there is a delightful list of cocktails to choose from. If you are taking it easy there are also approximately 12 beers on tap.
If you don’t have the gift of gab the night of your visit, try your hand at pool. There are 2 or 3 tables available for your amusement. There is also an outdoor patio for those of you that partake of tobacco (perhaps the house cigar dipped in Maker’s Mark) and tolerate those who do. Occasional live music graces their calendar, check it for details. So whether you take friends, or make friends, there’s good and plenty reason to sample 7 Grand.
515 West 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
5pm – 2am
Prices vary greatly consult the menu and know there is something for every pocket book.
No food, (if you are hungry walk across the street to Bottega Louie, in the vein of Dean and Deluca, you won’t be sorry)
9. THE BLUE WHALE
The Blue whale is a great artsy jazz bar in Little Tokyo. Their staff is fantastic, super friendly and helpful. From the moment you arrive at the Blue Whale, you’ll know they want you to be happy. The décor is minimalist but elegant with dark walls and low seating. The vibe is low key. Be sure to check out the verse on their ceilings.
On your left climb beautiful stairs and enter the bar. Again, seating is low, take a load off and order a beer. There are several good organic and IPAs to choose from. Prices hover around $9. If beer’s not your thing, choose from wine or liquor, as the Blue Whale offers those as well.
To keep your taste buds from getting jealous of your ears, order something from the Blue Whale’s really well put together small bites menu. Prices run from $4-$10. Small bite options include cheese and hummus plates, sliders (beef, turkey or tuna), skewers (chicken shrimp or grilled veggie) or The Bitches Brew, a concoction of mushrooms, cream, brie, and white wine served with polenta. When you are satiated step down and move into the main room. Because make no mistake The Blue Whale exists for Jazz.
The main room consists of the stage and a bevy of low ottoman seats. The music calendar changes daily but Tuesdays feature an open jam; check out their website for details. And remember this is a place to chill out. Respect and enjoy the music, you’ll find no arguments here.
The Blue Whale
123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012-3833
Cover Charge $5- $15 call for details
Food and drink prices are moderate.
Open since 1908, Cole’s is a venerable Los Angeles institution. One of two heavy contenders vying for the title of originator of the French Dip sandwich, Cole’s is a place you won’t want to miss. Cole’s is now owned and operated by the 213 group. Cole’s has been renovated and decor is from the turn of the century. Walk down the stairs as Coles’ sits slightly below the street. It’s cozy, and you’ll find original lighting, penny sized tiles on the floor and a large Mahogany Bar.
In said bar, The Red Car Bar to be exact, mosey up and order off their menu of signature cocktails. Heavy hitters include The Old Fashioned, The Red Car, and the Irish mule. Coles also puts together a mean Pims Cup. There is a detailed list of Whiskeys, and Beers, check their chalk board for wine offerings.
The food menu is limited consisting mainly of sandwiches (French Dip and otherwise), salads and pie. The French Dip is both renowned and tasty and comes with a spicy pickle spear. Choose from beef turkey or pastrami. You can order a whole or half and you can order sides. Cole’s slaw is a strong recommendation.
If you’re done filling your belly with Cole’s glorious sandwiches and pie, ask your server about Varnish a speakeasy you access through the back that serves cocktails whipped up by a wicked team of mixologists.
118 E. 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
11am – 9:30pm Sun-Wed
11am – 10:30pm Thurs
11am – 12:30 am Fri-Sat
Daily 11am – 2am
Happy Hour Mon- Fri 3-7pm
8pm- 2am Mon- Tues
7pm- 2am Wed – Sun
That’s a Wrap!