Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bar Hop - Downtown LA

So I live in Downtown LA now, which I absolutely love. And I'm aware of the humor that it was only after moving to the most suburban of big cities that I actually moved into a city center to live in a converted warehouse on a rutty street with close-up views of LA's idiosyncratic downtown skyline.

A friend informed me that our lack of towers and spires is due to the arbitrary decision to require all skyscrapers in LA to have a helipad on top. True.

I'd been out a few times in downtown prior to my move but not recently. And since I moved to the "Arts District" I've only really been out in my 'hood and adjacent Little Tokyo, since the rest of downtown is blocked off by a moat of warehouses and poop-on-your-car hobos. That all changed last week.

After our below-mentioned dinner at Barbrix, the restaurateur colleague of mine headed back to my place and called a cab to truck our asses into the Old Bank District/Historic Core/Whatever the fuck marketing name realtors come up.

But first we needed to make a stop.

"Kind Eddy's" my colleague told the cab driver, who looked at us with a mix of awe, shock, and disdain.
"What's that?" I asked.
"A dive bar in Skid Row."

Damn. I wore my good wristwatch.

"Here." My colleague requested to the cabby. The cabby seemed concerned that he was stopping three storefronts away from the bar.
"You sure you don't want closer?"
"Nah man, it's cool."

And out we went. We strolled past a few Skid Row denizens, including a gentleman being arrested by a pair of LA's finest, with no harassment and popped into King Eddy's at the corner of 5th & San Pedro.

(It should be noted that, thanks to a rather vigorous ramp up of law enforcement coupled with an increase in social services, Skid Row is actually a pretty decent 'hood. It's dirtier than SF's SoMa, but seems safer overall. The drug problem has been more or less addressed and reduced to small-time pot dealers hocking "cabbie" and prostitution in this most sex-focused of cities is unenforceable at best, so what you're left with is, well, people who live on the streets and/or in the many [many] SRO hotels in the area.)

On to King Eddy's. Just like the trailer for an internet porn site that tricks you into getting a trial membership, the idea that was presented on paper of King Eddy's was so much more appealing than what the bar actually was. Because "cheap ass dive bar in Skid Row" sounds as immediately intriguing as "Big Tits Round Asses," by the fourth or so video it gets pretty tedious and now you're on the phone trying to cancel before the monthly rebill kicks in.

Point being, once you get inside, King Eddy's is your pretty prototypical dive. Cheap drinks. Cheaper food (reheated stuff from Costco). And a clientele drawn from the neighborhood: the homeless/underhomed, legitimately employed SRO occupants, the aforementioned small-time dealers, a handful of ladies/transwomen of the night, and a cluster of the young and adventurous. The bar boasts an "A" Health Department grade and is "Zagat Rated." It also has great flat screen TVs, friendly bartenders, and a dude in latex gloves whose sole job is to walk around with a rag and disinfectant spray and clean off every surface regularly. Cool.

After our beers we left and walked the not-even-two-blocks to Main St., which begins the "real" gentrified downtown LA. It'd be like if you your first girlfriend was a chubby transwoman you picked up at King Eddy's and your second girlfriend was Scarlett Johansson AND you picked up the latter while still copulating with the former; that's how proximal $$$ downtown LA is from !!! downtown LA.

First stop, some queer speakeasy-ish bar (Varnish) in the back of Cole's. It was nice, but that whole "mixology" thing is so 2005. And I wouldn't even have minded except that I ordered a "well Manhattan, up" and I was immediately informed that they "don't have a well." The fuck you don't have a well. Every place has a well. Well just means whatever the fucking default spirit is you serve you pretentious douche. I understand that this might mean that my drink still costs whatever the going rate is for a premium cocktail. I get that. All I was indicating by my request was that I want something simple, classic, and quick. And I would've forgiven even that except the waitress THEN asked if I'd like to try some fucking rye and bullshit drink on their "cocktail list" as if I should be fucking honored to try some fucked concoction that a couple of high on their horse 22 year-olds came up with while stoned. I cut her off mid-sentence. The drinks took for fucking ever, too.

But my Manhattan was, actually, excellent.

Next stop was The Association. Now this was a bar I could support. Good vibe, friendly bartenders, appropriately lit, and a cocktail list made up of nothing but standards from the golden age of American drinkin'. They proudly proclaim that their "newest" drink recipe is the James Bond-inspired Vesper dating from the 1950's. We can never hope to match the drinking prowess of our grandparents, but if we hope to even come close we need to master the drinks they drank: boozy and strong and not the queer shit made up of syrups and homemade bitters and fresh squeezed juices that pass for "cocktails" in places like Varnish. My French 75 was fabulous.

Following the Association, we went to the Crocker Club. Located in an old bank vault, complete with thick swing-open vault door and booths set off in money cages, the Crocker Club was pretty cool. At this point I was drunk as hell so I really don't remember much, but my overall feeling was quite positive.

And then our evening took a turn for the awesome, because we hopped into a cab and headed back across town to Sam's Hofbrau.

Sam's Hofbrau is a strip club straight out of From Dusk 'Till Dawn, minus the vampires but with a lot of guys who look like Harvey Keitel. It's a topless/bikini place so there's plenty of booze to be had and a good mixed up crowd of equal parts men and women, hipsters and gangbangers. No cover. Cheapish drinks. Delightfully authentic dancers. Five thumbs up.

Last stop before a cab dragged our asses back to my apartment was a taco truck parked just outside. It was the best fucking taco I've ever had.

Because every drunk 3AM taco is the best fucking taco you've ever had.

Where we went:
King Eddy's - 131 E. Fifth St.
Varnish - 118 E. Sixth St.
The Association - 610 S. Main St.
The Crocker Club - 453 S. Spring St.
Sam's Hofbrau - 1751 E. Olympic Blvd.

No comments: