Monday, December 4, 2017

Wilson’s Words of Wisdom: December Round Up (Hidden bars)



If there's anything I love more than a good cocktail, it's having to go through a top secret entrance in order to get it.

So for this monthly round up, I'm focusing on bars, speak easies, restaurants and lounges that don’t have typical entrances; you have to go through underground tunnels, hidden doors, the side of walls and other unusual — but super unique ways — just to get inside.

I won’t spoil the fun by giving away these seven places’ top-secret entrances, but I *will* highlight all of the reasons why you’d want to go through the trouble to check them out in the first place. Whether it’s showcasing alcohol from the 1900s or surprise musical performances, these places are providing great ambiance, great libations and of course, great ways to enter.

Are there any “hidden” gems that you adore (yes, pun intended)? Leave them in the comments section below! 



Old Lightning << no photo >>

Located within the swanky Scopa Italian Roots restaurant in Venice, Old Lightning is a comfy, mid-century modern lounge that serves up some of the oldest alcohols and most creative cocktails around. They have libations that have been around since 1906 and ones from every decade since. They also have a massive bible of cocktails that’s at least 40 pages thick, with hundreds upon hundreds of every type of drink you could imagine. Bar staff have suggested starting with a mood you’re in and then selecting a cocktail from one of the dozen categories that drinks are divided into. Or, you can also do makeshift tastings; name your price and liquor of choice — such as tequila or rum — and then get a round of tastings, based off the bartender’s preference. I did this once with whiskey and got Tennessee whiskeys from the ‘50s and ‘60s from distilleries that aren’t even around anymore! Old Lightning has a strict “no-photo” policy — hence the reason I don’t have an image up — and a very secret (but exciting!) way to get in that includes emails, checking in with multiple people and finally being guided into the actual space.

For more info


The Blind Barber


The Blind Barber in Culver City is a full-fledged barbershop, where a handful of barbers can shave, cut and trim you — all while offering a free beverage. But even though you may not need any hair services, you should still make a visit here — at least for the specialty cocktails and tasty grilled cheese sandwiches in the shop’s hidden bar / lounge. I’ll admit; it can be a little awkward just walking into the brightly lit shop space and having customers who are getting edged up stare at you as you walk past them to actually get to the lounge, but it’s still totally worth it! It’s in here that you can get 15 different grilled cheese sandwiches (pictured below) that are packed with artisanal ingredients like sautéed peppers and roasted jalapeños, and also gourmet cheeses, including smoked Gouda, Vermont white cheddar and manchego. I also love that there’s always at least one specialty cocktail that’s featured on the happy hour menu. Random fun fact #31: Dave Chappelle performed here earlier this year when he was in the city filming for his Netflix special, “The Age of Spin: Dave Chappelle Live at the Hollywood Palladium.”

For more info





Break Room 86


Photo from Break Room 86 website

Tons of Hollywood’s finest flock to The Line Hotel on Wilshire Blvd. in Koreatown for the Pot Bar Lobby, its trendy lounge, and Commissary, its rooftop restaurant. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a line wrapped around the block to enter the hotel’s main entrance on any given Friday or Saturday night. But what’s definitely not as crowded is the entrance to Break Room 86, an energetic, ‘80s-themed bar / lounge that plays a nonstop rotation of alternative, rock and pop music from the decade. Always packed, Break Room 86 has nostalgic relics from the era, such as arcade games and boom boxes. While I’ve only peeked in and never participated, they also have karaoke rooms, if that’s your thing. And, the most fun part of all in my humble opinion — aside, of course from how you get there in the first place — is that Break Room 86 has surprise guest performances throughout the night from some of our most beloved entertainers of the past. Last time I was there, I got to "meet" the King of Pop himself just before a performance.

For more info 




La Descarga


Photo from Houston Hospitality website


Located in the heart of Los Angeles, La Descarga is the self-proclaimed old Havana speakeasy of the city. It’s a hot, sultry Cuban-themed bar and lounge that's been on the block for quite a few years. After entering, you’re standing in a space that’s soaring with chandeliers hanging from high ceilings and with vintage seats and tables hugging velvety walls adorned with knick-knacks like old books and portraits (note: for guaranteed seating, you have to make advanced reservations). Lively Latin-influenced music streams throughout and on specified nights, there are even live music and dance performances (see below). Food isn't served here — only cocktails — and off to the side is a cigar lounge. Tip: there is a dress code, which prohibits t-shirts, caps, sneakers and other casual items for the fellas and encourages “cocktail dresses and heels” for the ladies, according to its website. La Descarga is ran by Houston Hospitality, a nightlife group that runs Break Room 86 mentioned above and a host of other L.A. bars, including Pour Vous, Harvard & Stone (another fave) and No Vacancy in Hollywood, which also has a very funky entrance.

For more info



Photo from Houston Hospitality website


Birds & Bees 



DTLA’s Birds & Bees has made an appearance on the #WilsonsGuide blog quite a few times earlier this year and I can't help but to mention it once again, as it most certainly deserves to be on this list. Once inside this underground lair, you’ll be transported into a bona fide 1950s drinking den, complete with servers dressed in attire from the decade. The cocktail program features potent drinks made with curious and unusual ingredients — like Chinese five-spiced cordials and masala-infused cognacs. Right now for the winter season, they’re whipping up the Danny Kaye — a take on the Manhattan, with coconut infused bourbon, sweet vermouth, Pedro Ximenez sherry, cynar and bitters. It also comes with a crispy coconut treat on the side.

For more info





The Varnish



Photo from The Varnish website 

The Varnish in DTLA was actually one of the first speakeasies I ever visited and eventually wrote about — seven years ago when I first launched this blog, and I'm delighted to see that it's still chugging along, all these years later. This tiny, one-room bar was once a storage room and now has some pretty cool features, including a dark, cozy atmosphere, live jazz on select nights and bartenders who are as knowledgeable after their craft cocktails as they are dapper and charming (and they’re pretty darn dapper and charming). Part of The Varnish’s allure is also where it’s located; it’s in Cole’s The Originators of the French Dip Sandwich, a historic sandwich shop that originally opened in 1908 and reopened in DTLA in 2008. There's nothing like grabbing the “French Dipped Sandwich” — thick slices of meat stuffed between a French roll and accompanied by savory au jus sauce — before throwing back a few drinks in The Varnish!

For more info



Laurel Hardware



Photo from Laurel Hardware website 

The first time I entered Laurel Hardware in West Hollywood, I did a double take. I wondered: was I even in the right place?? The hostesses kindly reassured me that I was and proceeded to take me through a decked out, decadent space that includes a bar area, indoor seating and a quaint outdoor patio. And whether it's indoor or outdoors, there's most certainly no bad seat in the house. The bar area gets packed and can be standing room only, but if you're lucky, snagging the chairs perched right next to the ceiling-to-floor glass wall offers great views of the patio. The patio itself has a ton of great options, too, under a canopy of lush, vibrantly green trees. The restaurant offers American classics for weekend brunch, happy hour and dinner. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed their seasonal cocktails; a few of the ones I recall trying during the spring were very colorful, light and refreshing, with a great taste.

For more info



Photo from Laurel Hardware website