L.A. nightlife is nothing if not fickle. A new venue is lucky to have a shelf life of six months to a year as a desired destination. Palihouse, located in the heart of West Hollywood (the new Hollywood), opened ages ago: all the way back in 2008. Remember 2008? We had a new hope-inspired president; there was no Tea Party and a full NBA season. Ahhhh those were the days. Since then I, like so many others, have needed a solid drink now more than ever. In the last year Palihouse has become my most desired watering hole. See, a good club (often an oxymoron) fades, but a good bar rarely does -- if it is done right.
Nestled on the slightly less bustling, and far less congested, Halloway Drive, Palihouse is easily accessible, unlike so many other hotspots around town that position themselves on overly trafficked boulevards. As soon as you pull up to this five-story "urban lodge" that also serves as a restaurant/hotel/residence, you find that even the outside aesthetics of the venue are a rarity in L.A. It has an elegant look more often found in older cities like New York, Chicago, Paris and, of course, London -- cities that pride themselves on their architectural history.
After waiting no more than a minute for valet, you walk up to a shrewd yet welcoming door staff who actually look you in the eye. They will not use their clipboard as if it were a green card to the Land of Pretentious Entitlement. Of course they like a good gender mix but don't enforce it at the door like other hotspots because the venue itself takes care of that by being organically attractive to both young men and women who occasionally value a little class and culture on their night out.
"We cater to creative types, charming old school Hollywood," says Bar Manager Kevin Bulla. They do however have a reasonable dress code policy, which makes Palihouse a refreshing oasis in a town that far to often prides itself on the uber casual look. This is a spot you can show off a high fashion dress or double-breasted suit, but the dark jeans and a sweater staple is certainly acceptable.
After entering and walking down to the lounge just below street level you will find that the crowd never reaches oppressive numbers and has a more upbeat, and inclusive attitude, than many found in Hollywood. Bulla says the "tight knit staff" mirrors their clientele, and he's right. Palihouse is a great place to take out a client or date or your group of friends because it has an air of community.
Such an air of community that it is like the building has an anti-asshole device set up on its perimeter. Sure, there are some hipsters and celebrities in toe but that is not why people come here. As waitress, and wildly sweet human being, Alanna Giuliani puts it, "There is nothing like it in LA... people are not too showy, they fly under the radar." Giuliani mentioned to me that in her months working there she has never witnessed anyone annoyingly intoxicated. There hasn't been one bar brawl. She also points out that it isn't much of a "pick-up" place, but more over a place to "...pick up friends." While she is right, I will add that if you are looking to find a male or female with both substance and maybe a little edge, this is a good spot to find a mate that isn't entranced by the more shallow aspects of Hollywood.
The fact that they rarely do 'bottle service' and do not employ weekly promoters helps to ensure this. Palihouse uses DJs but they are subtle and if you are looking for a fun mix of modern and the classics in your music this is your place. If you are looking for fist pumping, this is not. Do not get me wrong, I can throw back shots of whiskey and go crazy like a rock star in heat as much as the next guy -- but not every night. This place has all the good parts of L.A. with little of the bad.
The layout itself has a smartly free flowing openness while maintaining an intimate feel. This intimacy doesn't translate into constantly bumping into the person near you that has a full gin and tonic in their hand. There is a beautifully unique courtyard out back that is only separated from the main lounge by paneled glass doors. A candle fireplace. Comfortable yet stylish seating strewn about. A slightly hidden foosball table. A cozy dining room off to the side. A small collage on one of the walls. And lighting that is both practical and romantic. Palihouse is also equipped with a rooftop not nearly utilized enough but look for a possible sequel to last Fall's 'Silent Disco' events (Google it kids) coming back again soon.
The bartenders are well-educated mixologists but are smart enough to know that sometimes a 'whiskey neat' or simple British pale ale will do. Resident weekend bartender Brian Parker, who is known by regulars and staff simply by his sir name, is aware that each customer is different. If you have an unsure drinker, he starts off by asking what your booze of choice is and aiding you from there, if need be. Palihouse is a well-oiled machine if for no other reason than you rarely have to wait more than a minute to place a drink order, even during it's busiest times.
The aesthetics make it a destination all in it's own. The staff is wildly attractive in their looks and their persona. The crowd is not stuffy and appealing in a way that people who grew up in more "cultured" cities will appreciate. And just like "You are what you eat," where you prefer to drink can say a lot about you, so why not make that statement a good one? Gather at a place that has an energy highlighted by class and substance that also provides a little edge.
8465 Holloway Drive
West Hollywood, California 90069
Visit http://palihouse.com for more information.
My other favorites around L.A.:
Best New Pub: Rock & Reilly's (8911 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood)
Best Novelty Bar/Lounge: The Spare Room (The Roosevelt Hotel)
Best Drinks: The Roger Room (370 North La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles)