In an ancient time, February of the year 2010, I had plans to head out on the Los Angeles town with friends. As often happens in this city, my friends flaked. Five nights in a row. So I sat on my couch with my pup each evening, snuggled in by eight o'clock because I was scared to go out alone. Realizing that I should not rely on others to experience my city and that I must get out of my stale comfort zone, I forced myself out of my humble abode. For one year, I decided to go to a bar alone once a week. Each night I stayed for 90 minutes minimum, did not text or talk on my phone and every month was a different theme of bars. From my year-long journey, I discovered establishments, spirits, food, music and adventures that I am overjoyed to share with you. To start us off, here is an entry from the year, a night where I discovered a local gem...
Just as you cannot judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge a bar for being in a strip mall. It is most definitely not their fault that LA real estate prices are impossibly high, especially if you want to stay in a hip area! There are quite a few bars in this town that reside in strip malls and by golly, they rock. Who doesn't like being able to do your laundry, grab a doughnut, or get a killer tattoo after enjoying a lovely beer? Or in my case, a crisp glass of Kir Royale at my new favorite spot, the wine bar by the name of Lou.
Lou is on Vine just north of Melrose in Hollywood. Usually, I am angered by strip malls in this area at night. I drive by their empty parking lots, hearing their evil cackles as they taunt, "Sure wish you could park here, mooo ha ha!" I loved the fact that was I able to pull right into the lot on a Saturday night and park right next to the entrance with no fee. The large glass windows surrounding the front door are completely covered by deep pink, black and white flowered curtains, keeping the inside hidden to the outside world. Passing the threshold, I found the most amazing spot, a narrow room with candle-lit tables and a tiny bar at the end facing a vibrant pink wall.
Pulling up a tall stool, the bartenders were all smiles and I immediately felt at ease. I glanced at the seats at the other end of the short bar, where three stylish women in their mid-thirties were enjoying a girls' night out. I recognized the middle woman as a patron of my local gym. I think I will look like her when I grow up and that we should be friends. I tried to grab her attention, but failed, so turned my focus to the clever wine list. The owner Lou makes changes to the offerings throughout the week and describes each wine in a fun way -- St. Laurent is the black sheep of the family and Moulin au Vent is the windmills of your mind; categories include luscious whites and gnarly reds.
I was taken care of by three of the bartenders/waiters as they revolved in and out of the bar area. I was graciously given many tastings as bottles were pulled from a big red cooler and the glass shelves that held a stereo playing the sounds of a lazy guitar. The jovial bartender Bethany would stop to chat between food runs and told me how she made a boot out of a napkin for one of her tables -- I wanted to learn! This then lead to a full-on teaching session on how to make napkin art. Bethany, John (the other cheerful bartender) and I spread out white napkins on the bar, turning them into tuxedos, birds of paradise and cowboy boots. I could not have been happier with my new-found knowledge and friends.
After almost two hours of fine spirits, fun conversation and artist creations, I bid everyone adieu. The staff exclaimed, "Don't go!" I assured them I would be back very soon. After all, I had found the gem of a wine bar that is the perfect fit for the hip gal in me and the wine aficionado I desire to become. I have been reassured again of the age old lesson -- do not judge a book by its cover. I am pretty sure my mom never thought, as she recited this phrase to her young child, that her daughter would one day apply it to a bar in a strip mall. Ah, wisdom.