Yesterday I had a 5 pm pitch meeting with several feature film executives at Sony Pictures in Culver City. Told them about a new film we've developed based on a Jackie Collins best-selling novel, "The Love Killers," about three sisters who vow vengeance upon a Russian mob boss who killed their famed feminist sister while she was inciting a Manhattan audience of 'working girls' to get away from that mobster. The Russian thug has three sons in New York, Los Angles and Miami and the sisters each select a son for revenge. Gave the execs a copy of the screenplay and left the studio. Driving west on Washington Blvd I spotted a spinning barber shop pole outside of a small shop and realized that my girlfriend had said I looked 'scruffy' and needed a trim. Thus began one of the most interesting and unusual experiences I've had of late. I had stumbled into THE BLIND BARBER (10797 W. Washington Blvd. 310-841-6679, just to the right of Overland Ave. coming south), a combination of barbershop and speakeasy. Don't know what a speakeasy is? During the era of prohibition in America, the Roaring Twenties (1926 to 1932), liquor bars were illegal, so many hidden drinking spots called 'speakeasies' sprang up. I sat in the barber chair and the charming woman barber, Richelle, asked me what I wanted to drink! She said a cocktail was included in the $40 haircut charge! I asked for a gin-and-tonic, it was quickly delivered....and I was mightily intrigued. The poster on the wall, headlined The Blind Barber, depicted many of the sports stars who frequented this place and its two siblings in New York.
After the shearing, they ushered me into the tavern next door...and I found a 'happy hour' crowd of people from the studio and neighborhood enjoying drinks and a limited food menu featuring grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, my, this was fun. I had a chance to interview Josh Boyd, one of the guys behind the unique concept. He told me that he, Jeff Laub and Adam Kirsch had two similar places in New York, not as spacious as this. "My grandfather was a gregarious guy who loved to schmooze with his friends, and the barbershop was the perfect place to do it, so when I was a kid I remember him taking me there for hours while he had a shave and a haircut. They played cards ad talked politics, women and the world." I commented that this seemed like a busy clubhouse and he concurred. He noted that the original, in Tompkins Square in Manhattan's East Village, had built a loyal community of guys who made it their central spot, and that has been repeated here in L.A. "You can see a guy throwing a party here in the bar at night and then getting a shave the next morning." I asked if they did women's hair and he laughed but admitted that they did upon request. The four barber chairs are always busy, with a patron or two usually waiting at the side. I liked the white-tiled look of the barbershop. The tavern is dim, with black leather booths and a dozen wooden tables. Lighted portraits of a real-life Idaho man they call Mr. Nick hang on the walls, showing him with a long moustache sipping coffee or riding a Yamaha motorcycle....he's a modern-day cowboy, the epitome of The Blind Barber customer.
Behind the brass bar, bartenders are mixing some of their signature cocktails and bar drinks, I had a Strawberry Fields, with Stoli and berries and stuff, uggh. Better was the Hot Heather, named for Boyd's wife, the well-known Broadway actress who was in La Cage au Folles. He told me that she is expecting any day with a son to be called Beau, and I told him about my Huffington post last week about Beau and Jeff Bridges. And informed him that the name Beau comes from "Gone With the Wind," where that was the name of Ashley Wilkes' brother. At Happy Hour it usually is packed with studio people, with well drinks at $6, cocktails at $10 and beer at $4. Lots of women have discovered it also. One told me she comes from Hollywood regularly 'cause the guys here are so cool. You wouldn't know this hidden treasure is here unless you already knew it was here. The barbershop is open from noon to 9 pm, and the bar opens at 6 pm and stays open 'til about 2 am. They just introduced a line of products, hair wax, pomade, aftershave and candles, all called The Blind Barber. Took some home to try.
Now hungry, I perused the limited menu and marveled at the 16 grilled cheese offerings, two of which were dessert. I selected the #11, a Mozzarella, Peperoni, Roasted Japapeno Grilled Cheese ($11) which was delicious. It came with a choice of 8 dips; I selected the Cajun remoulade. Other offerings are a roasted tomato soup, a pastrami reuben taco, and an organic kale salad. Josh explained that, at present, they only have electric burners...he hopes to expand the kitchen one day soon. Don't. Grilled cheeses are just fine.
I just love this concept and this place. It's my new choice for a haircut and beard trim, since having a cool cocktail while being tailored appeals mightily to me. And ending the trim with a grilled cheese sandwich is just the icing on the cake. See you there.
To subscribe to Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter ($70 for twelve monthly issues) email him at email@example.com.