Saturday, August 13, 2011

Heroes and Villains

Click all photos to "embiggen"
When your GPS guides you to the corner of Palmetto Street and Santa Fe Avenue, you think maybe something's gone wrong with the software. Here looking over the railroad tracks, low roofed warehouses, and the beautiful 4th Street Viaduct spanning the wide, flat Los Angeles River, it doesn't seem to be the right place for a watering hole reputed as an edgy, gothico-steampunk saloon serving great cocktails.

But then you see the sign, and the entrance from the parking lot, guarded by black-shirted bouncers, and on the roof, a pair of golden Foo-dogs above a black-and-gold striped tent.

Villains Tavern has only been around a year or so, but it already has quite a following. We went on a Saturday afternoon - missing the excitement of live music and nightlife, but also missing the lines and the crowds - because, face it, people, although we're adventurous, we're old fogeys.

Step within the gates and find an open-air paved space furnished with a mixture of oaken pub tables, delicate iron-work chairs, leather-tufted Victorian settees, and a shuffleboard game where two people slid weighted pucks down the smooth wooden deck.

Beyond, within a tiny cinderblock building is the bar, and as your eyes adjust to the dimness, you are amazed. First, at the sight of a huge arched gothic window, trefoiled and segmented, as the back bar. And second, at the sight, reflected in the backbar's mirrors, of the front windows where rows and rows of colored-glass apothecary bottles and jars glow in the late afternoon sun.

It dazzles you so for a moment, you can't take in the rest - the mounted stags' heads, crystal chandeliers, draped masonic stoles, hand-painted mirrors and the tightly corsetted woman tending bar.

Villains has a great assortment of beers and ales on tap, as well as an unusual menu of original cocktails.  They have a short food menu, but on Saturday afternoons they serve barbecue.

We ordered chicken and ribs, and while [The Man I Love] had a beer, I ordered an Astarte cocktail - bourbon, citrus juices, cucumber and strawberry, with a touch of flower water.

The Astarte
 The cocktails are served in Mason jars, and the Astarte was pretty and refreshing.

The barbecue was filling and satisfying but nothing special, although I'm always delighted with macaroni and cheese.

The roasted corn on the cob with cheese and chili was good! But I was disappointed the regular menu wasn't available, because I'd been dying to try the grilled cheese with bacon marmelade. Next time!

We sat and enjoyed ourselves, and chatted briefly with the black-clad fellow leaning up against the bar, who turned out to be manager, Dave Whitton, who is the mastermind behind the cocktail menu. We expressed our compliments, and praised the decor. Owner Dana Hollister, interior designer and restaurant designer, was responsible for creating the unique atmosphere of old-fashioned decadence, out here in the deserted frontier of the Los Angeles Arts District.

Villains has a nightly special, and a happy hour deal that offers a beer and a shot for only $8. There are grown-up snow-cones with your choice of alcohol. They also offer PBR, which is inexplicably popular among the Arts District hipsters.  Live music nightly.


smalltownmom said...

Bacon marmalade? I am intrigued. You must go back for that.

une femme said...

Thanks for the tip! This place looks worth investigating. Your picture of that bar window is especially enchanting.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

"Flower water?", he asked.

P.S. They also offer PBR, which is inexplicably popular among the Arts District hipsters.

Yeah, I don't get it, either. Back when I was a poor college student, we still found better than PBR to drink.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I love the colored glass bottles backlit like that... do they contain interesting infusions?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

P.S. They also offer PBR, which is inexplicably popular among the Arts District hipsters.

Watch Blue Velvet- it's a crib from the movie.

JCK said...

Love this! Definitely need to go. :)