When I was a kid, I loved going on vacation. We always went someplace different (unless it was Colonial Williamsburg…again) and I really liked seeing different places, eating different foods, staying different places, you get the idea. I haven’t traveled a whole lot as an adult and that kinda sucks, so when I got the chance to crash at my friend Sean’s in LA, I went for it. This is part one of my trip out there, food wise.
I really like bars. Not bars in a strip mall with random shit glued to the walls. Not bars where you have to scream at someone to talk to them. Give me some dark wood and a nice whiskey selection in a capable bartender’s hands and I am a happy girl.
It was a long flight from Philly to LA, and by the time I got to the car rental place and then to my friend’s apartment, I was starving. He suggested we go to Cole’s. As we rounded the corner, we saw that they were shooting some kind of something there (film gear was all over outside, so we went to Pete’s instead. Pete’s has a burger that is kickass, unfortunately, I was so cracked out from traveling I didn’t take a picture. But if you are anywhere around 6th and Main, in Downtown LA, hit them up for the Hellman Burger: a half pound of prime beef, fontina cheese & smoked tomato aioli. Ridiculous.
I promptly fell asleep, the next day took it easy and after Sean went to work, I found myself looking for something to do later on in the nite and found myself walking to Cole’s.
Cole’s is located in downtown LA (DTLA for those hip assholes out there). It’s a downtown area that’s in the middle of changing from kind of ghetto-y ghost town into an area with lots of bars, restaurants, galleries and apartments.
Downtown used to be the Financial District (when the bar was founded, in 1908) and the bar was located right in the train station area, so all the stockbrokers used to come and drink there on the way home.
The place closed for awhile and then was reopened with a whole restoration of the entire place. The Red Car Bar was totally restored and it looks lovely (as you can see in the picture here). There are stations on each end where you can se the bartenders making old school cocktails.
The signature cocktail at this place is The Old Fashioned. Served with bourbon, bitters, a sugar cube and a luxardo cherry. What’s a Luxardo Cherry? It’s a real maraschino cherry, imported from Italy (and it is ridiculously delicious). They also hand chip a solid little block of ice for your drink. Think that doesn’t make a difference? You’d be wrong. And it’s really cool to watch the guys chip the ice to fit right in front of you! It’s also awesome to be asked what kind of whiskey you would like, because, you see, they have a fantastic selection of whiskey so you’ll great recommendation.
They also do variations on the Old Fashioned, this one is a rum version called The Old Devil. It will knock you right back just like the whiskey one, and if you look close, you can see the solid ice cube in there.
And then there are the cocktails. This one is called a Red Car Named Desire. I was a little disappointed at first when it was put in front of me. And then I took a sip. It has Rye Whiskey, Cynar, Luxardo & Maurin Liqueur. It goes down like a velvety fire, and, while not cheap, worth every penny.
Cole’s has a really cool old school drink menu, including a kick ass Manhattan, Sazerac (rye, bitters, and an absinthe rinse), a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice, topped with ginger beer and served in a copper mug) and many others. They also offer a special cocktail every few weeks or so. You can check out the drink menu here.
You know, after all that booze, you gotta eat. Cole’s has ya covered. The story is that they invented the French Dip sandwich. There is another place in LA, not too far away, called Philippe’s. They also say they are the home of the French Dip. According to Cole’s menu, the City Of Los Angeles has proclaimed the title to them. I am sure Philippe’s serves a nice sandwich, I did not get a chance to have one. I did, however, eat many Cole’s French Dip’s and lemme say…that’s a damn fine sandwich.
If you aren’t sure what a French Dip is, it’s a sandwich with some sort of meat (usually roast beef or something like that) on a nice crusty roll, that you dip into some Au Jus to soften up the roll and get some more goodness into the roll. Cole’s makes theirs with Prime Beef, which is delicious. The roll is tasty. You get your choice of different cheeses, I kept it simple with a nice cheddar. They offer a spicy mustard that will clear your sinuses and make you do a little happy dance. Put this all together, give it a dip in the nice sized bowl of Au Jus and you got a little bit of fantasticalness that melts right in your mouth.
For a little bit extra, you get what they call The Atomic Pickle. They keep a jar on the bar, and make them right there in the kitchen. I thought, when I ordered it, that it would just be a spicy pickle. This thing slowly explodes in your mouth and then works it’s way to the back of your tongue where it lights your head on fire. If you like hot stuff, this is a 10 on the excellence scale.
I also find it cool they keep the jar on the bar, like in the olden days before bars had refrigeration. It fits right in with the whole vibe of the place and it’s just cool to look at!
Let’s talk a minute about french fries. It’s real easy to make crappy ones. Under cooked, over cooked, freezer burned, luke warm, mushy, reheated, or just bad tasting. People just accept it and stuff them into his mouth. So, when I find awesome fries, I gotta talk about it.
These fries are crispy enough on the outside and fluffy inside. Specifically, these are Garlic Fries, and you can see the fried garlic in there. Needless to say, if you like garlic, dive head first in there. Just be sure you shower when you get home! It is worth every crunchy bit!
Sides! Let’s talk about some sides!
First off, there is Bacon Potato Salad. Otherwise known as German Potato Salad. When my Grandmom was alive, one thing she made that I absolutely loved was her German Potato Salad and my Dad loved it too. Since she died, we would go out to eat and if it was on the menu, we would both order it, hoping it would be like her’s, but it was always disappointing. It got to the point where we would just stop ordering it. I took a chance, and was rewarded kindly.
The potatoes were cubed small & were slightly al dente, so they had some crunch, as opposed to some potato salad thats just mush. The little bit of dill gave it a zing and the bacon popped right out onto your tongue to say hello. Absolutely delicious and a lovely compliment to the French Dip.
The homemade Mac and Cheese was like my Babci makes, very creamy with a nice bread crumb topping. People are usually used to either the Kraft Mac and Cheese (which I am most guilty of loving) or a dry, flavorless Mac and Cheese.
This cheesy, buttery bowl of goodness make me tune out the entire bar as I scraped as much cheese out of there as possible.
Dessert? Oh yeah!
Let me introduce you to the Dark Chocolate Cream Pie. Hellooooo Pie!
An oreo cookie base that is moist and delicious. A chocolate mouse center and a topping that’s a giant pile of delicious whipped cream, sprinkled with chocolate powder.
I’m not even a dessert fan for the most part. I can never get that far in the meal. When I asked Danny the bartender where they got the pies from, he told me they are them right there. A bar that makes it’s own pies….my heart grew 3 sizes.
Last but not least, let me introduce you to 2 bartenders I hung out with during the time I was in town. They made me drinks, kept me laughing and were all around cool dudes.
Meet Danny. Dog lover, comedy writer and the maker of some of the most kick ass drinks I have had in years. I had drinks I didn’t even know I liked and I think he has spoiled me on any other bars for quite awhile.
Meet Max. Max is a great dude, who will recommend 9 kinds of whiskey that all rule, wears a cool bowler for kicks at work, and can juggle 15 different kinds of customers, drinks & goofballs without batting an eye.
These guys are so good at making these old timey drinks & explaining them without that dead look of “you are the 15th person today I have had to explain this”, it’s just fun to sit at the bar and watch them work!
You can have a great building with a great menu but if the people working there suck, you got jack squat. These guys, and the rest of the staff (I’m looking at you, Ms. Bar Manager! Those Fernet shots were crazy!) are awesome. If you find yourself in LA, swing on by. Things might be a little expensive, but you not only get what you pay for, you get a whole lot more.