This is a little tale of a really great venue and why I don't like meeting up with groups of strangers (food bloggers excepted, of course).
Which would you like first? The location? The food? Or the strange strangers? Ah, intrigued now are you?
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll notice that most of my food outings are restaurants. There are a great many bars and clubs in L.A., and I've frequented them at one time or another through the years. But that was, quite frankly, many years ago. Back when most of my friends were single. Back when meeting up for drinks and hopefully meeting other people was part of our agendas. Back when I was a much more social butterfly. Ha! Which isn't to say I don't enjoy going to a bar or lounge now and again. But I much prefer to do it with a group of friends, and the venue is secondary to the hanging out part.
So when my friend invited me to "happy hour" with her and her co-workers and their friends at The Edison in downtown L.A., I wanted to check it out because I'd heard about it before on one of those local newsmagazine segments on things to do in SoCal. It's housed inside the historic Higgins Building, just a few blocks from Little Tokyo, within sight of the Los Angeles Times sprawling block-sized complex, and the pointed white spire of City Hall (which was prominently featured in the O.J. Simpson trial).
The Edison is a converted industrial boiler room, quite literally, it was L.A.'s first private power plant. Locating it isn't too difficult. The Higgins building is on the corner of W. 2nd and Main, look for #108, then keep walking around the corner to the right into the alley and you'll see the smartly suited-up bouncer. Yes, suited-up, there's a dress code - no sneakers, no flip-flops. Descend the staircase and you'll see this.
Can't make it out you say? Heh. OK, check out their website and the virtual tour and you'll see what I mean by industrial boiler room.
My friend's friends were in a private room which featured I-have-no-idea-what-this-is. Heh! :)
I actually would have preferred to sit outside in one of the many cozy little lounge areas. Less claustrophobic. Better for people-watching. Better for meeting people, if you were so inclined.
I had scanned the menu online beforehand and knew I wanted to try their signature drink, "The Edison," which featured lavender-honey-infused liquor, pear liqueur, and fresh-squeezed pear nectar for $13. The "happy hour" price was discounted but I'm not sure by how much since this was ordered with other drinks. Pear juice with honey and a touch of alcohol. It was yum!
We also ordered food. What's a food blog if I don't order food, even at a bar right? You can order food at the very back bar area, near the bathrooms, and wait about 10 minutes for your order. They're pretty fast. Or wait for the roving waitresses to come around.
The tesla fries for $7 were crispy, slightly sweet, slightly salty, fried sweet potatoes with homemade ketchup and citrus aioli. The ketchup wasn't remarkable. The citrus, actually orange peel, didn't quite mesh with the mayonnaise. But the fries themselves were so good they really didn't need an accompaniment.
We also got macaroni and cheese for $11. The description included a blend of several fancy cheeses and truffle (which just tasted like truffle oil). The bread crumbs were nicely toasted, the mac and cheese was a little bland, especially after eating the sweet potato fries.
The calamari was $12 and was nicely crispy, without tasting much of squid at all. The fries and calamari were served in these very cool-looking wire cones. The portions were actually quite generous too as far as bar food goes.
We had ordered food at the bar, just because it gave us an excuse to get out of that private room and check out the crowd. But when we got back, we found out that several people in that group (who had ordered fries, mac and cheese, and multiple drinks) had completely skipped out on the tab. Sooo not cool. I guess they expected someone else to take care of their bill. No one else in the group was inclined to do so. And I definitely didn't have the money to pay for someone else's bar tab. The poor waitress kept hovering over the rest of us, hoping none of us were gonna skip out on her too. Dude! That was seriously messed up!
And because the group had now thinned out a bit, and my distractions with food were out of the way, I made some small-talk.
Now, this was a pretty mixed group - Asians, Latinos, Middle Eastern.
So the Middle Easterner, Persian if you want to get specific, asks me, "Where are you from?"
"Where are your parents from?"
"Where are your ancestors from?"
Now, I've gotten this question from white and black Americans, I know what they're digging for, but I refuse to answer the way they want. Why? Because Americans are not all white and black. We're all ethnicities. And instead of satisfying their curiosity, I'd far rather turn it into a educational lesson, if they're so inclined. And if they're not, then frustration is a good enough response for me.
If you're trying to ask my ethnicity, then say so. If you ask my nationality, yes, that's American too. If you ask where I'm from, then that implies where you grew up, and my answer will always be Oregon. Unless I'm abroad, then I say L.A. because that's where I reside now. And in all my travels, I've never had any European, Australian, or Asian question whether I'm American.
But he wouldn't let it go and begins a mini-lecture on how I should be proud of where I'm from and where my parents are from. Excuse me? Dude soooo does not know me if he thinks I'm ashamed of being Vietnamese. So I explain again why it's important that even ethnic minorities own up to their right to be called American. Goes over his head. Mini-lecture resumes. I tune out.
Only to hear a conversation from a guy who says he's not a homewrecker if he starts something with an ex from years ago, even though she's married now and her husband is in the army so he's not around. Say what? When did old emotional ties and a spouse who's away become a justification for adultery?
And then there was the 30something who after a few drinks was giggling like mad before she kept making frequent dashes to the bathroom to puke. So frequently that the bouncers even looked for her and told us not to give her anymore. We were already plying her with water at this point because she was insisting on driving home since she had to go to church the next day. Getting wasted as an adult is just a tad pathetic, no?
Well, after all that, it was time for me to make my exit.
Dude! Let's recap a bit huh? Very cool space. Good food. Loser people. Aside from the people in the group, the crowd looked like the typical downtown office workers mix. I would definitely come back for good drinks and food in a very cool industrial space, but am steering clear of meeting up with that particular group of my friend's friends.
108 W. 2nd St. #101
Los Angeles, CA 90012
"Happy hour" drink specials until 8 p.m.
Food menu closes at 11 p.m.
Open Wednesdays to Fridays 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Saturdays 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.