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Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Edison - Los Angeles (Downtown)

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.

The Edison
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.


  1. Eeeek, sounds like Yuppie hell! I still get the "you speak really good English!" once in a while. to which I respond, "so do you...." And if you ask me where my ancestors are from? "Well it all started with Izanagi and Izanami.." just to draw them, thinking they are like my grandparents....and I always like the looks when I reach the part "they had a daughter, who was too beautiful so they put in the sky to become the sun..." he-he-he! Aren't creation myths wonderful?

  2. Haha, I like Kirk's method. For Viets, wouldn't it involved a dragon? I forget how the legends go.

    I really like how you handled the situation, even though your explanation went over his head. Just goes to show that some people just aren't worth the effort.

  3. What no dumplings? ;-)
    Sounds like an "interesting" night! And skipping out on the bill - definitely not good! That's sooo rude!

  4. If the Persian was truly proud of where he came from, he would be telling people that he is in fact Iranian!!! Why are Persians so ashamed of being known as Iranians???

  5. Good response to, "where are you from", how annoying was he, hope he left you alone after that.

  6. I think this is why I never liked going to clubs/bars. The music is too loud, the people aren't anything like me, and oh yeah, I've never been able to enjoy the taste of alcohol.

    I think I was an old fogie even when I was young. Thank goodness my actual age has caught up to my personality.

  7. What a disasterous experience with COMPLETELY obnoxious people! First, I get really RILED up when people don't pay their portion of what they ate and drank. If you eat it, you pay. It is just that simple. Second, I agree with the others, in that you responded very well to that gentleman. If he didn't understand your point when you patiently distinguished between nationality and ethnicity, then he needs a basic lesson in Not-Being-an-Ignoramus 101.

  8. Kirk,
    I always get the "you don't have an accent at all" or something along those lines. Of course, I wasn't born here, but that doesn't prevent me from speaking perfect English. :)

    Hehe, I think launching into the whole dragon and fairy and 100 eggs creation myth would have been spending way more time than that guy was worth!

    Woman cannot live on dumplings alone! Although, I certainly can try. :P

    A Persian friend once told me it was to distinguish who came here when. They didn't want any reference to the ayatollah Khomeini.

    Anonymous II,
    I think he got the message pretty clear when I turned away. :)

    I garden and knit for fun. You're not the only old fogie around here. I forget which one of us is older? :)

    Haha! You should have read my old rant about food pet peeves. People who don't pay for their food, or who don't share were tops on the list. :P

  9. $13 cocktails? Man...LA. Come back to Portland where we think $8 cocktails are expensive.

    Re: the ethnic conversations...so true, and being half/half, I get it this a lot. Invariably and some company gathering when somebody has had to many cocktails. A couple years ago, when I revealed my Vietnamese ethnicity after being plied, the lady asked me how come we opened so many nail shops. I resisted the urge to tell her it was the same compulsion that white people feel to cook crystal meth in their basements.

    And at the last corporate marketing dinner, I was expounding to a drunk co-worker from Vancouver B.C. on how I respected the Canadian healthcare system, and she felt it was such a slight against her newly adopted home of America that she felt compelled to tell me to "go back to Vietnam".

    Good times.

  10. Hi WC, I didn't know that they actually served food there. The Edison is definitely a nice place to hangout for about an hour, then it gets sleepy. Nice post.

  11. GC,
    Eeek! I don't much like getting into ethnic discussions at social gatherings, I always end up offending someone. It's hard to gauge strangers' reactions.

    The food is only a recent addition my friend said. The other times she's been, the kitchen was closed. Yeah, I was stretching it by being there for 2 hours? My friend was planning on being there for 4! I think I'm too old for that.


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