Food, Happenings

This New Arts District Museum Showcases the World’s Most Disgusting Foods

December 11, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Sardinian maggot cheese Photo: The Museum of Disgusting Food

The average American would be revolted by pickled sheep eyes or black licorice caked with salt, but The Disgusting Food Museum is here to showcase that one person’s nightmare is another’s delicacy. Presented alongside fruit bat soup and musk-flavored candy, visitors will find a can of root beer that, for many, harkens back to the halcyon days of summer vacation—and for others, tastes like toothpaste.

The Museum of Disgusting Food first debuted in Malmo, Sweden in the fall of 2018, and has now come to the A+D Museum in downtown Los Angeles. It’s curated by Dr. Samuel West—who also curated The Museum of Failure, which came to the A+D Museum in last year—and Andreas Ahrens, who serves as the director of the Swedish museum. The Disgusting Food Museum features some 80 food items from around the world to suggest we reexamine “disgust” as well as consider alternative sustainable protein sources like insects and lab-grown meat. Exhibits fall into a variety of “disgust” categories, which may include their taste, appearance, smell, texture, or the manner in which they are prepared.

“What I want to happen and what’s actually been the response so far is that people say they came [to the museum] for the shock value, and they left with a better understanding that food preferences are cultural, period,” West said. “Disgust is culturally conditioned. You see both foods that you like right next to ones you find utterly ‘disgusting,’ and they’re on the same table with the same respect. I think the contrast between the different cuisines and cultures is as interesting as the subtle similarities that people don’t really pick up on until they’ve immersed themselves into it. What’s the real difference between eating a guinea pig and a regular pig?”

Both animals are featured in the museum’s collection, which calls into question the antibiotics pigs are injected with prior to their slaughter and consumption. Guinea pigs, also known as cuy, are often eaten in parts of South America.

Fried tarantula, a Cambodian delicacy Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Elsewhere you’ll find displays of insects and animals—or animal parts—not typically consumed in the U.S. The Mongolia Mary is just like your standard Bloody Mary, save the whole, pickled sheep eye, while a Peruvian health smoothie is made by blending honey, vegetables, and endangered Titicaca water frogs. (It should be noted that most of the animal displays in the museum are either taxidermied or toy figures.)

Some of these meat dishes are included in the museum because their preparation methods are considered cruel. Dishes like Foie Gras and ortolans may be considered rich delicacies by some, but are often boycotted or banned due to the treatment the animal must endure. Ortolans, small songbirds, were traditionally eaten with a napkin over the diner’s head, both to keep in the aroma and, supposedly, to hide the shame of eating one. French menus have been banned from offering the birds since 1999, not that it stops some from trying to acquire them. In the NBC series Hannibal,  gourmand (and cannibal) Hannibal Lecter explains how ortolans are prepared to FBI Agent Will Graham, right before they eat them in the clip below:

A few of the dishes at the museum contain fluids one might consider surprising. There’s the English’s blood pudding; Sok Z Kiszonej Kapusty, a Polish sauerkraut juice; Kumis, or fermented horse milk, from Russia; Garum, an ancient Roman sauce made by fermenting barrels of fish guts in the sun; and Three Penis Liquor, a rice wine breweries with seal, deer, and dog penises that is said to increase virility. Shirako, a Japanese dish that translates to “white children” and consists of fish sacs, typically full of cod sperm. It’s said to have a creamy, slightly fishy, milky taste.

Perhaps the oddest among them—at least for the audience most likely to stop by the Los Angeles museum—are “Virgin Boy Eggs,” which hail from Dongyang. According to the Reuters, the traditional dish calls for eggs to be boiled, then simmered for a day in the urine of boys, preferably no older than 10, which is often collected at primary schools. Vendors sell them for a quarter and they are so popular, they have been deemed an “intangible cultural heritage” by the local government.

Shirako, or milt, is made with fish sperm. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

It’s in the smell section where one finds The Altar of Stinky Cheese. Dare to open the jars next to the visual displays and you’ll understand why each has been chosen. The smelliest among them is Vieux Boulogne, an unpasteurized cheese from Boulogne-sur-Mer made from the milk of cows that have grazed on sea-sprayed grass. The cheese is then matured for around two months, then washed in beer. A panel conducted by Stephen White of Cranfield University determined that Vieux Boulogne was the stinkiest cheese in the world. According to the Independent, it has hints of “wet earth, mushroom, and of rotting leaves,” or, for the less sophisticated, cow poop. (I smelled this and can confirm.) It shares its altar with Gamle Ole, a well-aged Danish cheese, and the Stinking Bishop, a U.K. cheese that surged in popularity after a character in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit uses the semi-soft cheese’s scent to rouse Wallace from the dead.

Then there’s the Sardinian cheese, Casu Marzu, in which a whole rind of pecorino cheese is sliced open and set outside so that flies can lay their eggs in it. The museum’s display allows one to watch live maggots squirm in the center of the cheese. The cheese is illegal in the EU, largely because surviving maggots, if not removed, can cause a whole host of issues in a diner’s bowels. This is not the only dish within the museum’s purview that is potentially dangerous. Live octopus is considered a delicacy in South Korea, but still-moving suction cups can stick to a diner’s throat and kill them. According to the museum, about six people each year die this way.

Other items are less deadly, but might make you laugh because you’ve never considered them disgusting. Ahrens noted some Australians were peeved to see vegemite, a popular sandwich spread, in the exhibit. Americans might be surprised see Pop-Tarts and Twinkies in the mix.

“We thought about taking out the Twinkies and Pop-Tarts for the American exhibit, and then I did some semi-scientific surveys and people at the museum, the Europeans, all found Twinkies and Pop-Tarts to be disgusting because they are too sweet and represent the artificial foods of America,” West said.

Many Americans are surprised to see this popular ‘breakfast pastry’ in the exhibit, but West says Europeans detest them. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Which is one of the key points of the museum: disgust is on the tongue of the beholder. I tried and abhorred the salt licorice. But while I grew up eating the occasional S’mores Pop-Tart before school or sipping on a root beer, Ahrens spent his youth popping salt licorice. We each find the other’s childhood favorites, to quote Ahrens, “absolutely vile.” Meanwhile, West, who grew up in both California and Sweden, loves root beer and says his children love salt licorice.

“Disgust is one of the universal emotions. It’s there to protect us from dangerous food, poisonous food, rotten food,” Ahrens said. “So, we get this initial reaction of ‘I shouldn’t eat this’ to protect our health, then we learn through our upbringing that some of the things that we should find disgusting are not. So, for me, salt licorice, when you first taste it, it kind of stings your tongue. But when you are used to it, you crave that feeling.”

Both West and Ahrens, for instance, have learned to enjoy the smell of durian—a spiky, Southeast Asian fruit with a pungent odor that contradicts its sweet, custardy taste—after sampling the fruit so many times. And how many of us have gone from shunning vegetables in our youth to craving them in our adulthood?

Several packages of salted licorice, a popular Nordic candy. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

“My hope is that if we stop judging the food of other cultures as disgusting, maybe we will be more tolerant towards cultural behaviors that we might not be used to and realize that we think they are strange because we are not used to them, not because they are actually strange,” Ahrens said.

If you’re interested in evolving your own palate, The Museum of Disgusting Food is offering tastings of a variety of items, including stinky cheeses, a handful of insect dishes (which West promotes as the key to eating less meat and a sustainable future), century eggs, global candies, and, for the very brave, Hákarl. Hákharl is an Icelandic dish of aged, fermented shark. Of all his culinary adventures, Anthony Bourdain once described the dish as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’d ever tried. I tried it myself and my first thought was, “This is what drinking embalming fluid must be like.” This thought was likely due to the dish’s ammonia smell, which lingers in the nose after consumption. To be fair to the shark, ammonia is not formaldehyde, but I will not be eating Hákarl ever again.

The Disgusting Food Museum is open December 9-February 17 at the A+D Museum, located at 900 E. 4th Street in the Arts District. Hours are Weds.-Fri., 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sat. & Sun., noon to 7 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. (On December 14 only, hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Tickets are $15 on weekdays or $18 on weekends or $10 for children 12 and younger. Those interested in bringing a party of 10 or more should send an email to More info here.

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]

13 Immersive & Offbeat Things to Do in L.A. for the Holiday Season

December 5, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

If waiting in line for a mall Santa isn’t quite your thing, maybe you’d prefer strolling through a mesmerizing garden of lights or taking to the streets with a Krampus or two. Or perhaps you’d prefer to visit with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future in virtual reality.

Either way, if you’re looking for something different to do this month, here are 13 ways to get immersed in the holiday season in and around Los Angeles (numbered for reference, listed in no particular order).

Chained: A Victorian Nightmare  Photo: Aaron Sims Creative

1. Chained: A Victorian Nightmare

Nineteenth-century Victorians used to gather round to tell one another ghost stories on Christmas Eve. The most famous tale of them all is arguably Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which has been reimagined in myriad ways since its original publication in 1843. But it’s never been done quite like this.

From MWM Immersive and Here Be Dragons, director/creator Justin Denton (Legion FX HoloLens experience), and Ethan Stearns (producer of Carne y Arena) comes Chained: A Victorian Nightmare, a part-VR, part-immersive theater retelling of the classic Dickens tale that places one audience member at a time in the role of Scrooge. Well, sort of: you’re in Scrooge’s role, but the answers you offer to questions about your life and legacy will be your own. This spooky self-discovery experience begins by knocking on a foreboding chamber door in real life, but guests will soon find themselves using a VR headset to access the spirit realm. While the VR component allows for fantastical virtual sights, you’ll also be interacting with real actors and objects at the same time. To achieve this effect, motion capture tracks a live actor who speaks to and guides the guest, all while appearing as a foreboding spirit. It’s very cool, and something a lot of people have likely never experienced with this technology before. The overall aesthetic is creepy, reminiscent of gothic horror stories, with chilling artwork from Aaron Sims Creative (who also created Stranger Things‘ Demogorgon). But, it’s not specifically a horror experience, so don’t expect to be shrieking at jump scares or gore.

Tickets for the first wave of Chained are sold out, but new tickets will be released daily through December. Sign up for their mailing list for updates.

When: Nov. 29-early January
Where: The Great Co., 1655 Beverly Blvd., HiFi
Cost: $40

2. X-Mas for One

Things take a dark turn when three employees are forced to provide the entertainment at their company’s annual Christmas party in the dark comedy X-Mas For One. In this immersive staging, the audience is cast as co-workers of the trio, occasionally getting “roped into workplace drama” as chaos ensues. The show is written and performed by Lucas Coleman, Will Huse, and Pablo Rossil, the same team behind Blowfish: A Horrific Immersive Experience. This event is not suitable for kids.

When: Sunday, December 9, 8 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Rockwell Table and Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz
Cost: $18-35, plus a 2 food/drink item minimum.

Krampuslauf 2017 Photo: Paul Koudounaris

3. The Los Angeles Krampuslauf

In Austrian folklore, Krampus is the counterpart to St. Nick. He roams the night looking for bad children to whip with switches, toss in a frozen lake, or drag to the underworld—so, worse than a lump of coal. The Krampuslauf (or Krampus Run) is an annual parade of the horned beasts, and Los Angeles will have its own on December 13, coinciding with the Downtown Art Walk. The monsters will be out to swat the naughty while St. Nick will make sure they don’t get too wild. Also, expect an authentic steam car from the 1800s to make an appearance. Then, head to The Lash for a performance from Hammerstein Musik Bavaria. And, if you have your own Krampus suit (who doesn’t, right?), send a picture to Krampus Los Angeles by December 12 to participate. More info here.

When: Krampus Lauf, Thursday, December 13, 8 p.m. After party to follow at 9 p.m.
Where: Winston St., between Main and Los Angeles, DTLA. The Lash is at 117 Winston St., DTLA.
Cost: Free

4. Nightmare Before Christmas Beer Festival

The Queen Mary will host a beer fest inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas, featuring over 20 different brews from local favorites; an immersive HalloweenTown with character interactions and photo ops; karaoke with Oogie Boogie, and live music.

When: Friday, December 14, 6:30-10 p.m.
Where: The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach
Cost: $42 and up

Descanso Garden’s Enchanted: Forest of Light Photo: Cal Bingham

5. Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted: Forest of Light

Enchanted: Forest of Light is one of the most beautiful and innovative holiday light displays you’ll find in L.A. County. The experience eschews  red-and-green cliches for a one-mile journey through otherworldly installations like singing Oak trees, fields of illuminated, color-changing tulips, and a Japanese garden lit with red lanterns.

When: Nov.18-Jan.6, 5:30-10 p.m. Closed Dec. 24 & 25.
Where: Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Gardens, La Cañada Flintridge
Cost: $28-30 (Members get $5 off)

Here and Now transforms into Blitzen Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

6. Blitzen’s

Here & Now in the Arts District has become Blitzen’s, a holiday pop-up featuring seasonal decor, live performances (like a roving Bad Santa), and a full menu of seasonal offerings. Food includes potato latkes; the Leftover Turkey Sandwich with turkey, cranberry chutney, and mashed potatoes, and bread pudding. Cocktails include Oh Holy Nog (Cognac, Avua Cachaca, Becherovka, Amontillado, Egg, Coconut Cream) and Eight Crazy Nights (Plum Brandy, Vanilla infused Palo Cortado, Amaro Montenegro, Strawberry Rosemary Compote, Powdered Sugar). For added immersion, linger outside in the bluster of their snow machine. Additionally, garner a free cup of punch for every quart-size plastic baggie of toiletries you bring along to be donated to nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH).

When: Nov. 28-Dec. 31
Where: Here & Now, 300 S. Santa Fe Ave., Arts District
Cost: Free

Immersed in Wonderland Photo: Alexa Meade

7. Immersed in Wonderland

If you can’t afford anything on Rodeo Drive, you can at least go see artist Alexa Meade’s pop-up installation, Immersed in Wonderland. Meade has painted a series of 3-D paintings that place guests inside a holiday vignette and that, when photographed, present the illusion that you’re actually inside the painting. The set also includes a piano, which guests are free to play.

The exhibit is part of Beverly Hills’ BOLD Holidays programming, which also includes live music, art, and ice sculpting, holiday art walks, and more. See more information here.

When: Now through Dec. 23, Mon.-Sat., noon to 8 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
Where: 262 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills
Cost: Free

Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights Photo: Mission Inn

8. The Mission Inn’s Festival of Lights

The Mission Inn’s 26th Annual Festival of Lights celebration is one of the most intense holiday light displays you can see in Southern California, if not the nation. The sprawling display incorporates over 5 million lights, 400 animated dolls, a life-size gingerbread house, live performances, and more.

You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to check out the lighting display, but if you do decide to stay overnight, you can wander around and check out the mismatch of architecture that makes up this historic property. The hotel began as an adobe guest house with just 12 rooms in 1876, but turned into the behemoth it is today under the leadership of owner Frank Miller. The hotel was never a mission, merely “mission-themed,” and also served as a place for Miller to store and display artifacts acquired during his travels. This includes his collection of hundreds of bells.

When: Nov.23-Jan. 6
Where: 10705 Magnolia Ave., Riverside
Cost: Free

Miracle at The Everly Photo: Melissa Horn

9. Miracle at The Everly

Miracle is a Christmas cocktail pop-up bar launched in 2014 in NYC, but it’s since spread to over 80 locations around the world. Miracles are marked by fun, holiday decor; creative seasonal cocktails served in kitschy glassware, and heaps of Instagrammable nostalgia. Guests will find Los Angeles’ only Miracle this season at Kimpton Everly Hotel’s lobby bar, Ever Bar. Cocktails include the Run Run Rudolph (prosecco, gin, mulled wine puree, lemon, cane syrup) and a hot milk punch titled Bad Santa.

When: Nov.23-Dec.31
Where: 1800 Argyle Ave., Hollywood
Cost: Free admission, food + drink for purchase 

Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Photo: Universal Studios Hollywood.

10. Universal Studios Hollywood

What could be more magical than Christmas in Hogsmeade? Guests to Universal Studios Hollywood will experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in full “winter” splendor, complete with nightly snowfall, holiday decor, an a cappella Frog Choir, holiday merchandise and seasonal offerings (hot Butterbeer!), and a light show projected against Hogwarts Castle.

Additionally, guests can check out Grinchmas, complete with a 60-foot tree, characters, and live performances, daily Dec. 1-2, 8-9, and 14-30.

When: Nov. 17-Jan. 6
Cost: $99 and up

11. Ya Filthy Animals

Ya Filthy Animals is a pop-up bar inspired by holiday movies including Bad Santa, A Christmas Story, and, of course, Home Alone. Expect themed drinks, photo booths, movie-themed installations (including a collage that explains the best booby traps for protecting your home from burglars), and an outdoor ice rink and winter wonderland with falling “snow,” a Christmas tree farm, and a fire pit. Food is available via onsite trucks.

When: Dec. 1-Jan. 6. Weds-Sun., 4 p.m. to midnight.
Where: Hollywood & Vine, Hollywood
Cost: $40 in advance/$50 day-of. Includes admission, ice skating, and a custom cocktail.

Knott’s Merry Farm Photo: Knott’s Berry Farm

12. Knott’s Merry Farm

The monsters and ominous fog of Knott’s Scary Farm are gone and a festive yuletide celebration has taken its place. Guests to the family-friendly theme park will enjoy visits with Santa in his cabin, Snoopy and friends on ice, the musical It’s the Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown, carolers, crafts vendors, live stagings of A Christmas Carol and Gift of the Magi, tree lighting ceremonies and lighting spectaculars, and seasonal treats.

When: Nov. 16-Jan. 6
Where: 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park
Cost: $50+

13. Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds is offering a winter wonderland on their second floor featuring a ball pit made of “snow” for all your Instagram needs. They’ve also recruited the Hollywood Men dancers (that’s L.A.’s own version of Magic Mike) to pose as sexy Santas with guests on December 8 from 1-3 p.m. So, if you want your family back in the Midwest to know you’re really living life, there you go. Guests can also enjoy a 15-minute Polar Express experience in 4D, complete with complimentary Ghiradelli treats.

When: Through Dec. 31
Where: Madame Tussauds, 6933 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Cost: $16.99 and up

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]
Food, Happenings

Union Station Has a New Brewery, Restaurant, and Cocktail Bar Packed with History

November 27, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Imperial Western Beer Co. Photo: Frank Wonho Lee

Passengers rolling into Union Station have a new place to enjoy drinks and bites with the opening of 213 Hospitality’s Imperial Western Beer Co. and adjacent cocktail lounge The Streamliner. The space they take over is an old one, dating back to a railroad restaurant chain once so famous that MGM cast Judy Garland in a musical about its employees. But that was then. Today, the employees might not be appearing as characters in studio pictures, but the nods to history are everywhere, the beer flows daily, and the throwback decor makes for one heck of a hangout spot in DTLA’s busiest transit hub.


In the mid-1800s, a teenager named Fred Harvey moved from England to the United States where he quickly found work in New York restaurants. His first attempt to own a restaurant came several years later in St. Louis, but Harvey lost everything after he and his business partner got into an argument over the Civil War. Harvey sided with the North; his partner took all their money and went to fight for the Confederacy, leaving Harvey broke. Harvey eventually found work in the railroad business, which gave him firsthand knowledge of the meager food offerings rail travelers endured in the American West. Trains west of Chicago had no dining cars to speak of. Instead they stopped at “eating houses” every 100 miles, where travelers could subsist, if they could actually stomach the food, that is.

Journalist Stephen Fried, author of Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild—One Meal at a Time, writes about the quality of eating houses in his essay, “The Comfort Foodists of Union Station”:

“These featured largely inedible food because the local owners knew it was highly unlikely they’d be seeing most of their traveling patrons any time soon. (They also purposefully served their fare minutes before the train departed, so patrons could barely eat—then they scraped the food onto new plates for the next customers. Yum.)”

This is how Harvey got the idea to start what would become America’s first chain restaurant, a place where passengers could expect a reliable, quality meal every time. He opened his first Harvey House restaurant at the AT&SF railway depot in Topeka in 1876, then several more as the line expanded. The first Los Angeles outpost opened in 1893 at La Grande Station, which is where you’ll find the One Santa Fe development the Arts District today. When Union Station was built in 1939, it included a Harvey House that could accommodate up to 300 diners at a time.

An old photograph of Harvey House. Year not listed. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Harvey himself died of intestinal cancer decades before the Union Station restaurant bearing his name opened for business. His last words are said to have been about ham, but what exactly he said is up for debate. One version suggests he told his sons not to slice the ham in their 15-cent ham-and-cheese sandwiches too thin, thus maintaining quality. Others claim he told his children to slice the ham thinner, to maintain profits. Either way, Santa Fe magazine noted that manager reports indicated the ham slices remained “as thick as ever.”

It wasn’t just the food that adhered to strict guidelines across the Harvey restaurants, but the employees as well. Customers were served by an all-female staff, ages 18 to 30, known as Harvey girls. They lived in work-adjacent housing, had strict curfews of 10 p.m., and were not allowed to get married until they’d worked at least one year. Richard Melzer, author of Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest, notes that most Harvey girls were white, at least until after WWII. The women wore demure outfits with high collars and long skirts, and were the subject of both a 1942 novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams and a 1946 MGM musical adaptation starring Judy Garland (by today’s entertainment standards, it does not seem even a little progressive).

Union Station’s Harvey House was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who served as the Fred Harvey Company’s interior designer and architect. It boasts a tiled floor meant to look like a Navajo rug, towering ceilings, and a striking balcony that overlooks the cavernous space. The company also ran a soda fountain, newsstand, barbershop, and shoeshine, according to the book Los Angeles Union Station.

The restaurant itself closed in 1967, as train travel diminished in popularity. According to the Los Angeles Times, the vacant restaurant transitioned to a private event space and filming location. Jeff Cooper, a locations manager, told the Times that this is where Steve Buscemi’s character is shot and falls backwards from a balcony in the 2005 dystopian sci-fi flick The Island. “You should have seen the dummy they used for him. It was so realistic you’d ask it for an autograph,” he said.


Today, the space retains the glory of the original after a meticulous, four-year revamp from 213 Hospitality (The Varnish, Seven Grand, Normandie Club), during which 213 Proprietor Cedd Moses said the company worked with both L.A. Metro and the Los Angeles Conservancy. Much of the decor—including the floor, light fixtures, entrance and sign, and parrot-themed tile work near The Streamliner—is original. According to Brewery Manager Bryan Garcia, the balcony’s railing is a replica recreated from old blueprints, as the original was, at some point, stolen.

Imperial Western Beer Company, named after a Southern Pacific train, is ideal for a post-work beer or a casual meal while waiting for a bus or train. There are two bars, and you’ll find plenty of seating at either main-floor tables or booths tucked away in the corners. Those looking to kill some time can enjoy their many game tables, which include pool, shuffleboard, and chess. There’s also a small back bar servicing an outdoor patio, near where the brewery’s many tanks are located.

The menu comes courtesy of Chef David Lentz (Hungry Cat) and offers a solid list of American staples, including buttermilk fried chicken, pork ribs, and a rich burger with gruyere and bacon. But the bulk of the menu leans towards seafood, with fresh or grilled oysters, a ceviche of the day, fish tacos, and clam chowder. A $1 oyster happy hour is available on weekdays from 4  to 7 p.m., while brunch is served on weekends from noon to 3 p.m.

Beers comes via Devon Randall (formerly of Pizza Port, Lost Abbey, and Arts District Brewing), and is split into categories like “Light & Refreshing” and “Dark & Broody.” There are some interesting brews in the mix, alongside the IPAs and pale ales. There’s the Fordie, a smooth, dark mild which you can order brewed with coffee and on nitro, or decaf. It’s presumably named for Fred Harvey’s son, Ford. The Le Grande is a stout brewed with West coast oysters, while Bells & Whistles is a very peachy sour. Expect around 19 or so brews at a time, with choices rotating often.

The Streamliner Photo: Frank Wonho Lee

For something a little stronger, The Streamliner is the adjacent dark and cozy cocktail bar, offering an uncomplicated menu of classic cocktails, including martinis, Tom Collins, and an Old Fashioned. The emphasis here is on making the affordable cocktails with efficiency (not unlike 213’s Slipper Clutch bar downtown), and you can expect to pay $7 to $9 for a drink. The bar is standing room only, but booths—featuring original amber bubble glass and curved walls in the Streamline Moderne style—extend down a long narrow hall reminiscent of a train car. The cocktail lounge opens daily at 4:47 p.m., a time selected for The Streamliner trains’ former schedules.

Imperial Western Beer Company and The Streamliner are located at 800 N. Alameda St. at Union Station.

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]

LACMA’s Latest Exhibit Puts Self-Taught and Trained Artists Side-by-Side

November 21, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Outliers and American Vanguard Art at LACMA Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In LACMA’s latest offering, Outliers and American Vanguard Art, the goal is to highlight a period in American art history when avant-garde artists and outliers (that is, artists without formal training) intersected, and grapple with the questions provoked by this juxtaposition. The exhibition includes several fiber sculptures created by three women: Nancy Shaver, Judith Scott, and Jessica Stockholder. Each has their own story to tell.

Shaver studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in the late ’60s, while Stockholder has an MFA from Yale. But Scott, who was born with Down syndrome and has lost most of her hearing, spent 35 years in an Ohio institution until her twin sister Joyce became her guardian and moved her to California. There Scott grew into a prolific fabric artist after witnessing a demonstration in the medium at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland. For Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the works all deserve equal treatment.

“I don’t think we need to segregate the work of Judith Scott…from the other two,” she said during a press preview of the exhibit. “I think they work very well in the same context. And if we don’t see a difference, then why do we make a distinction?”

These are the kinds of questions one might ask in this exhibit, where trained artists—the “vanguard” portion of the title—are presented alongside the self-taught or the “outliers.” If someone is privileged enough to study art in an academic setting, is their work any different from the creator who makes art their own way, using what is available to them? What is found at the intersection of these artists?

LACMA is the third and final stop for Outliers following its D.C. debut and a stint at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Cooke’s detailed curation features over 250 pieces by some 80 artists, all organized into three chronological sections: the mid-1920s through the early 1940s, the late 1960s through the early 1980s, and the mid-1990s until now. Each offers specific moments in art history where the avant-garde and ‘outliers’ intersected in their work. These moments include the Great Depression, WWI and WWII, and civil rights movements.

If you’re looking to make a trip to the art museum into a game, you could try to figure out which artists on display were formally schooled in art and which ones were not. It’s kind of like those person-on-the-street taste test commercials, but instead of trying to pick a brand out of a lineup, you’ll be learning a lot about American art history.

For instance, in the same space as the fiber sculptures, one might notice several quilts. Some reference the 2002 touring show, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, in which quilts and other works made by black women in the Alabama community Gee’s Bend—population 275, as of 2010—were displayed. These selected works hang with quilts by Rosie Lee Tompkins and Howardena Pindell. Both are celebrated artists, but, in the spirit of the exhibit, have very different backgrounds. Tompkins learned to quilt from her mother in rural Arkansas, then resumed the practice while working as a nurse in Northern California. Howardena Pindell is a highly educated abstract artist and professor who earned her MFA at Yale and worked at MoMA in NYC for over a decade.

Two photos by Lee Godie Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In a gallery of feminine images, visitors will find work from acclaimed photographer Cindy Sherman, as well as from self-taught artist Lee Godie. Godie never had the opportunity to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, but she did sell her work on its steps. The exhibit includes both her drawings and self-portraits she took in photo booths while using clothes and makeup to create different characters and styles. Ralph Rugoff, director of London’s Hayward Gallery, which featured an exhibition of Godie’s work in 2013, called her photos as “gripping as works by any trained photographer.” She is said to have kept her clothing in a department store locker while living on the streets. PBS reports that she supposedly had a fur coat in her wardrobe, which she’d open to reveal art for sale.

Visitors will also see work from transgender artist Greer Lankton, including drawings and dolls. In one case, two detailed dolls stand side-by-side, one of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in her iconic pink suit, the other of Warhol Superstar Candy Darling in nothing but heels and an open, feather-lined robe.

Sculptures by John Outterbridge Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Another gallery contains work from artists Betye Saar, John Outterbridge, and Noah Purifoy, who began creating work using “black collectibles” (items for sale that featured racial caricatures) following the Watts Riots in 1965. The following year, Purifoy and several other artists used debris from the aftermath of the riots to create 66 pieces of assemblage art, calling the exhibit 66 Signs of Neon. In his final years, Purifoy moved to Joshua Tree where he created a massive outdoor museum of assemblage art.

Yet another space features art from the American South, including pieces from Mississippi blues musician, grave digger, and sculptor James “Son Ford” Thomas. Among his many creations were human skulls, modeled from clay, occasionally using real human teeth or dentures to line their gums.

Elsewhere are watercolors by Henry Darger, a hospital janitor whose massive illustrated fantasy epic, The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, was not revealed to the public until discovered by his landlord. Darger is believed to have spent years quietly creating the bizarre 15,145-page tale.

Morris Hirshfield’s ‘Girl with Pigeons’ Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In the chronologically earlier galleries, one might be drawn to the drawings of Martín Ramírez. The self-taught artist completed more than 300 pieces during the last 15 years of his life, during which he was institutionalized in the DeWitt State Hospital in California. Also of note are Morris Hirshfield‘s colorful “Tiger” and “Girl with Pigeons” paintings. Hirshfield owned a lucrative clothing business before enjoying a retrospective at MoMA in 1943, despite his lack of formal art training. The press hated the work of this so-called “primitive painter” so much that Alfred Barr, the museum’s very first director, was forced to resign, despite not actually orchestrating Hirshfield’s show.

Today, however, Hirshfield’s work has a place among his fellow artists, “outlier” and “vanguard” alike. And for those who find themselves frustrated by the idea of monied and degreed gatekeepers, a diverse show like this can be particularly inspiring.

Outliers and American Vanguard Art is located in LACMA’s BCAM building, level 2. Open November 18 through March 17.                            

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]
Food, Happenings

Inside Mrs. Fish’s Elegant Pivot to Japanese Restaurant and Modern Art Gallery

November 14, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Mrs. Fish Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In 2014, the owners of rooftop bar Perch opened Mrs. Fish in the basement of the Pershing Square Building, an office tower built in 1924 by architect duo Curlett and Beelman. Notable for its 5,500-gallon fish tank, the subterranean supper club spent those first years of its life as a live music venue. Now, Mrs. Fish has a whole new look, pivoting to a modern Japanese restaurant that puts sushi, contemporary art, and whisky at the forefront.

According to Director of Operations Alex Reznik, Mrs. Fish’s “ownership”—the owner keeps their identity an enigma—was inspired by travels throughout Japan, during which they personally purchased each piece of art that now hangs in the restaurant.

“We wanted to create a zen-like environment with beautiful lights that really showcased the art collection,” Reznik said. “We wanted to create an environment where guests would feel like they were having a specific experience, almost like a journey into Japan while visiting us.”

To accomplish this aim the space is broken up into multiple environments. Those familiar with the old Mrs. Fish will recognize the suspended saltwater tank and the black and white checkered floor. The main floor dining room has “more of an open vibe where you really get to feel the 30-foot high ceilings and look at the fish tank,” Reznik explained. On the upstairs mezzanine, a five-seat omakase bar allows an intimate dining experience for adventurous palates. Nearby, a cozy lounge with leather couches and patterned rugs offers a curated selection of over 60 Japanese whiskies. The lighting throughout is soft and blue-hued, but spotlights shine on the artwork and each table has its own small lamp (ideal, perhaps, for those who must photograph their meals).

Most of the fish is sourced from Japanese markets Photo: Courtesy of Mrs. Fish

There’s plenty of sushi on the menu, the fish shipped in from Tokyo. Despite the long flight, the fish tastes remarkably fresh, especially when presented in the sushi and nigiri or dishes like the smoky albacore warayaki.

“It’s the freshest possible [fish] in the United States,” Reznik said. “Literally, the same day we get it from the market, we slice it. That’s why…we don’t open on Sunday or Monday, because we can’t get the quality of fish we really need.”

Other menu items include a rich uni pasta made with uni sourced from Japan and locally sourced lobster and topped with bonito flakes, and the Japanese Mountain Yams, which are fried until they’re crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, then covered in a sweet soy glaze. Meatier options include steaks, a tender short rib in a sunchoke puree, and a variety of skewers, including pork belly, Jidori chicken, and rock shrimp tempura. For dessert, we’d suggest a slice of their creamy yuzu cheesecake.

Short rib with sunchoke puree Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

The bar program leans heavy on the aforementioned whisky, which you can have on its own or in a highball, a simple cocktail of whisky and club soda that’s incredibly popular in Japan. According to Mic’s Hidden Histories series, the highball was likely invented in the U.S. and has been around in Japan since the 1920s. But it really picked up steam mid-century when Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii opened Torys, a chain of bars that featured the highball on the menu. Suntory also created their own machine that produces a highly carbonated soda for what is supposedly the perfect highball. Mrs. Fish is the proud owner of one such machine.

If you aren’t in the mood for whisky, they also have beer, wine, sake, and cocktails (including three non-alcoholic concoctions).

Hideaki Kawashima’s “Speech” Photo: Courtesy of Mrs. Fish

The art is worth a walk around before or after your meal. Near the entrance, visitors can glimpse a self-portrait from Satoko Nachi. Upstairs, Hideaki Kawashima’s “Speech” depicts a young man pontificating while wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. A stunning image from Tomomi Nitta features a woman in a yellow dress, cut into four sections; it hangs behind the main bar. “Candy Girl” features a blond, blue-eyed woman reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland gazing upwards. It’s a piece from Yoshitaka Amano, who worked on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Dream Hunters, anime Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and several early Final Fantasy games. Shohei Otomo, son of Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo, offers a monochrome drawing of a fully tattooed woman so realistic it looks like a photograph at first glance. There are also several pieces by artist Ai Kato, otherwise known as Ai Madonna, including a series of anime portraits and scenes.

For those on a budget, Mrs. Fish offers nomikai Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. In Japan, nomikai (“drinking party”) is when co-workers of all levels come together to share drinks together after work. The menu features a selection of $5 drinks, including that Suntory highball, and $6 bites.

Mrs. Fish is located at 448 S. Hill St. in downtown Los Angeles. Open Tues.-Thurs., 5 to 11 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 1:15 a.m., and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]
Happenings, Lifestyle

These Two 1926 L.A. Hotels Have Both Undergone Incredible Restorations

November 8, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Mayfair Hotel and the Hotel Figueroa were both built in 1926. The glamorous Mayfair played host to the Academy Awards’ first afterparty, while Hotel Figueroa was founded by the YWCA and offered lodging to women travelers, something that was relatively rare in those days. Both hotels underwent massive renovations in recent times, revealing their updated looks in the summer. If you haven’t yet revisited these two historic Los Angeles hotels, here’s what you’re missing.

The Mayfair

The Mayfair Hotel Photo: Courtesy of The Mayfair Hotel

Westlake’s The Mayfair was designed by Curlett and Beelman, the same architect duo behind the Culver Hotel. When the hotel opened, its 14 stories made it the tallest building in the west—today, the Wilshire Grand holds the title, thanks to its decorative spire. The Mayfair does have a 15th floor but, like many American hotels, is missing its unlucky 13th.

According to Nathalie Fintzi-Gibson, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, the last time the Mayfair got an upgrade was prior to the 1984 Summer Olympics, which Los Angeles hosted.  Designer Gulla Jónsdóttir handled the renovations, bridging modern details with elements of the hotel’s past. For instance, cube-shaped chandeliers in the spacious lobby are cut to cast patterned shadows upwards, recreating details found in the original tin and copper tile ceiling. The focal point of the lobby is a white sculpture behind the bar, visible from the street when the doors are flung open. The piece is known as the Mayfair Flower and is meant to remind the viewer of the hotel’s Jazz Age roots.

The Mayfair’s lobby Photo: Frank Lee/Wonho Photography

Other historical details in the guardrails that line the mezzanine; they reflect design elements from the hotel’s exterior. It’s also where you’ll also find a peaceful seating area around an olive tree. Some of the guest rooms pay homage to the past with a 1929 map of Los Angeles printed on their walls. The hotel appears in a cut-out, alongside Westlake Park and Elks Temple. Elks Temple, once known as the Park Plaza Hotel and today as The MacArthur, was another Curtlett and Beelman project.

While Hollywood’s Hotel Roosevelt would host the first Academy Awards in 1929, it was The Mayfair’s ballroom where the stars converged for an afterparty. Today, the renovated ballroom boasts a vapor fireplace and an 800-crystal chandelier.

Elsewhere, Old Hollywood glam is eschewed in favor of hard-boiled detective fiction. It is said that author Raymond Chandler stayed at The Mayfair in the late ’30s while writing the short story “I’ll Be Waiting.” As the story goes, Tony Reseck is the “house detective” for the 14-story Windermere Hotel. He soon encounters a young, red-haired woman named Eve Cressy who’s been staying at the hotel for five days, awaiting the return of her ex-con husband. She sits alone in the hotel’s communal radio room, listening to music in the wee hours of the morning. Reseck soon finds that Eve is involved in a caper, and so is his own mobster brother, Al.

Eve American Bistro Photo: Frank Lee/Wonho Photography

This story is where the Mayfair’s contemporary restaurant, Eve American Bistro, derives its name. The hotel’s private dining room bears Chandler’s name, and two suites—the Vivian and the Marlowe—are named for other Chandler characters.

The Mayfair, akin to the fictional Windermere, once had something of a radio room. Fintzi-Gibson said in the 1930s, there was a live broadcast that took place out of the hotel. The Mayfair offers a modern take on that concept with a glass-enclosed podcast room, which can be rented out and used to record shows.

Dining options include the aforementioned Eve, helmed by chef Scott Commings, serving lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends. A porthole fireplace allows people to peer from Eve into the lobby or vice verse.

The ground floor also features Chicago-based coffeeshop Fairgrounds. This is the chain’s first West Coast location. They open at 6 a.m. daily for breakfast items, coffee, and tea. The usual suspects are on the menu, but so is a matcha and espresso bar, and a list of espresso- and tea-based “elixirs,” including an espresso old fashioned with walnut bitters. There’s no booze in these; for that, you could head to the M Bar in the lobby, or, behind M Bar, the sultrier, darker Library Bar. Here, you’ll find a collection of artworks, including Daniel Cohen’s “Periodic Table of Drugs,” in which a number of illicit substances are framed like, well, a periodic table. The piece somewhat ties into the hotel’s cheeky mantra.

Daniel Allen Cohen’s “Periodic Table of Drugs” Photo: Courtesy of The Mayfair Hotel

“The hotel tagline is ‘a hotel under the influence,’ which we leave up to your interpretation,” Fintzi-Gibson explains. “Art, food, music, beverage, whatever that may be.”

For additional art, the Mayfair brought on Kelly “RISK” Graval as the hotel’s artist-in-residence and curator. Graval’s work can be found alongside artists including Patricia Torkan, Jason REVOK, Shepard Fairey, Joey Colombo, Geoff Melville, and Alex “Defer” Kizu. It’s definitely worth a stroll through the hotel’s common areas to see the art, and it’s worth listening, too. The music has been curated by talent collective Regime 72, and that includes performances and DJs that take place at the hotel, as well as the daily and nightly playlists.

Future plans include the addition of a swimming pool to the third floor of the parking structure.

Hotel Figueroa

The Hotel Figueroa Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Figueroa

Craig Robertson, author of The Passport in America, told National Geographic that it was highly uncommon for women to travel by themselves in the 1920s. And married women could only get passports in their husband’s name, e.g. “Mrs. John Doe.” Traveling solo was even harder for women of color.

Downtown’s Hotel Figueroa was built by the YWCA as a safe place for women traveling alone to lay their heads. Men could only stay at the hotel if they were with their families, and only then on designated floors. According to Marketing Manager Natalie Terceman, the hotel, at a cost of $1.25 million, was then the “largest project funded, owned, operated, and managed by women—and it was for women.”

The hotel’s first manager—and the first female hotel manager in the nation—was certifiable badass Maude N. Bouldin, who is depicted atop a motorcycle in a red-washed painting by artist Alison Van Pelt that hangs near the concierge. Under Bouldin and the other women who ran the property, the hotel bustled with social activity. It offered a writing salon, art exhibitions, musical performances, and lectures on social justice.

The YWCA’s triangle logo is seen in this original fireplace, located in a private event room. Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Figueroa

The YWCA would lose the hotel following the stock market crash of 1929, though they would keep their headquarters on the property through 1951. The hotel remained operational and continued to serve both women travelers and locals looking for art and lectures for the next several decades.

Following a period of decline in the ’60s and ’70s, Swedish entrepreneur Uno Thimansson purchased the hotel in 1976 and gave it a Moroccan makeover. The hotel remained this way for over 30 years until it was purchased by Brad Hall in 2014, with the most recent renovations taking place from 2016 through this past summer. Today, one can only find Moroccan vibes in the lower level space, Tangier, which is available for private events.

Get a Gintonico and lounge in the lobby. Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Figueroa

The renovation comes courtesy of Santa Monica-based design agency Studio Collective, and accounts for the entire property. The new lobby is posh, yet offers a homey feel, with plenty of comfortable chairs and sofas to tuck away in with a cup of the hotel’s fig tea or a cocktail. 

At the lobby bar, guests can choose among a number of bespoke gin and tonics or “gintonicos,” each one infused with fruits, spices, and botanicals. Throughout the hotel, these and other cocktails were programmed by Dushan Zaric, the man behind the cocktails at West Hollywood’s Employees Only. For food, there’s restaurant Breva, helmed by chef Casey Lane, and specializing in Basque and Mediterranean-style fare.

Should one require sun, a stroll down a short hall lined with L.A. street scenes shot by photographer Estevan Oriol will lead to the pool. It’s coffin-shaped, and no one knows why. It’s flanked by two bars: the breezy Veranda, where one can order flatbreads, salads, and mains; and Rick’s, where tropical, poolside-appropriate cocktails are served.

A look at the top floor of Rick’s. Photo: Courtesy of the Hotel Figueroa

Yet another bar, Bar Alta, will open in December. It’s a hidden, 28-seat cocktail lounge, accessible via reservation only.

“The drinks are not served over the bar. The bartender comes around and serves you,” Terceman said of the concept. “It’s a more engaging experience. There will always be five classic cocktails, and then whatever [Zaric] creates from there.”

Inside the Casbah Photo: Courtesy of the Hotel Figueroa

There’s one way to access Bar Alta that’s particularly fun. The Casablanca Suite features a secret private dining room, Casbah, that one finds behind a bookcase by pressing the correct spine. Casbah contains one possible entrance to Bar Alta, for those who need to be as clandestine as possible.

Finally, if you’re looking for a scavenger hunt, try to find all the triangles. The triangle symbol associated with the YWCA can be found in several places, including the exterior of the building, over the fireplace in the Gran Sala event space, and hanging over the lobby entrance. While you’re looking, you’ll get a chance to see the hotel’s art collection, specifically curated with women artists in mind, including Lily Stockman, America Martin, and Alexandra Grant. 

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]

Here’s a Huge List of Election Day Specials in Los Angeles (2018)

October 30, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

It’s crucial that you get out and vote on November 6, if you haven’t already done so via mail. But if exercising your right as a citizen isn’t enough of an incentive for you, several local establishments are offering deals for customers who come in wearing their “I voted” stickers. Additionally, for those of you who need help getting to the polls, L.A. Metro, Lyft, and Uber are all offering free or discounted rides. Check out the following list of Election Day specials—ranging from cheap beer to free fitness classes—below.

L.A. Metro

Metro will be offering free bus and train rides on Election Day between 12:01 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. Metro will also offer free 30-minute Metro bike share rides. Enter promo code 1162018 at the station kiosk, and your first 30 minutes are free. It’s $1.75 for every additional 30 minutes after that.

Uber & Lyft

To encourage voter turnout, both ridesharing apps are offering discounts to passengers. Lyft will offer 50% off rides to the polls, while Uber is offering a $10 discount. Both companies have partnered with various non-profit organizations to offer free rides to those who need him. Find more information on Lyft discounts here, and Uber’s discounts here.

1933 Group

All of 1933 Group’s bars will be offering either a $1 Old Fashioned or a $1 Moscow Mule from 5 to 7 p.m., while supplies last. Just show up with your “I Voted” sticker. 1933 Group bars include:

  • Oldfield’s, 10899 Venice Blvd., Palms – $1 Old Fashioned
  • Bigfoot Lodge West, 10939 Venice Blvd., Palms – $1 Old Fashioned
  • Harlowe, 7321 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood – $1 Old Fashioned
  • Sassafras, 1233 N. Vine St., Hollywood – $1 Moscow Mule
  • Idle Hour, 4824 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood – $1 Moscow Mule
  • Thirsty Crow, 2939 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake – $1 Moscow Mule
  • Bigfoot Lodge, 3172 Los Feliz Blvd., Atwater Village  – $1 Moscow Mule
  • Highland Park Bowl, 5621 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park – $1 Old Fashioned
  • La Cuevita, 5922 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park  – $1 Moscow Mule

Geeky Teas & Games

Geeky Teas is a place for Anglophiles and game enthusiasts, offering a host of teas and over 400 board games. Entrance is typically $5/person, but those who come in on Nov. 6 with an “I Voted” sticker will get free admission. – Where: 2200 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank

The Big House

The Big House is a community center and small business incubator in South L.A., and they’re offering a ‘Taco Tuesday’ special on Election Day. Drop by between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. wearing your “I Voted” sticker and get a free plate for carne aside or chicken tacos. – Where: 180 E. 35th St., South L.A.

The Stalking Horse Brewery & Freehouse

Those who don their “I Voted” sticker will get buy one, get one appetizers at The Stalking Horse. Choose among options like Yorkshire Pudding, French Onion Soup, and Welsh Rarebit. – Where: 10543 Pico Blvd., West L.A.

Mohawk Bend

If you buy one beer, you will get a second beer for just a penny, so long as you’re wearing your “I Voted” sticker. Customers can choose any beer they like, which might be more difficult than it sounds: they’ve got 72 different craft beers on tap. The menu offers a host of pizzas and bar food, with plenty of veggie and vegan options, too. – Where: 2141 W Sunset Blvd., Echo Park

6th & La Brea

6th & La Brea opened in this summer in a former retail space at, well, 6th and La Brea. Like the other ABC spots on this list, an “I Voted” sticker gets you any one of their craft beers for a penny, after you buy your first one at full price. The menu consists of Asian-inspired pub fare. – Where: 600 S. La Brea, Los Angeles

Birds & Bees

Cocktail lounge Birds & Bees has $5 Old Fashioneds and Daquiris for those who wear their “I Voted” stickers. – Where: 207 S. Broadway, DTLA


Broxton, which opened in the Janss Dome building in Westwood Village in October will offer buy one, get one appetizers. Choices might include biscuits, buffalo cauliflower, or red pea hummus.

Where: 1099 Westwood Blvd., Westwood 

Bacaro L.A./Bacari

All four locations will offer a free glass of sangria to voters. It’s house-made with red wine, limes, oranges, orange liqueur, pineapple juice, and spices, infused for two days before serving. – Where: Barcari GDL, 757 Americana Way, Glendale, Bacari PDR, 6805 S. Vista Del Mar Ln, Playa Del Rey, Bacari W 3rd, 8030 3rd St., Beverly Grove, Bacaro L.A., 2308 S. Union Ave, University Park

Bluebird Brasserie Photo courtesy of Bluebird Brasserie

Bluebird Brasserie

Buy one beer, get your next beer for a penny at this Belgian-inspired pub in Sherman Oaks. You can use your savings to get one of their Belgian waffles with ice cream. – Where: 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks


Beelman’s does plant-based bar food, including a soyrizo breakfast burrito and a double-decker burger with Impossible Meat. Voters can buy one beer here and get their second one for a penny on Election Day. – Where: 600 S. Spring St., DTLA

Spring St. Bar

Yes, once again, you can get your second beer for a penny if you’ve got your “I Voted” sticker. This downtown watering hole has 26 to choose from on tap. – Where: 626 S. Spring St., DTLA

Corner Catina

Buy one beer, get the next for a penny at this downtown Cal-Mex spot. It’s a ten-minute walk from Spring St. Bar, if you really feel like maximizing your civic duty. – Where: 630 W. 6th St., DTLA

Brennan’s Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah


Irish pub and turtle racing hotspot Brennan’s will also offer buy one beer, get your second for a penny to voters. If you haven’t been in a while, you can learn more about Brennan’s recent remodel here. – Where: 4089 Lincoln Blvd., Marina Del Rey

Tony’s Darts Away

This Burbank beer bar has one of the best selections around L.A., offering 38 beers on tap. And if you’re a stout and porter person, like me, you’ll be delighted to know you can always find some here—and not just Guinness. Buy one, get one for a penny if you voted. – Where: 1710 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank

Samarasa Center

Samarasa Center is a yoga, meditation, and pilates studio in Echo Park, just a short walk from Mohawk Bend. Come with your “I Voted” sticker for a free class on Election Day. – Where: Samarasa Center, 1030 N. Alvarado St., Echo Park

The Abbey

The Abbey will turn their TVs to the election results on the 6th, so there’s no reason to watch them roll in alone. From 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., they’ll also be offering a $5 Blue Wave shot made with Tito’s, blue caraçao and Sprite. – Where: 692 N Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood

Azulé Taqueria at The Gallery

Anyone who presents their “I Voted” sticker here will receive a free churro. – Where: The Gallery Food Hall, 1315 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica

The Pie Hole

All SoCal Pie Hole locations will be offering a free “pie hole”—a new mini-pie bite item launching next month—to customers who come in wearing their “I Voted” sticker. – Where: 714 Traction Ave., Arts District, 59 E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 6314 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]
Food, Lifestyle, Things To Do, Travel

Unique Things to do in Santa Barbara on a Weekend Getaway from L.A.

October 24, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Santa Barbara

Looking toward the Santa Barbara pier. Photo by Michael Theis via flickr cc

Santa Barbara is often touted as the American Riviera and with its seaside views and many vineyards, the Central Coast destination does bear some similarity to its French counterpart. Yet Santa Barbara, located just 90 miles up the coast from Los Angeles and accessible via train, is certainly an easier trip for Angelenos. From the station, visitors can easily remain car-free as they explore the area’s many restaurants, shops, bars, and, of course, wineries and tasting rooms. There’s more to do here than we could possibly highlight, but the following includes some solid and unique options for a weekend getaway.


Hotel Indigo

Hotel Indigo resides a very short walk from the Amtrak station. Pack light, and you won’t even need to call a car. Room are modern, compact, and efficient. The hotel offers a daily selection of light snacks for peckish guests and shares a space with Mexican restaurant Santo Mezcal for larger meals. The hotel also serves as an MCASB Satellite museum, which accounts for their art curation. You can peruse the pieces scattered throughout the hotel’s communal areas, as well as their Art Library. Bike rentals, accessible rooms, and free wifi are available. – – Ideal for: Adventurous travelers who want a solid place to shower, sleep, and perhaps answer a few emails before exploring their destination.

The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

If an ocean view is key, the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort a very short walk from the water and recently underwent a $16 million transformation from the Fess Parker hotel to the Hilton brand. The four-star property’s amenities include five restaurants, a spa, fitness center, pool, tennis courts, and free transport back to the Amtrak station. – – Ideal for: Those travelers who appreciate reliable amenities, convenience, and beautiful views.

Hotel Californian

The Hotel Californian has its roots in a 1925 hotel of the same name that was devastated by an earthquake just shortly after it was built. The modern Hotel Californian comes via designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. It’s an elegant luxury offering with Moroccan flair, and best of all, it’s located in a completely walkable area. Guest rooms are gorgeous and amenities include a Turkish spa, rooftop pool, all-day cafe Goat Tree, and contemporary restaurant Blackbird. – – Ideal for: Travelers who want a luxury experience in a walkable neighborhood.


MOXI Photo: Facebook

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

MOXI just opened in February of 2017, offering an interactive museum that both adults and kids will enjoy. Exhibits blend science, art, tech, and gaming, and include booths where one can create their own film soundtracks; VR exhibits and programming; instruments powered by wind and sun, and tracks where you can build and test your own mini-race cars. A recent exhibit even allowed us to convert the whorls of our fingerprints into music. For those who’d prefer evening activities sans kids, MOXI offers adults-only Afterparty nights. Check their calendar to find out when the next one is. — MOXI, The World Museum of Exploration + Innovation is located at 125 State Street. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children.

Susan Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Museum & Library

Where else are you going to see 150 display cases full of over 4,000 dolls and teddy bears, not to mention some 10,000 books on the subject? Retired librarian Susan Quinlan founded the museum in 2005, amassing her collection over the course of 30 years. Guests will find dolls and bears of all types, crafted from a variety of materials. Some are fantastical, some are surprisingly lifelike, and some correlate to specific holidays or fictional characters (like this Medusa Mummy doll.) — The Susan Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Museum & Library is located at 122 West Canon Perdido Street. Open Friday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all major holidays. Because hours may vary, it is advised to call ahead at 805-730-1707.

Salt Cave Santa Barbara

Relax in a dimly lit cave, entirely surrounded by pink Himalayan salt crystals, which, according to Salt‘s owners, date back 200 million years. Some love the salt for its purported healing properties; others may find the space perfect for meditation or a nap. You can lie on the floor among the crystals, or you can lounge in a zero-gravity chair while ambient music plays. There’s something quite relaxing about about the gentle crunch of the salt under your body as you make yourself comfortable. Standard sessions run about 45 minutes, but you can also sign up for cave yoga classes, sound baths, massages, salt scrubs, or workshops. A variety of bath and body products, including salt scrubs and soaks, are available in the gift shop. – – Salt is located at 740 State Street. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sessions start at $25.

Santa Barbara Courthouse Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

A courthouse may not seem like a great vacation stop, but you’d be remiss to ignore this historic building. Built in 1929 in the Moorish-Spanish style, the palatial and operational courthouse is offers murals, gorgeous design, and a clock tower from which one can check out some stellar panoramic views from the Pacific Ocean to the Saint Ynez Mountains. Outside, you’ll find the Spirit of the Ocean fountain, a replica of an old sandstone fountain that had begun to fall apart. The spot is popular with photographers for obvious reasons, but history buffs will also enjoy the guided tours. – – The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is located at 1100 Anacapa Street. Daily tours are available at 2 p.m. and on weekends at 10:30 a.m.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art was founded in the 1940s and contains around 27,000 pieces of art, some dating back 5,000 years, as well as a store and cafe, an auditorium, and a library. Among their collection are several Monet paintings (apparently, no other museum in the world has more); David Alfaro Siqueiros’ mural “Portrait of Mexico Today, 1932”; and the 1940 photo series “London’s Honourable Scars: Photographs of the Blitz” from photographer Cecil Beaton. This collection is in addition to the museum’s various rotating exhibits. – – Santa Barbara Museum of Art is located at 1130 State Street. General admission for adults is $5.

Lotusland Photo: Facebook


Opera singer Madame Gonna Walska began building a garden on her property in the early 1940s and would continue to exercise her green thumb until her death in 1984. Today, the late singer’s 37-acre estate is a nonprofit botanical garden that the public may tour. There are numerous sections, including one full of plants meant to attract butterflies, a cactus garden, and a topiary. – – Lotusland is located at near Cold Springs Road and Sycamore Canyon Road; exact directions are mailed with tour confirmation. Two-hour guided tours are available February 16 through November 15, Weds. through Sat., 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. They are $48 for adults; $24 for ages 3 to 17. Those who become members may enjoy self-guided tours.

Cat Therapy Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Cat Therapy

Santa Barbara’s cat cafe, Cat Therapy, offers a variety way to socialize with adoptable furry friends. Guests will generally get to meet around a dozen cats on any given visit. You can stop by during lounge hours, or sign up for an all levels yoga class, during which kitties freely roam. If you need to pause your downward dog to pet one that’s strolled onto your mat, that’s more than allowed. Did I perhaps use petting a fluffy black cat as an excuse to quit planking? Possibly. – – Cat Therapy is located at 1213 State Street, Suite L. Hour-long reservations are $10 on weekdays; $12 on weekends; $7 on Thursdays between 3-6 p.m.; or free on your birthday. Cat Yoga is $25 for an hour-long class, plus an additional half hour for socializing with cats. Mats provided.


Santa Barbara Public Market

For groups who just can’t agree on what to eat, the Santa Barbara Public Market is a food hall with a wide array of options including noodle bar Empty Bowl, Ca’ Dario for pizzas and pastas, and Big Eye Raw Bar. You can also sample oils and vinegars at il Fustino, or get a scoop of Rori’s Artisanal Ice Cream’s fantastic Brown Sugar Banana. – – Santa Barbara Public Market is located at 38 West Victoria Street.

Norton’s Deli

For a quick, but flavorful bite, stop by Norton’s Deli. This New York-style eatery serves Hebrew National hot dogs smothered in toppings and hearty subs, Philly cheesesteaks, and sandwiches. Key is Mom’s PLT, in which crispy pastrami subs for bacon alongside lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo on toasted sourdough. Unsurprisingly, Guy Fieri was a fan when he stopped by for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. – – Norton’s Deli is located at 18 W Figueroa Street.

White anchovies with orange zest at The Black Sheep Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Black Sheep

The Black Sheep is a casual gastropub with cool, low-brow art; a creative cocktail menu; and global fare suitable for sharing. Cocktails are not made with hard liquor, but instead utilize sake, wine, vermouth and other spirits for light twists on classics like the Yuzu margarita or a Manhattan made with a bourbon-infused sake. Menu standouts include the oxtail poutine, purple potato tacos, nachos made with roasted cauliflower and fried kale, and the very tender braised beef cheeks. For $60/person, enjoy a family-style tasting menu. – – The Black Sheep is located at 126 E 6th Street. 


Roy has been around for over 20 years, serving classic American fare at reasonable prices. This laid-back lounge isn’t specifically a late-night spot, but it is a good one if you’re in the mood for a cheese plate and a gimlet or glass of wine after dark. It’s ideal for conversation among friends and strangers, and the art selection on the walls rotates regularly. – – Roy is located at 7 W Carrillo Street. 

The Buccaneer Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Test Pilot

For tiki drinks, it’s definitely Test Pilot, where The Buccaneer—bourbon, coconut, rooibos, passion fruit, citrus, cacao—comes served in a hollowed out coconut with a little pirate flag. Other cocktails range from the sweet tropical fare one might expect to more balanced or boozy options not often found at tiki joints. Adult slushies are also an option; enjoy a seasonal slush for just $7, Monday through Friday before 7 p.m. – – Test Pilot is located at 211 Helena Avenue

The Valley Project Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Valley Project

There is no shortage of wineries and tasting rooms in Santa Barbara. One option is The Valley Project whose tasting room is focused on displaying the diversity of Santa Barbara County’s American Vitacultural Areas (AVA). An AVA is a region where wine grapes are grown, each one defined by its own geography, each resulting wine with its own terroir. Guests will find a large chalk mural of the region via L.A. artist Elkpen as they enter, then can learn about the region via soil samples and wine tastings. – – The Valley Project is located at 116 E Yanonali Street. 

Chuck’s Waterfront Grill

Chuck’s is the kind of long-standing, casual restaurant you’d expect in a coastal town. Enjoy steaks, seafood, cocktails and wine right on the harbor, perhaps while seated outside at a table with a fire pit smack in the middle for when chillier temperatures roll in after sunset. – – Chuck’s is located at 113 Harbor Way. 

Ricotta toast at Les Merchands Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Helena Avenue Bakery

This Funk Zone cafe is ideal for grabbing a coffee and a sweet or savory pastry before going about your day. But if it’s a more leisurely morning, you can also take a seat at one of the communal tables with a comforting buttermilk biscuit sandwich or breakfast bowl. Come lunch, they offer sandwiches, salads, and soups, too. The bakery belongs to the Acme Hospitality family, which has several restaurants in the area. Helena thus shares an address with siblings The Lark, one of Santa Barbara’s favorite restaurants for seasonal, contemporary cuisine and drinks, and wine bar Les Marchands, where Helena’s delicious breads are fully utilized come weekend brunch. Both the avocado toast and house-made ricotta and strawberry jam on brioche are excellent. – – Helena Avenue Bakery is located at 131 Anacapa Street. 

Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is home to colorful street art Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah


La Super-Rica Taqueria

The draw of this family-run Mexican restaurant is two-fold: People love their house-made corn tortillas, and among those people was chef Julia Child, who frequently extolled the glories of this particular eatery. This causes visitors to flock accordingly, and you can count yourself among them if you want to see if it lives up to the hype. Or, if looking to stray from this hotspot, stop by the nearby Taqueria El Bajio, which opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast. – – La Super-Rica Taqueira is located at 622 N Milpas Street.

Looking for more getaway ideas from Los Angeles? Check out our travel section.

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]

Check Out Cutting-Edge Virtual Art in Pasadena This October

October 11, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Can Büyükberber’s Faces[On]Display uses projection mapping to detect the viewer’s face Photo: Courtesy of Spatial Reality

As virtual reality continues to blossom, artists are finding a new platform for expression. At Spatial Reality: Artists Explore the Future of XR, a new exhibit coming to sp[a]ce gallery at Ayzenberg in Pasadena, these artistic pioneers are on display for our futuristic viewing pleasures.

If we’re embarking on this exploration of XR together, it’s important to know what XR is. Exhibit curator and VR Scout Editor-at-Large Jesse Damiani explains via a release: XR is “a spectrum of ‘extended’ reality that includes virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) [that] takes the virtual world to new dimensions.”

Okay, but what are those?

An example of AR is Pokemon Go. Assuming you’re not in battery-saver mode, you hold up your phone and see the real world through your camera. Then, the game plops a cute creature on the screen, and you use your phone to hopefully capture it in a Pokeball. AR, essentially, overlays virtual objects—like a Charmander—atop the real world. To access the AR exhibits in Spatial Reality, you can download an AR app on your phone, then hover your phone over the QR codes placed around the exhibit. Watch as 2-D images come to life before your eyes. (You can also do this at Trader Joe’s on any 19 Crimes wine bottle using the app Living Wine and impress all your friends.)

Sutu’s Machines of Progress is an Augmented Reality piece that changes when viewed through your phone. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Molmol Kuo’s Aliens of Extraordinary Ability is a bit different: guests can watch videos in which participants suddenly morph into alien beings, an effect captured on camera in real time.

Can Büyükberber’s Faces[On]Display uses projection mapping to detect the viewer’s face, which will appear on screen, surrounded by an abstract art image. That face morphs, becoming more and less realistic, as the viewer continues to observe. The artist also has 3D printed sculptures and a digital print in the exhibit.

Molmol Kuo’s Aliens of Extraordinary Ability Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

In VR, you’re completely immersed in a virtual world. Though the real world continues to exist around you, everything you see—and hear, assuming you’ve got headphones on—is virtual.

For instance, on one wall of the gallery hangs three canvas prints by Trudy Elmore, each depicting a snake writhing through the mouth and eye sockets of a human skull. Both are wrapped in a delicate print, pale pink roses on a mint green background. Sit down at the nearest VR headset, and you can watch these images morph and shift in VR.

Other VR offerings serve as meditative worlds, into which one can escape. Kevin Mack—who won a Best Visual Effects Oscar in 1999 for his work on What Dreams May Come—has created Blortasia, an “abstract art world” that guests can fly through using a simple controller. As the viewer floats through colorful twists and turns, they may encounter equally colorful amorphous blobs known as ‘Blorts.’

Pussykrew’s Amalgam is another psychedelic world, yet this one serves as a “hybrid universe where newly evolved post-gender organisms became the augmented hybrids of a body and technology.” Cruise through the world and interact with the virtual sculptures placed throughout.

Even more virtual pieces are on display in The Museum of Other Realities (MOR), which Damiani describes as akin to “a MOCA or a Broad, but for virtual art.” Guests use a controller to transport themselves around a VR museum, full of VR sculptures from a variety of artists. You might even find some of the exhibit’s other artists within MOR.

Elsewhere, Theo Triantafyllidis’ Staphyloculus is a strange piece that “attempts to recreate the first known outbreak of Polywobbly Ferventitis,” a fictitious computer virus that spreads through VR headsets. Footage taken in Joshua Tree depicts an artist setting up a VR rig while little pink entities multiply and overtake him. At times, the viewer stands in the role of that artist. A computer monitor inside the virtual landscape shows the viewer as a disembodied headset and controllers, increasingly swarmed by the pink blobs as time progresses. Things only get more surreal from there.

Mixed Reality falls somewhere in the middle between AR and VR. In MR, real and virtual objects coincide at once, often anchored to one another. This can mean a variety of different things. For instance, in The VOID, currently available at the Glendale Galleria, users will don a VR headset and headphones to access a virtual world. As they move through the experience, they will interact with objects that exist in both worlds. So when you’re a Stormtrooper blasting through an Imperial base, you hold a plastic gun that appears as an operational blaster in VR. When Virtual You you gets close to the planet Mustafar on your transport, you’ll feel the heat and smell the sulfur, both piped into the real world, but complimenting the virtual one. The VOID could be considered mixed reality, though they call their experiences “hyper reality.” (Read more about how you can experience The VOID in Glendale here.)

At Spatial Reality, you can try a very different MR experience from reality called Moonbloom. The real-world space features wallpaper that looks like the night sky, a model of an igloo, a stuffed fox, and the outline of a crescent moon divided into three pieces. You’ll then don a headset known as Magic Leap, and what you see in the goggles will be laid overtop.

A guest plays Moonbloom, a mixed-reality game, using the Magic Leap headset. Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

As the Moonbloom story goes, you’re a celestial being tasked with finding all the pieces of a fallen moon. Your partner in this endeavor is a fox. The virtual fox navigates the virtual world, which you can manipulate with your real hands—no controllers required. When the fox needs a tree trunk moved out of her way or a bridge built between two floating islands, you can make that happen for her. Once the two of you have located the moon piece, return it by matching it to the moon cut-out in the real world. Considering Magic Leap headsets are currently selling for over $2,000 a piece, this gallery is perhaps your best chance to check it out.

All told, Spatial Reality will feature work from over 25 artists in all three mediums. Damiani recommends treating the pieces in this exhibit not as games or movies, but the way you would any other work in an art museum.

“This isn’t something where you’re going to be wrong,” Damiani said. “Just feel it, be inside of it, turn off the part of your brain that’s saying ‘what’s the point?’, and just experience it.”

Spatial Reality kicks off on Friday, October 12 from 7 to 10 p.m. then continues on Saturdays and Sundays from October 13 to 28. Weekend time slots are available from noon to 6 p.m at sp[a]ce gallery at Ayzenberg, 39 E. Walnut Street, Pasadena. General admission tickets are free, while VIP tickets are $45. The latter provide guaranteed access for a 90-minute time slot reserved in advance. They also guarantee front-of-line access to individual experiences. The exhibit has been sponsored by RYOT with support from Meow Wolf, VR Scout, Raptor House Effects, and Magic Gallery. Find more info and tickets here.

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]
Food, Happenings

This Gorgeous New Cocktail Bar Just Opened in a Historic DTLA Hotel

October 2, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

The Wolves Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

Tucked within an annex of the Alexandria Hotel, The Wolves may be Los Angeles’ most interesting cocktail bar. Not only is it a meticulously designed and gorgeous space, but it also offers one of the most distinctive bar menus in town. There’s no paying $14 for a standard mule here. The Wolves draws from nature itself for an ever-changing menu with a whole host of ingredients made in-house.

When it opened in 1906 the Alexandria Hotel was the city’s most luxurious lodging option. As with many of DTLA’s early 1900s hotels, The Alexandria ultimately fell into disrepair following the Depression, but not before drawing guests like Theodore Roosevelt, Mary Pickford, and King Edward VIII in the decades that preceded. In 1911, the hotel received an add-on that included the Palm Court banquet hall. It’s within this addition that The Wolves—a stunning anachronism, designed with the Alexandria’s turn-of-the-century grandeur in mind—can be found.

Most striking is a domed stained glass ceiling sourced from an Illinois train station that’s been split down the middle and fit perfectly over the bar and dining room. The booths are antique mahogany, while the bar counter is antique white marble. A second floor mezzanine and balcony, accessible via a spiral staircase, is lined with salvaged gating.

Various vintage oddities are everywhere you look, including a human skull in a curio cabinet near the restrooms and old Los Angeles street lamps positioned here and there. Fireplace andirons, carved like owls with glowing eyes, flank the beer taps, the handles of which are old, wooden billy clubs. Green tiles from the bathroom ceilings have been relocated to line the dining room walls below original 1911 brown wallpaper.

Look up and you’ll find three faces that line the ceiling in a repeating pattern. These are an original design feature. Rumor has it these faces are from Dante’s Inferno, but thus far, no one has been able to identify them with certainty. Look down, and you’ll see authentic brown and tan tiles from Pasadena tile-maker Ernest A. Batchelder. Impressively, they were already there when the The Wolves team—including owners Al Almeida (The Falls) and Daniel Salin, and managing partner Isaac Mejia—moved in. This is the same artist responsible for the tiles that line the nearby, though long-closed, Dutch Chocolate Shop.

Bar Director Kevin Lee, who previously opened La Mirada’s now-shuttered Puzzle Bar, fell in love with The Wolves the first time he saw it. He makes the bar’s many liqueurs, amari, bitters, and vermouths in-house, their flavors highly dependent on seasonality.

“When I look at restaurants, I see them work so closely with farmers and nature,” he said, “and my whole program is based around that. [Vermouths] were very seasonal at one point, but now in the [bar] industry, we idolize a lot of brands that aren’t seasonal, like Campari and Angostura. They are very consistent, and that’s why a lot of bartenders like them. But my goal is that I want to work in harmony with nature and what that entails is having my fig vermouth and my fermented apples taste different every week instead of trying to make them taste the same. It’s almost like improvising with those ingredients to make them taste good.”

The Wolves Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

Lee got into making his own ingredients when trying to make the best possible Old Fashioned. He experimented with a variety of sugars, ultimately settling on Muscovado, an earthy, unrefined sugar. Next, he experimented with his own aromatic bitters. He chose Booker as his base, combining it with some 40 ingredients and aging it for two months.

“After that, I pretty much started creating all my own bitters and then from that all my own liqueurs,” he said. “It’s really easy to jump from bitters to the rest.”

Many of Lee’s concoctions are suitable for drinking alone. For instance, he makes an easy sipping biscotti liqueur inspired by a trip to a small restaurant in the southern Italian countryside where he met a woman who made her own biscotti, which could be dipped into her house-made amaro. Lee said he decided to make the biscotti amaro in honor of that memory. You don’t expect that it’ll taste like drinking a boozy cookie, but it does.

Lee also notes that, despite his travels in Italy, it’s been hard for him to find modern bars where the amaro and vermouth is house-made. He compares it to the things his Korean grandmother would make when he was a child.

“When I was a kid, my grandmother would make fermented bean paste,” he said. “It was very different from what we find in the store now; it’s almost like two different products. When I talk to my peers in Italy, they tell me their grandmas make amazing amaro. And just like I don’t really know how to make the fermented bean paste my grandma made when I was a child, they don’t know how to make homemade amaro. They don’t know how to make homemade vermouth. Their grandma does, though. It’s a dying art.”

Guests to The Wolves will be offered a vermouth that serves as an aperitif at the onset of their visit. The vermouth in question depends on what’s in season and what’s in stock, and may change as frequently as every three days.

The Wolves Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

Of course, most of these concoctions will find their way into The Wolves’ cocktails. The menu is divided into several sections, beginning with “Delicate & Subtle,” before progressing into “Sophisticated & Complex” and “Strong & Robust.” There’s also a selection of Old Fashioneds and vermouth-based cocktails. They’re all named for their ingredients, whether that’s “Spicy Pineapple and Smoke” or “Mostly Carrot.”

The “Mostly Carrot” derives its name from the house-made carrot liqueur that’s mixed with gin, lavender rose vermouth, juniper cordial, lemon, soda water, yuzu bitters, and pine fragrance. It’s an earthy, lightly sweet cocktail. The “Fall Apples with Amaro” is a fresh, brandy-based autumnal cocktail with a hint of salt and finished with a spritz of nutmeg spray. The “Banana Cream with Some Herbs” is in a flavor realm of its own, made with bourbon, fermented bananas, lavender rose vermouth, dill and caraway liqueur, grapefruit, and an orange crème fraîche that makes the whole thing taste like a creamy dessert in a glass. Fans of boozier drinks may enjoy the “Bourbon Cranberry with Smoke,” where the cocktail is infused with port barrel smoke in a large decanter prior to being poured over ice.

The “Fig, Goji, and Sake” is, well, exactly that. A traditional sake cup is set in a sake box—called a masu—and overflowed, until the rest of the liquid fills the box. As Sake Service Institute Executive Director Haruyuki Hioki told Japanese Times, “Filling a glass until it overflows is just a form of service. It’s a gesture that makes the customer feel good because they think they’ve been given something extra.”

Lee chose to serve the cocktail this way based on service he received in Japan, where he noted that the sake in the glass was cooler and crisper than the warmer, woodier sake in the box. Guests may try to note the subtle differences in this particular cocktail similarly, sipping alternately from the cup and the wooden vessel.

This tile was taken from the bathroom ceilings and placed over the antique booths. Photo: Courtesy of The Wolves

But really, it’s best not to get too attached to any particular cocktail. Come winter, Lee expects to have replaced half the current menu, then the other half in the following months. The menu is meant to be a “living, breathing” experience that changes with the seasons. This is one reason for giving the cocktails such simplistic names, but Lee was also inspired by a trip to LACMA, during which Lee noted that Picasso also employed such titles. LACMA’s collection includes “Woman with Hat in an Armchair” and “Head of Bearded Man with Cigarette.”

“The name was just what was in the painting, but it was so much more,” he said. “That’s what I want people to feel here. It may be a ‘Korean Pear with Apricot’ cocktail, but it’s more than that.”

Opening December 1 will be The Wolves’ second floor bar, Le Nèant. The intimate lounge area features an ornate backbar Almeida explains came from a bar his father once owned,  while the opposite wall features a large of a crowd at a Teddy Roosevelt speech in Brooklyn, inspired by the former president’s time at the Alexandria.

Le Nèant’s stage will host vaudeville performances, while the cocktail experience will be omakase-inspired. Guests will be offered a list of five to 10 ingredients sourced from the farmers’ market to choose from, and that list will change every week or two.

“So, if someone asks for a bourbon cocktail and [they choose] carrots, then that could be a bourbon cocktail with carrot liqueur or carrot amaro,” Lee said. “And if we have mushrooms on the list, that could be an Old Fashioned with mushroom bitters. We want it to always be ever-changing so that the cocktail you get right then, you will probably never have again because…the ingredients are different every single time. Even the spirits will change.”

For those who need some food with their cocktails, Chef Matt Poley (Heirloom LA) offers a menu of shareable dishes, including charcuterie, a tomato and burrata flatbread, a veggie burger, and cashew cheesecake. A small selection of beer and wine is also available.

The Wolves is located at 519 S. Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles, (213) 264-7952. Open Tues.-Sun., 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]
Happenings, Things To Do

31 Spooky / Creepy / Fun Things to Do for Halloween in L.A. (2018)

September 25, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

If you love haunted houses and horror, Los Angeles has you covered this Halloween season, offering dozens of walk-through mazes, interactive horror experiences, VR, and family-friendly thrills. Below are 31 of our favorite picks, if you’re feeling particularly brave.


Creep LA Photo: JFI Productions

Creep LA

Creep LA returns for a fourth season, this time putting 25 guests to bed. Only instead of a peaceful respite, they’ll have to navigate through a 60,000 square foot space that’s been transformed into an unfurling nightmare. Attendees may encounter darkness, crawling, and performers (or monsters?) that can touch them. Ticket holders may also enjoy an exclusive menu at nearby Rappahannock Oyster Bar, which will be staying open until 11 p.m. on show nights.

Where: ROW DTLA, 777 Alameda Street, downtown L.A.
Cost: $89

Delusion: The Blue Blade

Delusion is back with their sixth show, The Blue Blade. In this sci-fi tale, you and seven others must help The Safeguard Society recover a stolen artifact that allows the user to time travel before havoc is fully wreaked.

Delusion shows are typically highly interactive, so be prepared to stay sharp as you move through multiple time periods—which we’re told may involve sliding—in search of the thief.

Guests are advised to show up early to enjoy the bar and lounge area before the show. Tickets typically sell out quickly, but subscribe to Delusion’s mailing list for announcements about new batches of tickets or extensions.

Where: Secret location in Mid-Wilshire
When: Select dates Sept. 21-Dec. 16
Cost: $95

Theatre Macabre

The devious minds behind 2015’s The Tension Experience are back with a new interactive show that takes inspiration from the grisly theater of Paris’ Grand Guignol. Guests will be able to choose their own path throughout the multi-floor venue, whether that’s taking in a strange theater performance or embarking on a mission with various characters. The show runs over two hours and admission include adult beverages.

Where: Secret location in Los Angeles
When: Select dates Oct. 4-Nov. 4
Cost: $150

Disco Dining Club’s The Flowering of the Strange Orchids

‘Botanical horror’ and man-eating plants are at the center of this elevated Halloween dinner party. The lofty price tag of $300 will earn you a 5-course meal from Chef  Laurent Quenioux, cocktail pairings and wine, coffee and tea service, desserts, and optional edible bug pairings via Bugible. Lavish set design from partners including The Grim Wreather (they make creepy wreaths) will be complimented by theatrical activations, puppets, live music, and dance performances throughout and after dinner.

Where: Private residence in Pico-Union
When: Oct. 26, 27, 28
Cost: $30

The Unknown

We only know two things about this haunt: they have a creepy Instagram account, and it comes via Annie Lesser, Teresa Loera, and Heidi Callaway. Previous work from Lesser would indicate an immersive production worth seeing, but this is literally all the information we’ve got. Seek them out if you dare.

Where: Somewhere in Silver Lake
When: October
Cost: TBA

The 17th Door: Crybaby
Photo: The 17th Door

The 17th Door: Crybaby

The 17th Door is returning for a fourth installment, continuing the story of Paula, a young woman who has really been through the ringer. Guests to the haunt’s inaugural season were introduced to a bullied college student who, through a series of terrible events, is now in prison for the murder of her son. This haunt typically prides itself on gore and shock with a fair bit of interactivity between guests and monsters, and we’re sure this year will be no different. Explore 20 unique rooms, or, if you get too scared, call ‘Mercy!’ to be escorted to safety. New this year is an optional 15-minute VR experience that guests may choose to endure prior to entering the haunt.

Where: 1851 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton
When: Select dates Sept. 21-Oct. 31
Cost: $23-28 + $13 for VR add-on

Drunken Devil: Bacchanalia

Drunken Devil throws multiple horror-themed parties throughout the year, but for Halloween, they’re taking us to ancient Rome. Bacchanalia is inspired by the scandalous legacy of Caligula, with members of the depraved emperor’s court in attendance and interacting with guests. Tickets to Bacchanalia are all-inclusive, providing access to an open bar and entertainment including DJs, burlesque, and magicians. Lavish attire encouraged, but event organizers would prefer you not wear a toga. Read more about Drunken Devil and its founder, Matt Dorado, here.

Where: Secret location in Los Angeles
When: October 13
Cost: $85


Eric Keitel, Ian Heath and John T. Cogan in The Damned Thing, Wicked Lit 2017. Photo: Daniel Kitayama.

Wicked Lit

Unbound Productions’ site-specific Wicked Lit returns to the Mountain View Mausoleum, offering the perfect setting for all new tales of horror. This year, guests will enjoy two theatrical adaptations: Charles Dickens’ The Chimes: A Goblin Story, and Ernest Rhys’ Teig O’Kane and the Corpse. The Chimes follows an elderly man’s encounter with goblins, while Teig is the story of an immature Irishman who must learn to accept responsibility when a corpse attaches itself to his back. Guests will walk the through the mausoleum as they follow both chilling tales. The total run time for both shows is approximately 75 minutes.

Where: 2300 Marengo Ave., Altadena
When: Select dates Oct. 4-Nov. 10
Cost: $30-40

Dr. Zomba’s Ghost Show of Terror

Taking inspiration from the “ghost shows” of the 1950s, Dr. Zomba is a campy theater piece in which guests are attendants at a seance. Doctor Zomba and his assistants, Sirina and Ear-Gore, will perform a variety of magic tricks before attempting to summon the dead. This was a popular Fringe piece for fans of B-movie horror humor, making it a perfect remount for Halloween.

Where: The Complex Hollywood, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
When: Oct. 20, 26, 27 & Nov. 3
Cost: $20

Zombie Joe’s Urban Death Photo: Jana Wimer

Urban Death: Tour of Terror

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood presents their annual Halloween iteration of Urban Death. Guests will wind through a short maze set up in the theater’s lobby area before entering a darkened theater where series of disturbing vignettes will be presented one after another. Guests will have to wind through the maze again to get back out. Note: Urban Death can be funny, creepy, and very gross, so you should be prepared for vulgar humor and total nudity (theirs, not yours). Read more about the history of Zombie Joe’s and Urban Death here.

Where: 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
When: Select dates Oct.5-31, plus Nov. 3
Cost: $15-20

Force of Nature Productions

Burbank theater company Force of Nature presents a tribute to one of the greatest horror authors of all time. Edgar Allen Poe stars Duffy Hudson as the eponymous writer, who will “recollect some of the chilling truths and secrets behind the work he left behind.”

Where: 1001 W Olive Ave., Burbank
When: Oct. 19, 20, & 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $20

The Witching Hour

Black Rabbit Rose, Hollywood’s magic-themed cocktail bar, will run a new show titled “The Witching Hour” in their theater this fall.

This particular venue—which also houses fellow Houston Brothers’ bars Dirty Laundry and Madame Siam—was once an apartment building founded in 1917 to cater specifically to actors. The building was home to Clara Bow and Mae Busch, and Rudolph Valentino allegedly ran a speakeasy out of the basement.

“The Witching Hour” draws on these legends and other rumors of occult practices and secret societies in the form of a séance. Performers include Liberty Larsen, Asia Ray, and Fitzgerald.

Where: 1719 N. Hudson Ave., Los Angeles
When: Oct. 11-Nov. 4
Cost: $40


Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights

This year’s attraction is going into the Upside Down with an all-new Stranger Things haunt for anyone who’s wondered what it’s like to be relentlessly pursued by a Demogorgon. Other new mazes include Trick ‘r Treat (inspired by the Michael Dougherty film); The First Purge; Poltergeist; Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers; the Horrors of Blumhouse, which will recreate moments from Truth or Dare and Unfriended, andUniversal Monsters”—a tribute to the classic villains of horror cinema with a score courtesy of Slash. Guests may also stop by the park’s permanent Walking Dead attraction and take the Terror Tram on a tour of the studio’s clown-filled backlot. For a break from all the screaming, check out hip-hop dance troupe Jabbawockeez’s stage show. Of course, getting to and from the theater may require you to walk through the park’s multiple scare zones.

Where: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
When: Select dates Sept. 14-Nov. 3
Cost: $67 and up

Six Flags Fright Fest

Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia has transformed into Fright Fest, offering six mazes, multiple scare zones, and the chance to ride some of your favorite coasters—including Twisted Colossus and Full Throttle—in the dark. Get trapped in the world’s worst open house in “Condemned,” grossed out in “Sewer of Souls,” and attend Hell Fest in a maze inspired by the upcoming horror flick. Or, walk through the DC area of the park to encounter roaming clowns—no doubt escaped from Arkham—in scare zone “City Under Siege.” Performances include the High Sierra Hypnotist and Voodoo Nights, featuring DJs, dancers, and more.

Where: 26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia
When: Select dates Sept. 15-Oct. 28
Cost: $53.99 and up

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Photo: Queen Mary

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor

Queen Mary flirts with its ghost stories and alleged hauntings all year long, but they really go all out for Halloween. Dark Harbor features six mazes, nightly entertainment consisting of circus performers and DJs, two secret themed bars, and even a ‘haunted hookah lounge.’ All mazes are returning classics with new paths and secrets, and include “Feast,” “B340,” “Deadrise,” and “Circus.”

Where: 1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach
When: Select dates Sept. 27-Nov. 2
Cost: $20 and up

Knott’s Scary Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm has become the sinister Scary Farm every Halloween since 1973. Guests to this year’s event will get the chance to explore nine mazes including two brand new offerings: “Dark Entities,” which takes place aboard a forsaken space station, and “The Depths,” which takes guests deep into the caves of a seaside town. That sounds nice, but we’re pretty sure there are going to be tentacled sea monsters. Returning mazes include “Pumpkin Eater,” “The Red Barn,” “Trick or Treat,” “Paranormal Inc.,” “Dark Ride,” and zombie laser tag maze “Special Ops Infected.” Other Scary Farm attractions include a spookier version of the Timber Mountain Log Ride, a zombie VR experience, and live magic and comedy performances.

Where: 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park
When: Select dates Sept. 20-Oct. 31
Cost: $42 and up



The VOID’s unique brand of “hyper-reality” gets two spooky experiences for Halloween. You can choose to sign on as a rookie Ghostbuster and, armed with a proton pack, explore a haunted apartment building in Ghostbusters: Dimension. Or, you can explore the site of a mysterious disappearance during the Chicago World’s Fair in Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment. Solve puzzles faster than Nicodemus can stalk you and you may escape with your life.

These VR experiences are tangible, meaning you will actually be able to feel and smell the virtual world you see in your headset. Read more about The VOID’s Star Wars experience here, or about Ghostbusters and Nicodemus here. The full experience lasts about a half hour, including a short video, gearing up, and the VR portion.

Where: Glendale Galleria, 100 W Broadway, Glendale
When: See website for details
Cost: $29.95

Wax House: The Legend of Jack the Ripper

In this VR escape room experience, teams of up to four attempt to finally solve the identity of Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial killer who evaded Scotland Yard over a century ago. Players will first walk through a spooky hallway that explains the case before suiting up and entering a VR labyrinth. Each player will carry a controller that allows them to pick up virtual objects and a prop that will guide their path. Find secrets and solve puzzles, lest you become the Ripper’s victims yourselves.

The experience takes place in a  3,000 square foot room in which players can roam untethered. Though not as tactile as The VOID, there is some haptic feedback built into the floor, which makes for some pretty cool effects. The entire experience lasts over a half hour and is located in the Mountasia Family Fun Center, where guests may also enjoy a variety of arcade games and other activities.

Where: Mountasia Family Fun Center, 21516 Golden Triangle Rd., Santa Clarita
When: Select dates through Oct. 31
Cost: $29.95


The Fleshyard Photo: HorrorWorld


HorrorWorld is a collection of three separate haunts in one location presented by horror FX company Bone Yard Effects. Mazes include Into the Black, The Psycho Sanitarium, and The Fleshyard.

In Into the Black, participants will enter one at a time to investigate the mysterious Black House. Legend has it that this home was built over a century ago by an occult-loving family. Those who can find the forsaken mansion will find it’s delightfully full of demons. Psycho Sanitarium is set within a “dark and destitute” sanitarium, while The Fleshyard tells the tale of a murdered family seeking vengeance at the site of their once prosperous farm.

Guests may also peruse a variety of morbid vendors in between haunts.

Where: 1600 S. Azusa Ave., Rowland Heights
When: Select dates Sept. 28-Oct. 31
Cost: $15-20 per haunt or $45 for all three

Los Angeles Haunted Hayride

Haunted Hayride hits 10 years this Halloween! This year, they’ll be offering a clown-filled hayride, the skeletal Scary-Go-Round, dark maze House of Shadows, and an interactive Trick-or-Treat experience. Roam the fairgrounds in between for food, vendors, theater, and roaming monsters.

Where: 4730 Crystal Springs Ave., Los Angeles
When: Select dates Sept. 29-Oct. 31
Cost: $30.99 and up

Warner Bros’ Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights

Warner Bros. Studio Tour gets creepy with Horror Made Here: A Festival of Frights. Guests to the backlot tour will have the opportunity to brave a maze inspired by The Conjuring franchise; tours through Freddy vs. Jason‘s Camp Crystal Lake and Batman‘s Arkham Asylum; the Lost Boys arcade, horror makeup demos; ephemera from Tim Burton films, and a special 4D screening of select scenes from The Exorcist (1973). There’s also one amusement park ride, Devil’s Drop Tower, and carnival games. Those who feel parched may visit Fangtasia which is, yes, the vampire bar from True Blood. And for those who missed the IT haunted house that popped up in Hollywood last August, the tour will have that, too.

Where: 6510 Forrest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles
When: Select dates Oct. 5-27
Cost: $59 and up

Reign of Terror Photo: Reign of Terror

Reign of Terror

Technically, Reign of Terror is just one continuous haunt, but it’s also one of the largest haunted houses in Southern California, containing a total of eight unique themes spread among 105 separate rooms. New this year is a “White-Out Experience” and a Lights Out event on Nov. 3 where participants must navigate the haunt with just one glow stick per person. There are also two Lights On tours on October 20 and 27, which allow attendees to walk through a well-lit, monster-free haunt for $5.

Where: 275 N. Moorpark Rd., Thousand Oaks (inside Janss Marketplace)
When: Selet dates Sept. 29-Oct.31, plus Nov. 3
Cost: $15-35

Sinister Pointe’s Scary Place

Sinister Pointe is offering a host of Halloween attractions in one location. There are three haunts: “Phobias,” an interactive haunt exploring common fears; “Evil on 2,” which takes place on the possessed second floor of a quaint hotel; and the train-themed “Boogeyman Express.” In between haunts, check out live music, magicians, sideshow acts, vendors, and food and beverage options. Of course, getting to and from all these elements will require passing through Sinister Pointe’s scare zones.

Where: 24100 Laguna Hills Mall, Laguna Hills
When: Sept. 28-Oct. 31
Cost: $62 and up


Donnie Darko Experience

Opechee Haunt is the love and labor of Sam Kellman, a teenage haunt enthusiast. This year’s attraction is themed after the 2001 cult hit, Donnie Darko. Guests enter alone (no exceptions), encountering scenes and characters from the film. This is a free home haunt, so guests are advised to  show up early to secure a spot in line.

Where: 1307 Opechee Way, Glendale
When: Oct. 20, 21, 26, 27 & 28, 6:30-10 p.m.
Cost: Free (donations accepted for future haunts)

Anneliese: the Experience

Twisted Minds Productions’ hosts “Anneliese: the Experience,” an interactive haunt following the story of a young girl who is possessed by evil.

The haunt takes its inspiration from a true and tragic story. Anneliese Michel was a young German woman who ultimately died after her family and two Catholic priests, believing her to be possessed by a demon, subjected her to dozens of exorcisms.

Guests will be led by two ghost hunters through a ‘paranormal research tour’ in search of demonic activity.

Where: 6150 Piedmont Ave., Highland Park
When: October 26, 27 & 31
Cost: $3

Rotten Apple

Diane and Preston Meyer started this beloved home haunt over 25 years ago as a birthday party for a child, but it’s since gone on to take over the front lawn of their Burbank home every October. This year’s theme is Killpetto’s Toy Shop, so expect a sinister take on Pinocchio—which, when you think about it, was already a pretty horrifying tale. Why exactly was some guy rounding up little kids to turn them into donkeys anyhow? This haunt is free and first come, first served, but also very popular. So, to avoid long lines and ensure you get in, it’s wise to show up on the earlier side. Due to city permits, the haunt must close at 10 p.m. nightly no matter who’s left in line.

Where: 907 N. California St., Burbank
When: October 20, 21, 27, 28, & 31, 7 to 10 p.m.
Cost: Free, but donations are accepted to support Volunteers of Burbank Animal Shelter

The Backwoods Maze

Since 2003, the Backwoods Maze has been a standout home haunt that is often just as scary as the big-budget haunts. Early teasers indicate part of this year’s theme may include an area titled “Sewage Falls.” Sounds toxically delightful.

Where: 1912 N Pepper St., Burbank
When: Select dates Oct.12-31
Cost: Free


Pageant of the Monsters

Pageant of the Masters involves actors who make paintings come to life, as anyone who’s been or seen that particular episode of Arrested Development knows. But once every five years, Pageant of the Monsters awakens from its slumber, re-enacting ghoulish tableaus. This year’s theme is “Raiders of the Lost Art,” and includes a haunted house, Halloween arts and craft, and activities for children. The haunted house is not gory, and is recommended for children 5 and older. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase.

Where: 650 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach
When: October 26, 27, 28, 31
Cost: $15 in advance/$20 at the door/$10 for children 12 and under.

Ghost Train

The Los Angeles Live Streamers Railroad Museum’s Ghost Train is a family-friendly, gore-free ride through light-hearted, spooky scenes. It runs about 23 minutes in length, and proceeds go to benefit the museum’s 13-acre park facility.

Guests may make a night of it with Boney Island, a long-running Valley home haunt hosted for the first time at LALSRM. The attraction is full of animated skeletons, singing bushes, and other all-ages magic. You’ll find it in between Ghost Train and Travel Town, but the two attractions are separate. If you want to see both in one night, be sure to schedule your visit appropriately and buy tickets for both.

Where: 5202 Zoo Drive
When: Ghost Train runs select dates Oct. 13-31; Boney Island Oct. 11-31
Cost: $25-30 for Ghost Train; $15 for Boney Island

Rosehill Haunt: The Final Celebration

Rosehill Haunt is a family-friendly home haunt featuring talking skeletons and pumpkins and other fun surprises. As a guest, you’ll be recruited to help Rosehill Cemetery break the curse that plagues its grounds. Creators say this year’s haunt is “by far our most immersive, darkest, and elaborate theme yet.”

Where: 11560 Acama St., Studio City
When: Oct. 26, 27, 28, & 31
Cost: Free, donations accepted

A tableau of sea creatures made from gourds Photo: Courtesy of Night of the Jack

Night of the Jack

This is the perfect event for someone who wants a little Halloween atmosphere without any of the scares. At Night of the Jack, guests of all ages can meander through Calabasas’ King Gillette Ranch, where thousands of pumpkins will be arranged in elaborate displays. Pumpkins may be assembled in the form of dinosaurs, sea creatures, fairy tale scenes, and celebrities. Guests may also check out live carving demonstrations, a gift shop, and the Fear Garden Bar for food and drinks. Tickets are sold for timed entries, but guests are free to explore at their own pace. It takes about one hour to complete the entire trail.

Where: 26800 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas
When: Oct. 11-Nov. 4
Cost: $25 adults/$20 children ages 4-12

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]
Food, Happenings, Where to Eat

Burbank’s Castaway Has Gone from Tiki to Ruin to Modern Mainstay

September 21, 2018 by Juliet Bennett Rylah

Castaway is known for its sweeping views Photo: Courtesy of Castaway

Situated among the Verdugo Hills, Castaway has boasted one of the best views in Burbank for over 50 years.  A recent renovation has taken the restaurant into a modern era, offering a sleek redesign, interactive stations, a subtle movie studio theme, and a “steak-forward” menu with an eye for affordability.

In the Beginning

Specialty Restaurants Corporation (SRC) was founded by WWII veteran David Tallichet, who opened SRC’s first restaurant in Long Beach in 1958. Castaway would open just a few years later in 1962, offering American fare with Polynesian influences. Tropical vibes filled the property, which consisted of a 500-seat dining room and event space that was popular for weddings and parties. A second Castaway opened in San Bernardino in 1970, and remains there to this day.

Looking back at Castaway’s early days reveals a host of special events, including fundraisers, costumed balls, weddings, and business meetings. It’s also been the site of the Saturn Awards—which recognizes sci-fi, horror, and fantasy media—several times, including in 2018.

Bob Hope was once among its many regulars, with the L.A. Times reporting that he could frequently be seen pulled up to the bar. You can check out scans of old menus, dating as far back as when a Scorpion cocktail cost $1.50, here.

June 25, 1963. Castaway hosts the annual Beachcomber dinner. Actor Douglas Mossman (Hawaii 5-0, Hawaiian Eye) aged as Master of Ceremonies. Photo: (Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

A Mysterious Fire Destroys the Popular Mainstay

In June of 1993, the restaurant was devastated by a fire that occurred in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning. Firefighters were alerted to the disaster after a heat-sensing burglar alarm was triggered. It took rescuers 90 minutes to extinguish the flames and though there were no injuries, the restaurant was a total loss. In all, the blaze caused $1 million in damages, left over 200 unemployed, and disappointed several others who had booked weddings, prom parties, and other special events.

Investigators noted the fire was suspicious from the start and ultimately ruled it an arson. Despite a $10,000 reward from SRC, the culprit was never apprehended. They began rebuilding the restaurant in 1995.

Oddly enough, SRC’s LAX offering, Proud Bird, was also the victim of arson in 1984. This blaze claimed the life of one firefighter. A teenage dishwasher was arrested but later released, and both cases remain unsolved. And, despite shuttering in 2013, Proud Bird also enjoyed its own Phoenix story, re-opening in a renovated space in 2017.

Castaway Photo: Courtesy of Castaway

The New Castaway

When the time came for Castaway to get a new look, SRC decided to move away from its tropical roots. They closed in July of 2017 and reopened 9 months and $9.5 million later. The new look is much more modern, from the sprawling dining room to the romantic patio and its sweeping views.

“We wanted to re-invest because we’ll be here another 60 yeas, at least,” Ryan Smith, SRC Regional Director, said. “The tiki [theme] was fun and approachable, but we wanted to create something [different].”

Taking into account the restaurant’s Burbank location, various design elements are nods to the film industry. The menus all look like film scripts. A glance at the lunch menu sets the scene: “INT. CASTAWAY PATIO — LIVELY — SOAKING UP THE SUN.” In the dining room, you can spot a Wilson volleyball marked with a bloody handprint on a shelf. Yes, that’s right: Castaway the restaurant is making a reference to the 2000 film Castaway, in which Tom Hanks is marooned on a deserted island and, in his isolation and despair, befriends an inanimate ball.

Wilson! Photo: Juliet Bennett Rylah

Diners at Castaway, unlike Hanks’ character, will not be forced to spear their own fish, but can peruse a hearty menu of mains, sides, and charcuterie. A prime focus is on steak.

“We decided to stay in the American genre of cuisine, but we went with steak-forward,” Smith said. “We saw a gap in the market where you’ve got Wolfgang’s and Ruth Chris and those steakhouses, and then you’ve got the more approachable brands like Sizzler and Outback, but there was nobody doing a lot in the middle where you could come to a restaurant like Castaway and have a fantastic cut of meat for, say, $35.”

To find quality steaks that can be offered at mid-level prices, Smith said they source a lot of “off cuts,” which may be wagyu quality beef, but from different parts of the cow. One example is the Zabuton, also known as the Denver Steak, which comes from the upper chuck. These smaller cuts, between 6 to 9 ounces, can be supplemented with selections from the menu’s “supporting cast” section, including lobster and truffled mashed potatoes and/or Brussels sprouts in a sweet Thai chili glaze. Castaway offers a 32-ounce tomahawk and or dry-aged ribeye for those who want it, and observant diners will take note of the dry aging room with Himalayan salt brick that is visible from the dining room. Elsewhere on the menu you can find seafood, salads, and shareable plates including a charcuterie and cheese selection.

The Zabuton cut is named for a flat, Japanese cushion typically used for sitting on the floor or on a chair. Photo: Courtesy of Castaway

When possible, Smith said Castaway is moving towards making dining more of an experience. Guests may catch the butcher working during dinner service or notice the bustle of an active wine cellar where sommeliers and wait staff are constantly entering and exciting or conducting wine tastings.

Castaway’s Happy Hour, which occurs Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., includes a chef preparing the charcuterie and cheese boards at the bar. Samples may be doled out as the board is prepped. Happy hour specials include $3 off tap drinks, which consist of 8 wines, 8 draft cocktails, and a variety of beers. And then there’s the Chef’s Table, where adventurous guests may enjoy a seven-course meal that begins with cocktails and a tour of the property.

“It’s a really fun experience for someone who has a seasoned palate and wants to try some things that are adventurous or they haven’t had before,” he said. “It’s a community table that’s interactive, where everyone can talk and share different things.”

The 2.5-hour experience is $125/person and includes the meal and cocktail, with optional wine add-ons.

On the weekends, Castaway still offers brunch, but has moved to an a la carte brunch versus their previous buffet, with options including lobster and waffles, Benedicts, and “spiked milk” cocktails reminiscent of slurping the milk left in a cereal bowl, if your cereal had booze in it.

All menus will change frequently, offering new drinks and dishes on a regular basis.

“There are so many choices out there now and the competition is so great that you have to offer different things and be constantly changing,” Smith said. “So for us, we’re always updating our menus. What you get here that you wouldn’t get going down the hill is the ever-changing evolution of a fantastic restaurant. We’ll have the mainstays and your favorites, but there’s always some sort of new adventure that you can go on from a culinary and beverage standpoint.”

Castaway is locate at 1250 E Harvard Rd. in Burbank.

[fbcomments width="100%" count="on" num="5" countmsg="comments"]