Our first stop is the only non-bar on the itinerary – G&B Coffee, Go Get Em Tiger's sister shop at Grand Central:
A bit buzzed from the coffees, we head back to the car for our next destination. There are a few places in LA that claim to have fathered the French Dip Sandwich (looking at you, Philippe's) but I'm on team Cole's, which also houses The Varnish.
Cole's and The Varnish
Ricki Kline: Quite frankly, I don’t care who invented the French Dip. But I can get alcohol with it here at Cole’s and that’s all that matters. For years, Cole’s was the last stop on the Red Line in the Pacific Electric Building, and to this day, it feels like an old saloon with leather booths, old photos and the music—you gotta love the music. We restored some light fixtures and designed new ones. We moved around some stained glass. The most important thing was to always keep the character as old restaurant, simply put. And I think we succeeded.
Ricki Kline: Prank is a completely different vernacular than what you’ve been seeing from us. This building is all windows all the time. It’s vaulted, open and modern. But it’s detailed so it’s got scale and presence with the wood paneling, and I also love the tile at the center. Then there’s going to be an upstairs bar. The funny thing about upstairs bars is that they suck everyone up, just like at Broadway Bar. People want to be up, looking down. I guarantee people will be hanging out on the stairs, too. I think of stairs as furniture.
We pull away and notice all of the industrial cranes, which look like big ominous dinosaurs watching over the city. We turn onto 7th Street and Ricki lights up:
Ricki Kline: Now this—[gestures toward the Piñata District on Olympic Blvd.]—this is called Piñata Street. You must come down here is on Saturday or Sunday. There are 30 or 40 illegal food stalls open where you can get a taste of all over Mexico and Central America. Just bring cash ... they don't use Square!
Now, we park our car for the last time, as the last three bars on the tour are within walking distance. First stop: Brack Shop Tavern, which opened in mid-September. Sweet dreams, sweet Chevy.
Brack Shop Tavern
Ricki Kline: This was an interesting project. I built it a year ago as Barrel Down. Barrel Down wasn't working and I told the client, if you don't change the management, there's no point. They finally took on Last Word Hospitality, on our recommendation and we did a flip. Now, it's working out really well. We tore out the back and added booths. We didn't want this to be a sports bar, but we wanted it to be a sports-friendly bar.
“You’re in good hands. You're with the mayor!”
Ricki Kline: Wherever you are, whiskey is always about the stag, deers and hunting. The Scotch-Irish culture of whiskey has transcended to the United States. So I brought it here. I love a good plaid. It can be so rich and it can be campy. This place is a combination of found wood work and new wood work. I'm pretty millwork heavy as a designer. I like moldings, I like paneling, trim and coppered ceilings. I like detail. I think detail provides scale.
By this point, it’s barely 5 p.m., and we’ve already been through six of Ricki’s projects.
Ricki Kline: We did Golden Gopher in 2003. Cedd Moses was on this project, too. The place was a mess. There was literally one bottle behind the bar and that was it. It was a straight up drug dealing place. Cops were busting people in here constantly. So, we had to re-character the entire building. We tore out all the shoring, everything.
Perhaps Ricki's favorite aspect of the bar is the angry gopher lamp fixtures, which are a popular item to steal (especially among USC kids). Apparently, one patron stole a gopher, traveled the world and photographed the little guy in each destination like the Travelocity Gnome.
"Every project has its horror stories," laughs Ricki.
Arden Shore is the editorial director at Citizine. See what catches her eye at @ardyparty.