Little Black Book

The Nomad Los Angeles Wine Director's Guide to Bites and Booze on the Eastside

by Ryan Bailey
Photo courtesy of Freedman's.

The hipster epicenter of Los Angeles — Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, and DTLA — has an incredible dining and drinking scene. To navigate the best of the best, we tapped California native and Eastside resident Ryan Bailey, who runs the wine program at the newly opened NoMad Hotel Downtown.

LOS ANGELES – Ever since my first visit to LA fifteen years ago, I knew the Eastside was my speed. I officially made the move from Brooklyn to Downtown LA last year to prepare for the opening of the NoMad Hotel. My apartment is just a couple blocks away from the hotel and restaurant, so I walk to work every day. It’s liberating not having a car in this city. I skate with my dog to taco trucks or take the metro a couple stops if I want to get out a bit further. As the wine director at NoMad, I’m frequently asked about the dining scene in the surrounding area. Much to my pleasure, I make it my business to taste my way around the city.

Photo courtesy of Caña Rum Bar.
Photo courtesy of Wolf and Crane.

Downtown Los Angeles

840 S. Grand Ave.; +1-213-623-7718
Everyone needs a go-to dive bar in their life. Mine is Hank’s, which is on my commute to and from work. It is my ideal place to plop down on a bar stool after a long day with a cold beer before catching up on the sports highlights I miss out on during service.

208 E. 8th St.; +1-213-628-3710
Perfect taco composition: super thin and crispy flour tortilla, salsa, avocado, cabbage, hot sauce, and any of the incredibly flavorful and tender meats on the menu ... though chorizo estilo sonora steals the show.

Caña Rum Bar
714 W. Olympic Blvd.; +1-213-745-7709
If PDT and Donna (two incredible NYC bars) gave birth to a love child while vacationing in Los Angeles, Caña would be it. This dimly-lit, members-only bar (membership costs $20 a year) at the end of a parking garage seems to house every hard-to-get — yet still affordable — rum in the world. The perfect place to finish the night if your date is going well, or hit it up after work when you’re craving one of the best Jungle Birds in the city. Some nights there is live music to help you catch your second wind. 

108 W. 2nd St. #104; +1-213-221-7466
The family-run restaurant is essential to the fabric of Downtown Los Angeles. You’ll want a taste of everything on the menu, so roll through with at least three friends. The coconut curry mussels and chicken tikka poutine will make your inner fat kid weep.

Wolf and Crane
366 E. 2nd St.; +1-213-935-8249
If you’re the rare breed that has weekdays off, this casual, cocktail-focused bar in Little Tokyo will become your favorite place to drink in Los Angeles. They do half-off top-shelf booze all night on Tuesdays, so you can sip rare Japanese whiskey on a budget or enjoy classic cocktails without resorting to the well.

Photo courtesy of Button Mash.
Photo courtesy of Tsubaki.

Echo Park

1356 Allison Ave.; +1-213-900-4900
Hands down my favorite restaurant in LA. I’m not a hyperbolic person, especially when it comes to restaurants, having spent more than half my life working in them, and admittedly have some unreasonably high expectations when dining out, yet Tsubaki charms. The service is so friendly and chef Charles Namba’s food is special. His ingredient-driven dishes — like yaki-kyabetsu (grilled cabbage and miso butter) and kinoko kombu mushi (forest mushrooms, garlic oil, bonito butter, and mitsuba) — are flavorful and meant to be shared. When it comes to drinks, I place all my trust in co-owner Courtney Kaplan's immense sake knowledge — she has developed quite the selection.

Button Mash
1391 W. Sunset Blvd.; +1-213-250-9903
An absolutely killer stop for coin-op games from both the '80s and '90s, including a few of my favorites: Wrestlemania, Ninja Turtles, and Tapper. The bar is stocked with beer from local breweries like Beachwood, Dry River, and Highland Park, and is also conveniently located within walking distance of Dodger Stadium. 

1814 Sunset Blvd.; +1-213-822-2103
Because you can’t always drink wine, Triniti is the spot to start a day or recharge. Their preparation is meticulous and intentional and their selection includes rotating roasters like Devoción (Colombian beans roasted in Brooklyn), which add extra dimension to their already solid menu. The food from chef Joseph Geiskopf, formerly of Destroyer, is some of the best I’ve had in a café setting. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, just ask what’s swirling in the slushy machine or opt for a matcha.

Photo courtesy of Botanica.
Photo courtesy of Daw Yee Myanmar Corner.
Photo courtesy of Freedman’s.

Silver Lake

2619 Sunset Blvd.; +1-213-568-3754
Freedman’s is equal parts Lower East Side nostalgia and youthful Silver Lake bohemia. Aesthetically, it’s one of my favorite spots in the city due to the numerous eclectic wallpapers and tile patterns. The drinks menu is classic and delicious and includes a well-curated selection of wines. You can’t go wrong with anything off their dinner menu, especially the caviar on toast.

Daw Yee Myanmar Corner
2837 Sunset Blvd.; +1-213-413-0568
This place is crazy affordable — a meal for two is rarely over 50 bucks.  I’m no expert on Burmese cuisine, but laphet thoke (tea leaf salad) prepared table-side and mohinga (rice noodle and fish soup) make for the perfect dinner. 

1620 Silver Lake Blvd.; +1-323-522-6106
This spot reminds me of that Coco Chanel saying, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off." Everything from the space, food, service, and wine list is perfectly uncomplicated. On the surface it looks like a simple restaurant, but it actually requires an immense amount of time and thought to curate every detail like this. Heather Sterling's aesthetics and general manager Pierre Luc's endless hospitality helped usher in a new era and understanding of the classic neighborhood restaurant.

El Cochinito
3508 Sunset Blvd.; +1-323-668-0737
Two years ago, I escaped what seemed like a never-ending NYC winter for Cuba, mostly just to eat and drink. Main takeaways were rum is cheap and lechon asado is a classic Cuban dish that I need to fit into my monthly rotation. When I’m craving it, I head over to El Cochinito. They take their grilled pork very seriously and have a very hard-to-miss, five-foot trophy for their first place finish in the International Cuban Sandwich Festival to prove it.

Photo courtesy of El Cochinito.
Photo courtesy of Tabula Rasa Bar.

Loz Feliz

Bar Covell
4624 Hollywood Blvd.; +1-323-906-1122
It may seem odd to go for beer at a wine bar, but this spot has an incredible selection of beers on tap, including Almanac, a rare sighting in Los Angeles. Pro tip: On the weekends, you can call ahead and order tacos from Home State next door and they’ll run them over to the bar for a boozy brunch. You get to skip the line at Home State and eat tacos with cold beer or wine.

Tabula Rasa Bar
5125 Hollywood Blvd.; +1-213-290-6309
The place I go when I’m in the mood to spend the night drinking wine at just one spot. The neighborhood bar is a solid place to meet up with friends, drink champagne, and listen to jazz. Industry nights bring out a lot of local distributors (and their diverse portfolios) to the relaxed back patio.

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