Drinking and Reading: Just Do It

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One of the funnest things to do Downtown is to spend a few hours roaming the shelves of the Central Library, reading up on topics you assumed a lack of interest, and freaking out just a little bit at how much intriguing stuff there is to read before you kick the can. Maybe it’s not as exciting as going to a wild drunken party, but I’ve been to enough dull get-togethers where a shelf of books to browse would have been a welcome (and much more entertaining) distraction. The only problem with the Central Library (besides the fact it’s also known as the “Richard Riordan” Central Library, boo-hiss-yuck) is that no matter what I had for breakfast, after a few hours of looking at books I start getting peckish and sometimes just plain hungry. It doesn’t help that I often browse the cookbooks, especially those with tantalizing full color pictures that make my cast iron pan get hot. Aside from that, I still think they must be putting some sort of delicious scent in the ventilation system or emitting savory subliminal radio frequencies, there has to be another reason for the predictable hunger. Does anyone else experience that? Surely there’s a story there, maybe even some sort of secret conspiracy that the Times should investigate.

Whatever the reason, I don’t mind it, that just gives me an excuse to try out some of the downtown eateries. What better way to start into your freshly borrowed book than to leaf through it over a beer and some snacks? Which brings us, finally, to the point of this story..

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..where to get a drink and a snack near the Central Library. The most obvious answer is the newish place I’ve heard about and kept meaning to check out, the Library Bar. It’s just down the street as well, and it has a great name that instantly conjures up books and beers, might as well give it a crack.

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The sign outside was advertising a Happy Hour that included $4 Stella. Uh, that’s not good news, that just means tastier beers are going to cost more.

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And they sure did: $6 for an Anderson Valley ale and $6 for a Rasputin stout. And not even in full size pints.

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Maybe you notice the main problem with the Library Bar: it is way too dark to read a book! Isn’t that the point? These last two pics have only been edited with Picasa’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, and they still come out super dark. Of what use is the small section of tomes and encyclopedias if they’re meant to be mere decoration?

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I don’t like using flash indoors, it’s just too intrusive but this time I did. Only because I care about you, dear reader. Bam! There’s my beer!

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Zow! Looky here, the books! Is that a hardbound Reader’s Digest collection? Hmm, I should’ve taken a look. I did notice a copy of Despite Everything: a Cometbus Anthology and that’s only because it looked weirdly out of place as a recent soft cover book. Oh, now I get it, the leather-bound books are just for show, it’s one of those theme bars I’ve read about. And here I thought this place might be a bit more interesting than just another pretty facade. I found their website just now, and it’s good I didn’t see it beforehand:

Well-heeled professionals and fashion-focused creatives find pleasure perched on plush leather barstools as bartenders handcraft their specialty cocktails. Across the room, hipsters lounge on luxurious leather sofas by the fireplace, sipping Belgian Tripels while perusing the library bookshelves for newfound knowledge. The proverbial sounds of Jim Hendrix and The Who drift from the jukebox, enveloping the intimate space in an air of informality that is both sociable and unpretentious.

Wow. What a great example of ad-copy-to-make-one-retch. And now that they mention it, the “luxurious leather sofas” did reek of new money and a free subscription to Dwell magazine. Plus, if you want to order some appetizers, you or the bartender can call the Wolfgang Pucks next door to deliver. Chale. The beer was good, but with the dark bar setting and theme vibe, this was very much the wrong place to enjoy it. Maybe it’ll suit your needs if you’re reading a romance novel, just bring your own flashlight.

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Needless to say, no food consumption took place at the Library Bar. But disappointment quickly turned into hope on the decision to try out another downtown spot I’d yet to visit: the Bonaventure Brewing Company. I kinda didn’t believe such a place could exist; I’ve always thought of the Bonaventure as a place for out-of-town visitors or bored teenagers seeking cheap elevator thrills. (Full disclosure, I was one of the latter!) Even though the place looks remarkably just like it did many years ago, the BBC is definitely a worthwhile new addition. Compared to the last stop, it’s a wonderful library-close oasis.

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Also walking distance from the library, here you can sit outside and enjoy the natural daytime light. The outdoor seats might not be “plush leather barstools” but you can at least read a book on one of them, comfortably even, pull out your glasses and magnifying lenses. Function, yet again, trumps design! An added bonus, they actually brew beer here. I tried the house stout, which was decent but a bit too safe, it could have used a kick of roasted barley. Just saying. The Pale Ale on the other hand, with the citrusy Cascade hops was much closer to my preferred taste palate.

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The brewing room is outside, here’s a pic of the mash/lauter tun.

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And a shot of some sacks of malt. If someone wanted to give me all those sacks as a birthday present, I wouldn’t refuse. Bottled beers, no matter how grand the pedigree, are always a rung below fresh, locally made brews on tap. Be they great or average, if I have the choice, I go with the local beer on tap, it’s easy enough to get bottled stuff to enjoy at home.

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Oh yeah, I need to mention the Happy Hour appetizer specials. A nice green garden salad with a balsamic dressing, $3.

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The old standby, crispy french fries with dipping sauces, $2.

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And finally, multi-colored nachos drowned in cheese, quacamole, and sour cream – only $4! This isn’t stuff I would normally eat but it sure does quell the library induced hunger. More than enough for two.

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It’s a very nice place to feel the breeze, skim some books, enjoy some drinks, and nibble on junk food. Pleasant, comfortable, tasty, and affordable.

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I do feel that I need to warn the reader that not all areas of downtown are perfectly safe, and this visit was no exception. This part of town is also territory to Pajaros Locos 13, a gang of flighty fools that like to cause trouble, and they really don’t give a fuck about the cops or the law. The two fiends above were brawling over a maraschino cherry, but once it got violent I turned away. “Sorry officer, I didn’t see nothing.”

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Despite my best efforts to ignore him, el mero mero was dogging me out and claiming his turf, tweet-tweeting loudly about what a bad ass he is and how he’s gonna be watching me. Whatever you say pajarito, I don’t even live here. Wait ’til they demolish your nest and build a fucking mini-condo on your branch; all those dropping tags are gonna mean nothing.

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That thought got him into a lil’ flurry of looking over his shoulder and prancing about as if it would never happen. Then he perched onto a chair, glanced at the latest Galeano book, and dismissively chirped something about already having read it as he flew away. Jerk.

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Did I mention you also get a great view of Downtown and the Library? Now I did.

Library Bar
630 West 6th St.
Suite 116-A
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213.614.0053

Bonaventure Brewing Co.
404 South Figueroa St. Suite 418A
Los Angeles CA 90071
213.236.0802

21 Replies to “Drinking and Reading: Just Do It”

  1. The Militant frowns on naming city structures after living politicians. Fine if the City Council wants to name something after somebody — but like the US Postal Service’s policy on stamps — they gotta be dead first.

  2. The Militant frowns on naming city structures after living politicians. Fine if the City Council wants to name something after somebody — but like the US Postal Service’s policy on stamps — they gotta be dead first.

  3. To be sure, I appreciate El Chavo’s attempt to make the most out of what should be far better. Perhaps I remain bitter after having to return from New York, where the Main Library as well as its exterior environment–Bryant Park, giant slices of pizza and sweet-talking the grass guards to not pester me while I sipped scotch on the small mall between the trees and behind the lions (haha).
    But the atrocious architecture that is what Danny Weizmann once described as “five rolls of toilet paper on a telephone book” (on a spoken word album put out by ex-Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn, no less), and the ever-failing set of electric steps poorly patrolled by rent-a-cops in the stilted hall of the rebuilt library and the too-pretentious crowd that tends to be found in chattering among the darkness of The Library (Aaron Cometbus, of the named anthology, is an olde zine mate of mine from the 1980s–the last time we spoke was when he was tending a bookshoppe in Williamsburg two blocks from the first Brooklyn stop on the L–so, yes, I do understand the impact of his book being there), is far from what Los Angeles usta be when it was fun and appears to be all but incorrigibly sterilised as it is forced into the new wave of the future.
    No, I do not want the Skid Row of yesterday to be the flavour of today, nor do I relish the sudden arrival of folk who are abandoning west L.A. and who may well be gone when something else shiny gains their fleeting attention.
    After all, downtown Los Angeles usta be THE place, before Hollywood went west and left all those theatres, et al, to fend for themselves on figurative tumbleweed.

  4. Nah, LA is still fun, despite the best attempts of developers, gentrificulants, and obfuscators. We’re just a bread and tortilla riot away from the reset button.

  5. I don’t like the sue-happy Bonaventure Hotel, but I do like the Bonaventure Brewing Co. They have decent hours except on weekends when they’re only open for dinner. It’s a good standby.

  6. Also worth checking out for times like these is the McCormick & Schmick’s happy hour. They don’t have any drink specials, but they’ve got a boatload of food options for $2 a pop. Including a full cheeseburger and fries set up. Plus, on Fridays, their happy hour runs straight through from 3:00 to 11:00!

  7. Liked the birds. They have good beers @ library bar, but definitely not the cheapest joint. That said, Cometbus rocks. Grab that book and head straight up the stairs to the naked lady & mccormick and schmicks. Four shots later your legs will stop throbbing from the stairs. Fun for all.

  8. I love the Central Library. I could live in there (and I guess some people do.) The Aloud series and the Biltmore is right there with the beautiful Gallery Bar and that Art Deco pool.

    You can easily take the Red Line (you know if you live by the Red Line.) Get off at Pershing Square, use the million dollar toilet, pass by the lady who looks homeless, but is holding a wad of twenties in her hand. Who is that woman? Has anyone else seen her.

    Oh yeah, BusTard, stop being so grumpy or you won’t be allowed to anymore of my slumber parties.

    Browne

  9. Awesome post. Made me thirsty. The Wednesday farmer’s market outside the library is also a great place for food.

  10. “Bustard? Or Tinear?

    hmmmmm?” Lucinda

    BusTard, Tinear, Bastard all the same…hehehe…I shouldn’t have typed that.

    It wakes up at around 2am and it will want to feed.

    Browne

  11. “Nah, LA is still fun, despite the best attempts of developers, gentrificulants, and obfuscators. We’re just a bread and tortilla riot away from the reset button.”
    I hope so, El Chavo. I get bored these days.
    Nice remark, that bit about L.A.’s proximity to teh “reset button,” as is the conception of that term “gentrificulants.”

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