Social Lubrication

The Standard
550 South Flower Street, Los Angeles
(213) 892-8080

Nestled amongst the looming towers of several downtown bank buildings is The Standard hotel. Open since 2002, The Standard is spoken of as a trendy and exclusive scene, so of course I had to check it out.

There are actually two bars, one on the first floor and one on the roof. The ground floor bar is the classier of the two, sharing space with the restaurant. The ambiance has a kind of unintentional 70’s sci-fi feel with dim topaz lighting and plenty of metallic and reflective surfaces. The lamps look like they’re floating in air, suspended by nearly imperceptible wires. Large egg carton shaped cushions pad the walls and well-placed mirrors give extra dimension to the otherwise small area. The bar section is rather modest, but adequate and reminded me of a diner. Sam, a blond bombshell with legs to match, was working the bar on a slow Monday night. While we exchanged pleasant conversation, I was surprised to find the bar did not have its own cocktail list. “We’ll make you whatever you want,” she said, “but this is mostly an apple martini/long island iced tea crowd.” While it might be a different story on a busy night, The Standard’s ground floor bar was pretty relaxing. Once you get your drinks, ranging anywhere between $8 and $14, you’re welcome to stretch out in one of two plush lounges and listen to the nightly DJ spin his set or step outside and drink by the fire pit.

Then I checked out the roof. Vivacious even on a Monday night, loud music pumps through the air and people are shucking and jiving on the small dance floor or relaxing on the couches beneath space heaters or saddling up to the bar. Despite its club-like atmosphere, the roof still manages to maintain the hotel’s overall classiness, with its marbled exterior and well manicured plant sculptures. The second level of the roof holds the heated pool and is somewhat quieter. You’ll find most of the couples here, enjoying the covered waterbeds or taking in the view. If you should come on the weekends, the view alone will take the sting out of the $20 cover charge. Standing at waist height to the skyscrapers of downtown feels less disconnected than standing at street level and more real than aerial perspectives. I felt at one with the towering, titanic monuments. Alcohol, it seems, can make even buildings that much more interesting.

If you’re looking to impress, come to The Standard.

The Mountain
473 Gin Ling Way, Los Angeles
(213) 625-7500

Stumbling into the Mountain I was overwhelmed with how red the interior was. It conveyed the same intensity and passion that modern artists express when they brush a stroke of crimson across their canvas. This energetic vibe dripped from the walls—literally, some walls looked wet—yet belied the subdued ambience. The bar area is nestled in the back, leaving the rest of the first floor open with a few scattered places to sit. Nursing a growing headache, I hunted down a table while a friend bought the next round.

The Mountain is in every sense an art bar. Tessellated, geometric light fixtures hang from the ceiling. Long, willowy drapes frame the front wall. Leaf-like shelves jut out from support posts. Here, the pretense of personal image and social agenda are shrugged off in favor of enjoying the displayed art or having a good conversation with friends. When I asked one of the owners, Mark McManus—who, along with artist Jorge Pardo, designed the interior—what he thought the Mountain’s draw was, Mark replied, “I couldn’t tell you. We’ve been open a year with no advertising…we’re an art bar.” He went on to explain that the Mountain also hosted creative forums and the second floor would soon be open for these performances. When asked for a few signature drinks, Mark rattled off a list—all running between $7 and $8—then ended with, “I don’t know, man. I drink beer.”

The Mountain is a very versatile place. Start the night off on an unassuming note or end it on a low key cool down here. Located right across the street from the Wishing Fountain in Chinatown, the Mountain is one of the few bars where people actually enjoy just hanging out in front.

Had I known not to do two bar reviews in one night, I would have sampled one of the Mountain’s signature drinks, like the Cloud Martini or the Saketini, but my throbbing head just wouldn’t agree even though I had ample cash on me specifically reserved for that purpose. Interestingly enough, after finishing the evening out at a strip club, I was completely sober.

And broke.