It’s officially summer and the heat wave is right on cue. So you can either crank the A/C in your lonely hovel and cry-tweet during all new episodes of “Orange is the New Black” or you can get out there and throw off a little Twitter-worthy heat of your own at one of these brand-new hot spots around town.
Our hotness journey begins Downtown at an all-American beer hall helmed by Executive Chef Derrick deJesus, whose impressive resume includes Alma, Allumette and Union. Designed by Ricki Kline, the high-ceilinged wood-and-concrete hall in the heart of Seventh Street features one of the city’s longest bars and a patio with some of the best people-watching in town.
More than 40 craft beers from around the country are tapped daily with servers who actually know what they’re talking about when they talk suds. The cocktails aren’t bad either, and there’s wine if you really must. But deJesus’ menu is designed to be paired with beer, so come empty-stomached.
That menu includes cauliflower popcorn. Whatever you think about cauliflower, forget. If your tastebuds are in working order, you’re going to love this dish. The beer dough pretzel with three varieties of mustard is the perfect accompaniment to a beer and a gut; the Kansas cornbread is reminiscent of your mother’s or what you’d expect of her if she ever made it; the BBQ carrots are so over the top as to lose their Platonic “carrotness” and the ribs are practically a meal.
If you want a meal, the burger is certainly that. As is the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, which is so close to an “A+” but the bun — a too-thick slab of toasty French bread, ideal for a stack of Italian cold cuts — steals too much of the show from the delicate tastes and textures of zucchini pickles and Tuscan kale slaw, and, of course, the breading on the chicken.
That said, Barrel Down is still among the best spots in the city to grab a beer and some bites, and catch a game. Brunch and lunch service are on the way, like this week. I’ve already passed the word along to my brew-buddies.
Barrel Down, 525 W. Seventh St., L.A., 90014
From the man who brought you Menchie’s frozen yogurt — that’s right, Amit Kleinberger — comes MidiCi, a Neopolitan pizza joint that, with 100 locations planned, will soon be taking L.A. by storm.
The inaugural location opened Saturday in Sherman Oaks, where lines circled around the block in what felt like triple-digit sun. Why? One bite of this entirely non-GMO pie made with imported Italian ingredients and you’ll want to get in the cue, heat be damned. And heat is the name of the game, of course — with these Naples-made wood-burning ovens generating hellish temperatures, between 800 and 1,000 degress, and cooking pizzas in about 90 seconds.
“It’s fast-fine,” Kleinberger tells me. And that’s a pretty good explanation of this experience. The olive tree in the center of the massive naturally lit space bespeaks a sense of design. And the restrooms: Hands down, the best shitter I’ve ever encountered in a casual dining setting.
The Prisoner’s Pizza — an upgrade on the Margherita, adding Ricotta to the crust — and the Truffle Pizza, topped with prosciutto di Parma, are worthy of special mention and your appetite.
14612 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 91403
What, you may ask, is LND doing on this list of the brand-spanking new? Fair question. I’m including the West Third Street favorite because Kevin Luzande has just taken over as chef and brought with him a new, modern Mediterranean menu. So, meet me halfway here, won’t you?
One look at Luzande’s menu and you’ll know that it’s summer. The beet salad, ubiquitous as it may be, is a fresh as daisy, with creamy goat cheese and pistachio granola. And while tuna tartare never seems to go off-menu, it is never better than as a light summer alternative. But should your appetite require land-based meat, the pommes frites will surely please.
It goes without saying that the wine selections are superb, but it seems that great care has been taken to find wines that make the menu items sparkle. A glass of French Sauvignon Blanc with spicy prawns on the patio as the sun sets and you too will be at a loss for words.
8142 W. Third St., L.A., 90048
Night falls on the city and it’s only getting hotter. At least, that’s the case at David Arquette’s latest venture at the west end of the Sunset Strip. Bootsy Bellows, coined for the fourth-gen actor’s mother’s stage name, is the center of the solar system, heatwise.
Celebrities and hangers-on are drawn to Bootsy like moths to flame. I should make you stand for hours outside the velvet ropes to find out what’s inside, but here’s a peek….
DJs spin thump-thumping sounds of remixed classics in a swirl of red light and vodka cocktails. Models and should-be-models rub elbows and asses as burlesque dancers adorned in peacock feathers suddenly climb on a stage for your optical pleasure and women who usually wouldn’t give you the time of day in a clock store are more than happy to cut a rug with a smooth-stepping marionette. Your literacy is fine, you read that right.
Like the Matrix, I unfortunately can’t tell you what Bootsy Bellows is. You have to see it for yourself.
9229 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069
Scott Bridges is an L.A.-based journalist who has worked as a police-beat reporter, a community newspaper editor, and a food and travel writer. He currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to The Huffington Post and Bizjournals.com, among other sites. He is a native Californian who lives on the Westside.