Every hour is happy on El Paseo, where upscale lounges specialize in fine wines, craft libations, and craveable bar bites.
Story by Emily Chavous Foster
Photography by Brandon Harman
Wine for the People
Whether you’re into traditional whites, reds, or interesting blends that fall somewhere in between, you’re sure to discover a new favorite at La Fe Wine Bar. In addition to well-loved and lesser-known independent labels at every price point, the intimate lounge has a full bar, craft beer options, and a menu of light bites — and they stay open late.
For a taste of France with a side of people watching, grab a table on the patio at chic bistro Café des Beaux-Arts or elegant Le Paon, located on the second level overlooking the street. Meanwhile, Ristorante Mamma Gina and Il Corso specialize in Italian bottles. And of course, if you head to any of El Paseo’s steakhouses or fine dining establishments, knowledgeable servers stand by to assist you in selecting the right pairing for every plate.
Fresh-pressed juices, scratch-made syrups, and creative components like herbs and smoke transform basic drinks into showstoppers.
Dark and moody Libation Room slings playful takes on the classics (including an old fashioned made with bacon-infused bourbon and maple syrup) and a full menu of delightful concoctions that incorporate craft elements like elderflower foam and smoked cinnamon sticks. Equally imaginative cocktails take center stage at Mitch’s on El Paseo. A popular order, the Spicy Bubbles on the Rocks, pairs sweet with spicy in a Tajín-coated wine glass filled with Sky pineapple vodka, a splash of pineapple juice, and muddled jalapeño; it’s topped with sparkling sake and garnished with a pineapple wedge. Salud!
For vodka-forward drinks, head to Pacifica Seafood Restaurant, which stocks an extensive selection of the clear spirit. Rum steals the spotlight at Tommy Bahama Restaurant, and tequila’s the go-to at Armando’s Dakota Bar & Grill, where the margaritas are so strong, the restaurant imposes a two-drink limit.
Down the road, The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge specializes in (you guessed it) rice wine. Chef and owner Engin Onural is a certified sake sommelier, and his libation list includes Asian-inspired mixed drinks, like a Tokyo Mule with soju in place of vodka.
Shots of Live Music
Locals love the swanky lounge at Mastro’s Steakhouse, where talented crooners belt out a blend of today’s hits and yesterday’s favorites every night of the week. On Fridays and Saturdays, bands light up the bar area and adjacent patio at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, located upstairs at The Gardens on El Paseo. Stylish jazz rhythms set the mood nightly at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, and casual fine dining concept Mitch’s on El Paseo hosts entertainment on select evenings and even during lunch hour. If you really want to rock out, you’ll find the street’s newest stage at Hotel Paseo’s Larkspur Grill, where diverse local acts (from jazz artists to cover bands) perform sets every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
The Perfect Complement
For small plates passed among friends, look no further than these palate pleasers.
Choose between Siberian, Royal Ossetra, and Imperial Ossetra caviar at Porta Via, where the luxury treat comes with blinis and all the traditional accoutrements.
Fried Zucchini Blossoms
Striking an addictive balance between salty and sweet, these crisp ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms at Piero’s PizzaVino arrive drizzled with raw honey.
Deep-fried tubes and tentacles get a tangy twist at Hotel Paseo’s Larkspur Grill, where the familiar appetizer is tossed with mild pepperoncini and a thick balsamic glaze.
Tender morsels of filet mignon pair with mushroom duxelles, bourbon-spiked peppercorn sauce, and a garnish of chopped chives at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in this playful take on the classic entrée.
Szechwan Chicken Dumplings
You could split any number of savory pies at California Pizza Kitchen, but you ought to try these delicate dumplings, with soy-ginger chili sauce.
Fresh pomodoro sauce, basil leaves, and creamy ricotta (prepared according to an old family recipe) garnish these homemade meatballs from Kitchen 86 + Bar.