Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Edison: Lighting Up Downtown Los Angeles

A rainy night in Southern California, a strange tickle in the back of my throat, and massive traffic on the 110 could not stop me (Lara) from checking out The Edison in Downtown Los Angeles. Hearing for years the buzz about this fabulous space in a former private power plant, I have wanted to make a direct beeline to it ASAP and experience what nightlife in the early twentieth century might have been like.

And did I mention they have “absinthe fairies” pushing carts containing what looks like test tubes of the naughty liquid around? But we will get to that…

One of the several bars!
The opportunity to check out the buzz at the Edison hive came last month. Fellow Diva Cori and I had initially tried to make it a date night and finally introduce our hubbies (who shared in common water polo, strong jawlines, and an amazing affinity for their wives…wink, wink); however, reality (like lack of a babysitter on my part) changed our plans, and we instead made it a GNO (Girls Night Out) instead…oh, and plus one: Cori’s husband.

By the time I arrived Downtown (watch those one-way streets!), parked at the valet, and walked down the film noir-ish alley to the Edison’s entrance, Cori and her husband had already posed for pictures in different locations around the restaurant.

We were immediately informed about the gloriousness of a particular cocktail: The Mistress, a lovely concoction of vodka, pomegranate, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice with a hint of prosecco. Sigh. I wished my husband had come so I could have had about three of those, and he could have then driven me home as I slept in the car.

I was introduced to Cori’s beautiful friend Tatiana, a stylist at a famous spa in Los Angeles, and we started oohing and aahing over the exposed brick and metal, luxurious fabrics and furnishings, retro lighting, and ginormous staircase that takes you down into the heart of The Edison—they call it Industrial Cathedral on their website. 

And the clientele is equally glam! The Edison’s dress code is strictly enforced, so you see a lot of beautiful dresses on women and suits on men. Plus, vintage attire looks right at home here, especially with a lot of old school-themed parties and birthday celebrations going on. This is a classy joint, so dress sharp—when you see your surroundings, you will be glad you did. If you look down once in a while, you will most likely see a pair or two of sequined and glitzy shoes. And the heels in this place would make Carrie Bradshaw weep with envy!

The restaurant, which opened in 2007, is located in what is known as the Historic Core area of newly revitalized Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). It is housed in the Higgins Building, which, having been built in 1910 in the Beaux Arts style, pre-dates the Deco Era. The folks behind The Edison were genius to design it as a nod to the building’s history, as six floors used to be a private power plant, and the downstairs restaurant and bar area are in what used to be the boiler room.

Posh dining! Imagine sitting in this chair with a drink!
I definitely felt like I was stepping into a glamorous, early 1900s dream as I heard the old-time music playing, which sounded like something you would hear on your grandma’s Victrola as she waxed on about Italian superstar singer Enrico Caruso.

There was also a classic film being projected on the wall; the night we were there, 1903’s Misfortune Never Comes Alone was being shown, which was definitely the oldest film I have ever seen. There is something about watching a film or listening to music where you realize that every person involved in it is now dead, but their art lives on, that moves me almost to tears every time I experience it.

It would be easy for almost any menu to be overshadowed by such unique surroundings, but the food and drink at The Edison does not disappoint. If you are driving or have to be up early to meet a client for breakfast in Malibu (or have a little one that wakes up at 6 a.m. no matter what), knock back The Natasha, with fresh raspberries and lemon juice garnished with a raspberry and mint sprig, which is one of The Edison’s imaginative non-alcoholic cocktails.

Our meal started with A Fine Cheese Platter, which is a selection of cheese (including goat cheese) accompanied by bread and fruit; a small platter was easily enough of an appetizer for four hungry folks. In fact, I stuffed myself with so much fromage that I got up for a stroll to check out the rest of the restaurant and try to burn off a few calories before the entrees arrived.

Different areas in The Edison have different names (you can see the layout on their website), and I think my favorite place was The Ember Room. It is kind of hidden in plain site in the middle of the space, but very private—curtains are hung at the entrance. As I peeked in while trying to not make it obvious that I was sneaking a look, I felt like I might see It Girl Clara Bow hanging with Jean Harlow at a table and talking about Gary Cooper or William Powell. 

And btw, because you could easily see a celeb here, do not bring a big camera in! Management might think you are a paparazzo and you will be asked to check it. We know this from experience.

At that moment, a beautiful gal wearing glowing wings and pushing a vintage cart filled with vials of Absinthe came strolling by—The Absinthe Fairy! Absinthe has a natural green color, has been referred to as “the green fairy,” and was consumed by Ernest Hemingway, three reasons that once again made me wish I were not driving and could partake! Next time, I will get a room at The Biltmore and cab it. And perhaps try to snag a pair of wings…but I digress.

GNO is glorious!
Making my way out of the restroom, I found that a Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatic routine was in progress in the middle of The Lab area, to the delight of the crowd of tourists, older couples, and trendy club kids. A bare-chested young man was spinning upside down while twisted in a piece of red ribbon hanging from the ceiling. But faster than I could text Cori with a “GET OVER HERE NOW HALF NAKED MAN SPINNING UPSIDE DOWN,” it was over and a deejay started spinning in the corner of the room.

Back at the table, the best entrée ever arrived: The Downtowner, consisting of jumbo prawns over stone-ground grits, topped with sautéed spinach and an egg with Zoe’s bacon and a brown butter vinaigrette (Seriously, can I go back RIGHT NOW and eat this again?). 

After sharing some with the girls and surreptitiously trying to lick the last of the grits off of my plate, we were taken to dessert heaven in the form of The Elvis. “Thank you, thank you very much!” ran through my head as we wrapped up an incredible meal with pan-fried sandwiches filled with peanut butter and banana, and served with cajeta caramel (low-cut white jumpsuit and sunglasses not included). Thankfully, I had a leopard print cuffed jacket with me to cover the food baby that had suddenly appeared in my stomach. But it was so worth it!

Some useful tips…

  •  Make a dinner reservation well in advance. It fills up fast, and you might encounter a line and have to wait outside. We were told that this line typically starts at 10 pm. Although, in our opinion, it is worth the wait.
  • Keep in mind that on the weekend there is a $50 minimum per person if you reserve a table, but between the incredible drinks and appetizers and entrees and desserts it is not going to be hard to meet that. And, it is nice to have a table (and when you have dinner you have the table for the night) and somewhere to sit (hold court for all your admirers?) when the place gets crowded. Our table was tucked into a quiet corner in The Tesla Lounge and was just perfect for a relaxed evening and lots of conversation. Note that your table is YOURS the entire night!
  • There is a $10 cover charge per person on Saturday nights. The host told us that this was because they have a Burlesque show. When Cori went to the Edison a second time (on a Saturday night), we saw that the burlesque dancers performed at 9:45 pm for about 10 minutes. Very fun to watch!
  • If you can’t reserve a table—don’t fret! You can eat at the bar in a very fun and social setting. You’ll just need to stand the entire time…so rethink the heels.
Contact Info:
The Edison
108 West 2nd Street #101  
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-0000