NEXT DOOR LOUNGE
TINSEL TOWN ‘PROHIBITION ERA’ SPEAKEASY
I’ve been a fan of Next Door Lounge ever since it first opened on Highland Avenue. It’s in my neck of the woods so I was happy to have a Prohibition Era speakeasy open in the area. If you’re not familiar with it, chances are you’ve past it several times along Highland Avenue between Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain Avenue. It’s the nondescript brick building with a key as its lone signage.
Pay closer attention and you may spot the dapper doorman outside. A throwback to days of prohibition, dress code is enforced at Next Door Lounge—think casual chic, men, no shorts, flip-flops, baggy pants or baseball caps. Inside it’s more of a large lounge filled with plush leather couches, high-back chairs and antiqued cocktail tables that help create a comfortable setting for guests to be absorbed in casual conversation as spirited servers in little drop waist dresses deliver handcrafted cocktails. Jazz music plays in the background, sometimes as live music, and old movies are screened on one wall. The mood is relaxed yet festive where men are gents and women are dames.
Themed nights are the norm, as there is now murder mystery dinner, as well as flight nights, and gaming night. Happy Hour is a great deal as tasty drinks and food is offered at very reasonable prices. During a recent visit, which started during happy hour, we grubbed on delicious Headless Horsemen—bacon wrapped, feta stuffed dates—along with Sweet n’ Smokey Pulled Pork Sliders with jalapeño cole slaw and sweet potato sticks, and Grass Fed Beef Sliders with Asiago cheese, crispy onions and sweet potato sticks.
If you’re hungry for a wood oven pie (pizza), you can choose from great options like pepperoni, sausage and olives; Spinach + Goat Cheese; and Sweet Potato + Kale. I’ve had them all before and I’m a fan of each. There are tons of options for all palettes, from burgers to salads to deviled eggs. But I’m sure a drink or two is also one of the reasons you would venture to this throwback bar.
Happy Hour includes a $6 Moscow Mule, as well as a $6 boozy Daiquiri, and $8 Corpse Reviver, and Penicillin. Once we grubbed on high end bar fare, we started working our way down the classic and creative cocktail menu. I love that there are so many classics to choose from. It’s not all about an Old Fashioned or Manhattan here. Sure, they have them, but they also serve several other tempting libations.
A balanced drink isn’t always easy to find and the same can be said for the barrel aged Negroni I ordered, which is hard to believe since it’s a simple three-part drink but this was one of the worst I’ve had. Bigtime bummer! The Barrel Aged Irish Tea with Teeling Irish Whiskey, Amaro, Cynar, and Benedictine Wild Flower Bitters was too medicinal, while the Untouchable with Templeton Rye, apricot liqueur, orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup and Fuyu bitters was too sweet. Sometimes it ain’t easy drinking well in this town.
The Heebie Jeebies with Black Grouse Scotch, Velvet Falernum (a personal favorite), lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white and Chartreuse rinse was creative and frothy. Think of this as a snazzy fizz.
The best two drinks I had were the Vesper with Burnett’s Gin, Jovelle Vodka and Lillet (be careful, this one is a serious and stiff drink), and the Vieux Carre with Sazerac Rye, Pierre Farrand Cognac, Carpano Antica, Benedectine, Peychaud and Angostura bitters. It felt good to be able to sit back and enjoy two classic cocktails made just right.
Another drink that I liked for its creativity was the Mole Ole Ole with tequila, agave liqueur, Ancho Reyes liqueur, and mole bitters. This one is unique and stands apart. I’m not saying it’s the best drink (it wasn’t) but I loved the effort.
I’m a fan of the relaxed atmosphere at Next Door Lounge. It’s great to be able to escape the rat race and step back into a chilled environment sans attitude and enjoy cocktail culture at its peak.
Next Door Lounge, located at 1154 N. Highland Ave, is open Tuesday to Thursday from 5pm to 12am; Friday: 5pm to 2am; and Saturday: 7pm to 2am. Call 323-465-5505.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy of: Next Door Lounge