One block south of the Farmers Market on Fairfax Avenue blinks a blue neon sign, for the new Blue Collar Bar. Blue Collar was brought to LA by Vinny Laresca, who also owns Rusty Mullet and Outpost in Hollywood. Laresca is not interested in owning pretentious bars that have doormen standing outside with lists that determine who gains entry, rather his bars have a neighborhood vibe, and are welcoming to all of legal age who flash their ID at the door. Occupying the old Sheddy’s location, Blue Collar is unrecognizable from its predecessor. The bar has a dark exterior, and as you walk in you pass through heavy velvet curtains that serve as the entrance, on the other side you find yourself in a dimly lit elegantly designed bar with a distinct 1950’s NY feel. The front of the bar is comprised of maroon leather couches that line the walls with coffee tables casually spread around for people to put their drinks on, the teal walls are covered with large black and white photos of old hollywood icons that lead your eyes up to beautiful tin paneled ceiling. The details throughout are impressive and unlike much else I’ve seen recently. However just a little further back at the bar is where the real magic at Blue Collar happens.
Dimly lit, by the exposed Edison bulbs that hang overhead, the large marble bar with an antique Rolodex placed prominently in the center (more on this later) almost appears to be glowing as it beckons you towards it. When you arrive you are greeted as you might expect, by a friendly bartender who asks you what you like to drink, but as you might not expect you won’t find a specialty cocktail menu, or any menu of any other kind for that matter. If you know what sort of spirit you fancy, you simply tell the mad magicians behind the bar, and then tell him what other flavors you like and, like Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory, soon out comes a mind blowing drink. Of course they can also make any classical drink you might be in the mood for, but their homemade concoctions come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, if you don’t like what they come up with for you they’ll happily make you something else.
I told Eric the bartender- “I like vodka and lemon but not too sweet” then voila a drink called the “Hummingbird” appeared in front of me. Honey, lemon, and green chartreuse are a few of the ingredients that made up this insane libation. My companion eyed the large selection of scotch and small batch whiskeys on display behind the bar and, mentioned to Eric that he likes scotch and that he liked drinks with ginger. Eric thought for a second, smiled and said “I got you”. A few minutes later out came a drink called the Penicillin, a concoction of scotch, ginger, and what I can only imagine is fairy dust or some other magical compound, that made a drink that strong taste so light and refreshing. Needless to say the first round of drinks were such a success that we had to double down, we each decided to mix it up and have another drink, with different instructions to the bartender, the drinks that followed, named the Pedro Serrano and the Fiesta, were nothing short of perfection. The Blue Collar is no joke; these mix masters have taken casual bartending to a serious level.
The Blue Collar bar only opened three weeks ago, and already people are pouring in. Word travels fast in LA when you have a good thing. Aaron Stepka, is in charge of the bar program; there are three bartenders and two bar-backs every night as well as cocktail servers walking around making sure everyone has what they need. Speaking of everyone having what they need, lets get back to that antique Rolodex. Yes that’s right, there is a large rolodex right in the center of the bar that resembles something you might find in the office of a 1950’s talent agent, but this is no decorative flourish this is pure function. If you like the custom drink that the bartender concocts for you, they will save the recipe on a notecard and place it into the rolodex under your name. That way you can easily order the drink again the next time you come in even if a different bartender is working! Genius, Genius, Genius!!! I actually watched someone do this while I was there, a man came in and sat at the bar, he told the bartender his name, and the bartender spun the silver machine until it got to the right section, when he found the man’s notecard he gave it a quick look before whipping up just what the guy wanted. So simple, so functional, and everyone always feels like a regular!
I’m sold! Blue Collar Bar on Fairfax, a definite new staple in the neighborhood- Cheers!
Blue Collar Bar- Los Angeles
361 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036