Los Angeles: Mid-Range Dining Is the New Upscale

imageTons of Los Angeles bars and restaurants are running various deals that make light of the economic downturn, and we can get behind that. The cheeky discounts get pretty complicated, too, with algorithms and whatnot utilized in the name of savings: Luau and Il Sole now price their drinks according to daily changes in the Dow. It’s mathy. But a good number of chefs who traditionally do upscale are opening mid-range restaurants, changing their existing restaurants, or joining up with less expensive venues. That is to say, they’re making some permanent changes pretty much independent of the economy. Mid-range is hip, y’all.

All’Angelo, upscale since day one, has transformed from ristorante to trattoria. That just means cheaper food and no tablecloths. Could be worse. Wunderkind Andre Guerrero has turned his classic, fusiontastic Max into a bistro with beer. In this he’s much like Govind Armstrong, who has done fine dining in the past, but with 8 oz. is venturing into burgers and beers — with fancy ingredients, of course. Guerrero’s also signed on with the upcoming Boho, the new pizza/sandwich place soon to be appearing next to the Arclight theaters. And best of all, Walter Manzke, formerly of Bastide, is now head chef at Church & State, turning out the same quality food for about $100 less per plate. And he’s still gonna blow your culinary mind. The man makes tasty food. That’s the combo more restaurants are adopting: fine-dining chefs cooking good-quality nosh for the masses. It’s almost as if — gasp! — they want people to eat their food.

Industry Insiders: Aidan Demarest, Edison’s Finest

Over on our Mixology site in the Pros section, we asked the hottest bartenders in New York and Los Angeles to whip up a specialty cocktail while describing their perfect New Year’s Eve. Check out Aidan Demarest, master bartender at The Edison Bar in downtown Los Angeles, as he whips up a Mistress. Here, absorb his take on spreading love with his cocktails, the Monday Night Mafia, and getting through a barrel.

What do you drink? Edison Woodford Reserve. I went to Kentucky to get a barrel of it. And Edison beer.

What sort of dent have you made in your barrel? I bought it in October, and it’s two-thirds of the way down now.

Where did you get your start? I worked at an Italian restaurant and started bartending there. Not because I was a good bartender, but because I was the only one who spoke English. It was Toscana in LA, which is now Ago. After you bartend for a little while, you get lured to big bars and clubs in Hollywood. From there, I started working at events.

Where do you go out when you’re not working? I like STK, Ago, and a little place downtown called Banquette. It’s this kickass diner. I get the meatloaf sandwich there.

What is your guiltiest pleasure? Probably cigars.

What is the worst drink request you’ve ever gotten? A Louis Treize cognac and Coke. Or maybe Jägerbombs and Adios Motherfuckers.

Have you seen any awesome hook-ups while tending bar? There’s this really great couple that comes to my bar, and they met talking about one of my drinks. They invited me to their Christmas party this year, and both asked me where to get the caper berries that go in this drink. He wanted to make it for her as a gift, and she was thinking the same thing. Neither of them had any idea that they were giving the same gift. They pulled the Gift of the Magi on me.

What is the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard at work? “How far away do you live?” Or, sometimes guys try to direct them towards me, hoping girls will hear. Like, “Where’d you find all the models for this bar?”

What celebrity (dead or alive) would you like to share a drink with? Alive, I’d say Barack Obama. And dead, Charlie Chaplin. I think Charlie Chaplin would be more fun.

What’s an ideal night of barhopping in LA? On Monday nights, me and four of my manager friends from some of the biggest bars in town have what we call “Monday Night Mafia.” We usually go out with a liquor rep who pays for everything, and it gets sort of gangster. You have to have seasoned professionals for this kind of thing. We like to go to Villa. That’s good on Mondays. Then, One Sunset, Church & State and 14. Generally, I want to roll to a shitkicker bar as well. The Golden Gopher is a good one.

What are you doing tonight? Edison is a sponsor in the Art Walk downtown. So, we have a 35-cent cocktail. I’ll be giving out Edison beer at the galleries. We’re supporting the arts with free booze. It’s also a great night at my bar.