If you’ve been to Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles, you’ve probably attended an art opening on Chung King Road near Hill or eaten “slippery shrimp” at Yang Chow on Broadway. However, if you haven’t trekked beyond these, you’re missing what’s emerging on the neighborhood’s south side.
Over the years, I’ve frequented many establishments in Chinatown and most recently, have found myself on North Spring Street near Cesar Chavez Avenue for the following places:
- Authentic Thai Cuisine – I say it’s the best Thai food in DTLA – love their tofu Pad Thai, brown rice, and delivery service to the Arts District!
- Spring Street Smokehouse – great barbecue and selection of craft beers!
- Spaahbulous – $20 for a one-hour massage of your feet and more!
- Caveman Vintage Music – cool guitars and vinyl that I discovered during the “first annual” Springfest on April 15, 2012, which sadly has not repeated 🙁
[As an aside, just around the corner is where I often print banners for my clients: Sam’s Signs, which offers inexpensive prices and fast service.]
In addition to Roy Choi’s Chego in Far East Plaza on Broadway, 643 North is my latest reason to head outside of the Arts District and over to the south side of Chinatown. Just steps away from the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles on Olvera Street, this contemporary Italian gastropub quietly made its debut in September. In addition to a full bar, it offers a reasonably priced – and very tasty – menu featuring seasonal small and larger bites, pizza, sandwiches, and bowls (salads and soups). The atmosphere with a cool vibe stands out against the area’s otherwise dingy and dark options — the clean industrial design by Los Angeles-based Raveled Studio is welcoming and light in comparison.
643 North’s bar includes 12 rotating craft beers on tap (a flight of four is only $12), seasonal and signature cocktails, artisanal wines, and “Build Your Manhattan” and “Build Your Martini” options: choose your spirit (gin; vodka – potato, wheat, rye; bourbon or rye whiskey); choose your vermouth (dry white, sweet red, aromatic); choose your bitters; and choose your garnish (ask bartender Adam Acuff for his favorite concoctions!). In addition, it is stocked with a unique selection of aperitifs and digestifs, available separately or in flights. After-dinner coffee cocktails are mixed using freshly ground, freshly brewed beans from Demitasse Roasters in Little Tokyo (a place that I also love); of course, 643 North’s regular drip coffee uses the same beans.
My friend Edgar Varela and I visited recently to sample the menu. We tried several menu items – all of which were very good:
- Roasted mushroom medley (shitake, oyster, lobster and crimini) topped with goat cheese and shredded arugula
- Braised spicy suckling pig served in a bowl with pickled onions and habanero peppers accompanied by in-house baked ciabatta
- White pizza topped with roasted Brussels sprouts, applewood bacon, crème béchamel, sharp provolone cheese, and white truffle oil
- Scottish salmon pizza topped with wild-caught salmon, pesto oil, goat cheese, arugula, red onions, capers, and crème fraiche
- Ossobuco ravioli stuffed with braised veal, heirloom tomatoes and broccolini served in Parmesan broth and topped with grated cheese
We also sampled some of 643 North’s signature cocktails: the smoky Red Hot Cherry Pepper includes mescal, sweet vermouth, and cherry liqueur. Currently, the seasonal cocktail menu includes Smokey the Pear (High West Campfire whiskey blend and St. Germain) and Go Figure Self. For more details on 643 North’s cocktails and bar menu, read Edgar’s post at www.edgarvarela.com.
The BEST part about 643 North? In addition to chef Oz Ramuco’s menu accompanied by 1980s music (love!), there is an outdoor bar (rare in DTLA)! Upcoming is a planned outdoor beer garden on the south side of the building (location of the 2012 Springfest). The staff is great, too. In addition to Ramuco and Acuff, the 643 North team includes restaurateur Michael J. Ourieff (who also runs Michael J’s Catering Kitchen) and manager Jessica Hasslinger.
Both Edgar and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND 643 North. Run – don’t walk – there today (or ride your bikes, like we did – if you must drive, there is parking on the street and several nearby lots, too).
(Photo Credit: All photos below are by Melissa Richardson Banks of Downtown Muse (www.downtownmuse.com) unless otherwise noted. Please credit accordingly)
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