A Buddha statue sits serenely against one wall inside Lotus, a spot that's part art venue, part restaurant, and part indoor hookah garden. Stalks of bamboo support the bar and the tables where diners grasp sushi with chopsticks or submerge thinly sliced steak, seasonal vegetables, and other morsels into Japanese Shabu-Shabu filled with boiling kelp water.
Fruity smoke drifts through the open space of the hookah garden, melding with fragrant steam from cups of hot tea. Egyptian rugs and massive cushions create an opulent, relaxing vibe for puffing away or sipping a cocktail.
Though all the food at Nola's is modeled after the Cajun and Creole cuisine of the Big Easy, the restaurant’s housemade ingredients give it a personalized spin. Chefs toss fried wings in a special tangy hot sauce, serve popcorn shrimp with a signature honey-chipotle sauce, coat 10-ounce catfish fillets with a special blend of seasonings, and cook fried chicken for 20 minutes.
When it comes to classic dishes such as jambalaya, the cooks approach from various angles, adding shirmp and crab claws to create a seafood version. For vegetarians, they've come up with a version that uses tofu sausage and fresh veggies. Rounding out the jambalaya variations, there is also a breakfast jambalaya soufflé, for those who love breakfast at all hours of the day. For lunch, they specialize in shrimp, oyster, and catfish po' boys, which are drenched in a cornmeal-and-flour batter, fried, and served with housemade roasted-garlic tartar sauce.
To complement feasts, bartenders whip up specialty cocktails, including a tequila-and-watermelon-juice blend called the Witch Doctor, inspired by the witch doctor that lives on the roof. Beneath the chandeliers and wooden beams of the rustic dining room, meals unfold as live musicians serenade diners with the sounds of New Orleans–style blues and jazz.
In 1981, siblings Enrique and Alicia Ramirez opened a small street-side taco stand and began to re-create the dishes of their childhood. The duo grew up in Los Angeles, although their family’s roots were in Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Everything was always made from scratch in the Ramirez household, including tortillas, salsas, beans, and ornamental doilies, so Enrique and Alicia made sure to uphold these DIY traditions at their eatery, Señor Fish.
In the last three decades, Señor Fish has expanded to include seven popular locations throughout LA, each earning regular praise from local media. Yet the siblings are still just as involved in the restaurants' daily operations, captaining kitchen crews as they fold freshly caught seafood into burritos, tacos, and ceviches.
Housed in the Little Tokyo branch of Señor Fish, La Cantina Tequila & Botanas Bar is the restaurant's lounge counterpart, with an extensive selection of premium tequilas and mezcals that complements small plates of tacos, tostadas, and taquitos. Guests linger over sips of Mexican beers on the spacious back patio, which twinkles beneath colorful strings of hanging lights. The cantina also regularly hosts a tequila class in which renowned mixologist David Fleisher leads students through tequila tastings, margarita recipes, and the creation of tequila-based sauces. Other nights, the bar opens its patio to DJed festivities, DJed dance parties, and DJed quilting races.
Far Bar's efficient lineup of small plates presents a salivarious selection of pan-Asian flavor fusion, featuring Szechuan, Korean, and Thai standards with unexpected cameos from New World cuisine. Slide into Far Bar's lounge like it’s home plate or steal to its outdoor patio like it’s the bottom of the 17th, then celebrate with sinus-clearing wasabi fries ($4), Ming’s Wings ($7), or crispy chicken dumplings ($7). Nibble on slightly bigger, badder fare such as teriyaki sliders with mango salsa ($5) or a skewer of sesame mushrooms ($6). Many diners wrap up their evening with a selection of sushi rolls, from the spicy-tuna-and-cucumber-stuffed Little Tokyo ($9) to the snapper and eel Baja roll ($10).
A rare outlet for commercially sanctioned laughter in downtown Los Angeles, Garrett Morris’ Downtown Blues and Comedy Club helps visitors escape the stresses of the workweek with a rotating stable of top-tier standup talent every Friday and Saturday. Comic legend Garrett Morris, now seen as Earl on CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, hosts showcases of comic talent with charming wit and tales of how he outlived the original cast of Saturday Night Live. The bill remains consistently loaded with fresh-faced and seasoned funny folk, with past luminaries including George Lopez, Margaret Cho, and Wayne Brady, along with aspiring stars in the twilight before their first mismatched-marriage sitcom.
Keeping true to its name and Morris’ roots in the New Orleans music scene, the venue often punctuates its comedy shows with performances from top blues artists—including Morris himself, who has lent his soulful pipes to the Harry Belafonte Singers—that add melody to the mirth. While weekend shows feature Garrett’s hosting and harmonies along with the headlining acts, the Thursday Night Experience allows youthful burgeoning comics and musicians to hog the spotlight.