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.
Over the course of the summer, Street Food Cinema rolls out more than a dozen events that showcase the greatest hits of the silver screen and the LA food-truck scene. When the gates open, guests spread blankets on the grass, pop open coolers, and, when showings are at Exposition Park, even settle down with their dogs—the park is pet friendly and broadcasts canine subtitles for each film. Live bands presented by The Viper Room play until dusk, when crowd-pleasing movies such as Edward Scissorhands and Reality Bites slide across the big screen. Meanwhile, a rotating food-truck schedule assembles a diverse curbside lineup, which might include short ribs from Kogi Korean barbecue or the gooey delights of The Grilled Cheese Truck.
Street Food Cinema's eclectic assemblage of food, music, and films has picked up attention beyond the park's bounds, snagging mentions on NBC4 and in the Huffington Post's Broke Girls Guide. It's also become known for its philanthropic work: each year the organization supports one designated local charity.
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.
Zagat describes the Los Angeles Brewing Company as "a dramatic space, with a ceiling that seems to ripple, a mezzanine reached by marble and wrought iron stairs, a bar long enough to accommodate 100 beer taps––and many secrets." This is a nod to the restaurant’s enigmatic basement, riddled with Prohibition-era tunnels and old vaults pocked by machine-gun holes. Owner Ralph Verdugo, who gutted the historic Chapman Building himself to make way for his delicious venture, recalls pulling once-hot lead from the cellar walls. His labors are part of a citywide effort to bring back the Broadway corridor’s bygone splendor and restore it to the destination it was when it hosted the city’s first Spartan gladiatorial games in 1924.
Four humungous projection screens hang above the bar like billboards and cast more than 100 taps in a sports-fueled glow. Though the proprietors think of the restaurant as a beer-lovers’ oasis (it has a beer club and crafty offerings such as Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout), no expense is spared on the American comfort menu, which sources farmers' market produce for heirloom-tomato and fresh-fruit salads, as well as succulent medleys of fresh veggies. Hand-cut garlic fries can also be found wrapped like flower bouquets in conical tissue—ideal pairing for pairing with brewery burgers, bourbon barbecue with garlic aioli, and salty-sweet caper rémoulade.