The renaissance of L.A.'s Chinatown, which began a few years ago when chefs Roy Choi and Andy Ricker opened restaurants in the neighborhood and is continuing as the Far East Plaza becomes a culinary destination, is adding drinks to all that great food. Three bars are coming to the northeast part of Chinatown: a speak-easy, a wine and beer bar, and a local brewery.
Apotheke, a speak-easy-style bar designed and owned by Chris Tierney, is opening on Spring Street sometime next year. The original Apotheke, which opened in New York's Chinatown in 2008, has bartenders called "apothekers," a menu called a "prescription list" and drink prices in the double digits, all the while keeping up the outward guise of being a Chinese restaurant.
L.A.'s version of Apotheke won't be quite as flashy as the one in New York, since it will go into the location of an old warehouse rather than an old restaurant. A large outdoor lounge and herb garden are planned, and the restaurant hopes to open by early next year.
Also on Spring Street in Chinatown, Highland Park Brewery is opening a second location, a 5,500-square-foot brewery and bar with an outdoor patio. And not too far away from the new brewery, within steps of the Metro Gold Line Chinatown stop, a new wine bar is opening as well.
The new wine bar is a Dustin Lancaster project. Lancaster is founder and president of An Eastside Establishment, the company behind not only Highland Park Brewery but also Eastside favorites Covell, L&E Oyster, El Condor, Hermosillo and Sidebar.
"The location will actually not be a Covell," said Lancaster. "Though it will obviously have beer and wine, it will be a different concept altogether." The new bar project, in a location next to a traditional Chinese apothecary and as yet unnamed, will have indoor and outdoor seating for over 50.
"We hope to break ground this fall or early winter. From there who knows how long it will take, we're hoping six to nine months," says Highland Park Brewery head brewer Bob Kunz. "The space in Chinatown will house a brewery, tasting room and kitchen. The brewery will keep the same focus on adventurous beers — hop forward IPAs, barrel fermented sours — and the kitchen will keep things simple but thoughtful with an emphasis on fermented foods: sausages, meats, cheeses, bread, pickling. It should be fun."
All this alcohol flowing into northwest Chinatown has made George Yu, president of the Chinatown Business Improvement District, a bit giddy. "Apotheke will complement the opening of L.A. State Historic Park, the Water Wheel and all things L.A. River-centric." At this rate, Chinatown will soon rival downtown Los Angeles' Arts District as a food and drinks destination.
Apotheke LA: 1746 N. Spring St., Los Angeles; Highland Park Brewery: 1220 N. Spring St., Los Angeles; An Eastside Establishment's upcoming wine bar: 1137 Alameda St., Los Angeles.