Hollywood and Vine has long been one of the most famous intersections in the world, but until the last few years visitors to the area were greeted by a few bodegas, Avalon nightclub, a burrito stand and the Pantages Theatre. Sure, there was a lingering sense of history from its heyday in the '30s, and the Capitol Records building is awe-inspiring, but after throwing back a few sorrowful martinis at the Frolic Room it was time to move west — to where the real action was.
This week, the opening of a new bar, restaurant and nightclub called Lexington Social House crowns several years of rapid growth along the axis once frequently name-checked by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and now emerging as a lively alternative to the tourist-heavy bustle at Hollywood and Highland.
In late 2007 SBE's sushi restaurant Katsuya cut a lonely figure on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. But today, thanks to the W Hotel (which houses the massive Drai's nightclub, Delphine restaurant and the Living Room bar), as well as SBE's Redbury Hotel with its restaurant Cleo, and the continuing success of Avalon and its newer elite lounge, Bardot, the intersection is hopping. Add another recently opened restaurant and bar called Café Entourage and visitors have multiple reasons to traffic the area for an entire evening.
The new game in town, Lexington Social House, opened by the brother-and-sister team of Jeremy and Junella Chin, wants to keep its customer base all night long, without losing it to other clubs and restaurants. The idea behind Lexington is that the restaurant naturally becomes the nightlife as the evening progresses. Lexington has three spaces that were built to feel seamlessly woven together — a dining room; a garden patio with bar; and an upstairs nightclub, bar and lounge. So rather than having dinner and filtering off to another club to get your dance and drink on, you just migrate to the other areas inside Lexington.
"We're coming from New York, where diners eat out really late," says Junella, who moved to L.A. with her medical practice a few years back. Jeremy is a real estate developer whose move to the Left Coast was more recent. "And we're seeing that diners in L.A. are really catching on to that concept. So you have these late-night diners and they don't want to leave and the energy gets turned up and it becomes a nightlife scene."
It's a great idea in a city where taking cabs to multiple venues can get pricey and annoying. The Chins also noticed a lack of fine dining in Hollywood and the fact that nightclubs regularly reinvent themselves to stay hip, a business model they wanted to avoid if possible. So in a metropolis they saw as increasingly foodie-centric, they figured why not base the entertainment around the food and bank on the satiated lingering that follows a good meal?
To that end they hired chef Mette Williams, who worked as a sous chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago, as well as at that other Puck bastion of tasty deliverance, Cut. She calls her menu "modern, rustic American" and, as is the style today, she places a premium on sustainable, organic produce and hormone-free meat.
Rich steak tartar; buttery diver scallops with preserved lemon and golden raisins; crispy fried chicken with mustard sauce and braised kale; and roasted pork rack with a pleasingly sweet apple compote round out a menu that is best started — and finished — with one of the strong house cocktails. Try a dangerously refreshing Femme Fatale made with gin, rose confit, lemon juice and prosecco; a rakish Villain (rye whiskey, snap liqueur, molasses syrup); or a spicy Oaxacan Phoenix (bourbon, mescal, chile-infused simple syrup, piquillo peppers, lemon and lime juice and a Spanish chorizo sausage garnish).
The décor at Lexington Social House straddles a fine line between formal and playful with plush, straight-backed gray chairs and a recurring stick-figure wall motif. The garden patio is the crown jewel of the 10,000-square-foot space. With a fireplace, breezy white bar, shade trees, comfortable banks of sofas and views of the competition — including the Redbury, the W and the iconic Capitol building — the space feels at once private and very public.
Saturday will kick off the nightclub portion of Lexington with a dance party featuring DJs Graham Funke and Stonerokk.
"We're trying to roll the nightclub out slowly," Jeremy says. "L.A. is a very sensitive market. We want to start off with one night to see how it is welcomed, and then move to two, three, maybe four. When L.A. gets more acclimated to the idea, hopefully Angelenos can't live without it."