It's fitting that Ham & Eggs Tavern, a new rock 'n' roll dive in downtown L.A., is practically next door to the Golden Gopher, Cedd Moses' first foray into manly historic core gentrification a decade ago. Ham & Eggs harks back to how the downtown bar scene was just before it transformed into L.A.'s new party Babylon: underlighted, weirdly decorated and just cheap enough to get sauced on a $20.
Now that King Eddy has been revamped, Ham & Eggs is something unprecedented in this glittery new downtown night-life landscape — a brand new tiny punk joint you can lose a weekend in.
Where: In a former Chinese American ham and eggs hash house (with all the original window signage), the place can hide in plain sight from the marauding hordes on Spring Street. Heck, you can probably get dinner at Colori Kitchen next door and have no idea Ham & Eggs Tavern is even there. Downtown denizens pride themselves on knowing the last patches of untilled noir in the neighborhood, and Ham & Eggs is a fine addition to that skulky catalog. "There's nothing going on in America like what's happening in downtown L.A. night life," said owner David DeLuca, who moved here from the Bay Area after a long stint in winemaking and opened Ham & Eggs in January. "But I wanted people to stumble in and find this place on their own, even if they've walked by this block for 10 years and never noticed the sign."
Inside: Two rooms — one for sitting, one for music. The former is painted the same sea-foamy mint of a '50s refrigerator, with just enough candlelight to accurately check out your seatmates, who will probably be jaded locals who reverently recall the storied punk club Jabberjaw Cafe despite being in middle school when it closed. If you didn't grab a spot at the bar, you're out of luck — there's barely enough room to squeeze past it into the adjacent performance space, which looks like the Smell if it got knocked up by an Austin, Texas, honky-tonk. Every inch is covered in artfully random vintage signage, and the tiny stage barely gives bands a 6-inch lift over the crowd.
Why: Because the teenagers at the Smell make you feel like a withered husk of a former hipster, the new Spaceland Productions renovation of the Regent Theatre hasn't opened, L.A. Live is, well, L.A. Live, and yet you want to see some live music without crossing the 110. DeLuca is learning the ropes of booking acts in the under-100-capacity room, but he's already procured Hungry Beat, the girl-group dance party from KCRW's Marion Hodges, and a nice coterie of post-punk and shoegaze acts like San Francisco's Permanent Collection.
Your drink: Just beer and wine, and you can roll high or low. Almost all the beer comes in cans, but at $3-$5 apiece they're practically sold wholesale. You'd never guess this from the venue's scruffy exterior, but DeLuca parlayed his winemaking background into a small but tasty house-made draft beer and wine list, and he's just as happy to gab about recent Pinot vintages as the deeper corners of the Factory Records catalog. So maybe Ham & Eggs isn't entirely ungentrified, but that's how downtown is right now — even the punks have refined palettes.
Ham & Eggs Tavern, 433 W. 8th St., L.A. Open 6 p.m.-2 a.m. nightly. http://www.hamandeggstavern.com.