At long last, Lou has landed, and in a very sweet spot.
Ever since Lou Amdur closed his much-loved eponymous wine bar last year, his fans have been wondering about where he would surface next. From time to time, he’s thrown out hints, but now it’s for sure -- Lou’s Wine and Provisions will be opening in the same building as Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl cafe in Silver Lake.
The store will stock bread, cheese, charcuterie, all sorts of exotic canned fish and meat, and a wide range of pickles and preserves -- many of them prepared next door in the Sqirl kitchen.
“I’m fashioning it after a small epicerie you might find in any large town in France,” Amdur says, adding, “We’ll stock most but perhaps not all of the fixings to make a dinner, but certainly an array of condiments. [UPDATED: An earlier version of this story quoted Amdur as saying patisserie rather than epicerie.]
“We’ll have wine, of course, but for this business it will all be very democratically priced wine,” Amdur says. “Nothing more than $25, mostly $12 to $20.”
Construction on the project should start next week. Since it will also involve remodeling Sqirl, the restaurant will close down for a couple of weeks in August. The new store and the restaurant will be back open by Aug. 16.
The main question is why we didn’t see this coming a long time ago. Amdur and Koslow are long-time friends.
“Basically Lou has been a mentor to me for years,” Koslow says. “He’s someone I consider as a confidant. Even when I was first thinking about taking this place, I made him come look at it. He’s family. We get each other. We believe in each other.”
So when the 1,700-square-foot space next door to tiny Sqirl, the former La Raza Market, came open, she called him immediately.
The two businesses are conjoined -- in fact, they were once one business, and, Koslow says, her kitchen now is basically just a converted hallway between the two spaces. Lou’s includes a much larger cooking facility, which she’ll be able to use to expand her product line -- much of which will be sold at Lou’s.
“We’re just sort of co-habitating,” she jokes. “He’s going to be my next-door neighbor. It’s going to be an I can ask him for a glass of wine, he can ask me for a cup of sugar kind of thing.”
But there’s a lot more to it than that.
“Because of the extra space, there’s so much more that we are going to be able to do,” Koslow says. “For example, we got a full pig in last week, broke it down and turned it into ham and different charcuterie things. That’s something we couldn’t do regularly now, but the space will allow us to do that. There’s a lot more charcuterie items we can sell on his side and a lot more stuff we can make for our side, too.”
As for Amdur, he says this is just the first phase in a three-stage change in his professional life. “I’ve spent the last year since I sold the wine bar carefully plotting the next 10 to 15 years of my life,” he says. “I really want to move forward with wine, but I was feeling very constrained with what I could do with it in the wine bar setting.”
Next up will be opening a full-bore wine shop. Rather than the limited selection of value-priced wines he’ll be offering at Lou’s Wine and Provisions, this will offer him the opportunity to sell more exotic and expensive bottles (“that’s where I’ll have my ‘bougier’ [more bourgeois] wines,” he says.)
He’s also looking into a project making vermouth based on “very specific California botanicals,” he says. “I’ve got four sets of artemisia growing, including one that’s very close to wormwood. And I’ve got California artemisia. It turns out that while some of these are bitter, they’re also delicious. I don’t think anybody’s worked in that venue yet, and I think it will be a noble attempt.”
Sqirl, 720 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 394-6526.