Happy Hour: $$
Monday-Friday: 4:00 - 7:00 P.M.
Saturday and Sunday: 5:00 - 7:00 P.M.
Over by the Staples Center may seem like new territory for DTLA locals, but there’s a lot of businesses and establishments that have been here for a long time.
Ever heard of the “O” Hotel? Probably walked by it a few times, their restaurant downstairs, available to locals and hotel guests alike, has been here for a decade. BKLA stands for Bar Kitchen LA and they want you to know despite the construction masking most of their entrance- they’re open for business.
South Park’s quick development will be a thunderstorm of new residents the minute all the construction on Ocean Wide Plaza and the Staples Center finally finishes up.
But that shouldn’t keep you away from some of the best bars in the area, and the proximity to the Staples Center doesn’t mean there are no local hotspots.
When you first walk into BKLA you really don’t know what to think… Is it a sports bar, is it a lounge, or is it a restaurant? Trick question it’s all three. Yes they have TVs at the bar and a loyal crowd attentively watching, they also have a dining table for groups and a couch with a fireplace that screams comfort. We sat by the fire for aesthetic purposes, but we didn’t realize it was so much more.
The first thing we have to mention is- this is the same kitchen that handles all the food orders for the O Hotel, which we know is no easy task, but the entrance is right on the front, next door. Unlike other hotels in the area, where you have to go to the roof or a different part of the hotel altogether, Bar and kitchen make the O seem friendly and welcoming. We thought this was a nice touch for us locals who don’t wander into hotels too often (unless it’s for a staycation.)
The crowd here consists mostly of suits, hotel guests, and Staples Center visitors, which is nice and all but, where are the locals?
Above the fireplace/couch area there’s a chalk drawing of the LA skyline combined with their humble beginnings 10 years ago and excellent customer service, we could tell they are serious about attracting more locals yet why had we never heard of this place before?
If you keep walking towards the back you’ll see an entire restaurant seating area, something we would have never seen if we hadn’t asked to use the restroom, this also has a completely different vibe than the front. Don’t get us wrong it wasn’t bad, ugly, or horrible, it was just different. They took the bar and kitchen part of their name a bit too literally, in our opinion.
The decor is nice enough to feel welcomed the fireplace helps, but once again this lounge area just seems out of place. It could get crowded in the front very easily. Still, the lamps exposed brick and the private dining room to give it a sort of sleek vibe to it. So, we sat over in the couch area and ordered what we came to review! On to the menu!
Bar and kitchen LA has a daily happy hour, which is a very rare thing in Los Angeles, not just DTLA. It includes a little bit of everything from their menu which is a lot. You will find discount cocktails, local beer, and well-picked wine. The food options are ample and anyone with A particular diet will find something for them!‘s for the price of the food mixed in with the average number of drinks for two people, the prices are affordable and rational. They are for the happy hour throughout the entire bar and restaurant area there’s no specific seating for happy hour, which we like the staff was absolutely the number one reason we’d be back.
According to executive chef and the bar manager, the cocktail list was done by somebody who hasn’t been around for two years. They have some of their own creation and classics like an old-fashioned, Negron he, and a margarita. The ones of their own creation seem to be vodka centered, there are a few options if you like other types of spirits, however, when it gets to the wines the list and choices get a little more extensive which is good for the drinks, not for the food. The food has a selection from their regular dinner menu that has everything from tacos to hummus and BBQ. In our opinion, this also needs some redefining. That being said, once again, there is definitely something for everyone.
For this review, we brought along our friend Lisa, here’s everything we had and what we thought.
The HHC Team Sipped on:
L: I like this because it’s not too tart it’s not too sweet and I love fresh berries. I asked for it sans simple syrup so those trying to cut back on sugar don’t worry this minuscule change did not affect the quality of the drink at all! I love the blueberries at the bottom.
M: I did not go for this drink, this was all Lisa, given my light sensitivity to vodka. This drink masks the vodka well, which I like, it tastes like spiked pink lemonade! The muddled blueberries at the bottom give it texture and complexity, the fact that it’s a highball glass means you can sip on it for a little while. That being said it reminds me too much of the punch with vodka that I used to drink at high school parties.
M: I ordered the tequila drink because I love agave spirits, the first sip surprised me- the ingredients call for soda water but I don’t feel/see bubbles. On my second sip, the drink tasted a lot more bitter like it had gin instead of tequila, looking back at the ingredients I saw Benedictine ah it all make sense… but it doesn’t why the mix? Maybe I’m new to it? I couldn’t finish it...
L: I can taste the honey and I think I get what they were going for… sweet but herbal but bitter. It’s just not the right ingredients.
M: This is perfectly balanced. A cocktail that proves that the man making the cocktails, knows what he is doing and any shortcomings is simply a matter of the recipes he was given.
M: Very glad to see a wide selection of wines from different regions in Europe and California. I got the rose which was light and perfect, the right drink to end with.
L: Being a big fan of Prosecco this was my favorite drink as well. It was light, crispy, and fresh. Whoever made this list knows their stuff!
The HHC Team Shared:
Parmesan Tater Tots:
M: To be honest I’ve just always liked tater tots but I know that they’re not the best for you… Plus, it doesn’t match the quality of the other food offered. This same dish could be done with thick fries and it’d be better. The aioli is good though, so props for that.
L: I liked them fine but too many may leave me feeling way too full.
M: Not deep fried, not crunch, its a nice layer the cauliflower is pretty well intact. The batter adds all the right flavors. Cilantro is always a plus with me. Very lightly seared cauliflower. A good healthy dish. It says Spicy Harissa sauce, but I detect zero spice.
L: I think the yogurt keeps it from being too dry. I don’t taste any of the mints.
Pork Belly Tacos:
M: Korean chili sauce is only mildly spicy. I am a big fan of the grilled pineapple salsa. I like fruit salsas so this is a good mix. Plus the pork is very flavorful amidst of all of this. The texture of the meat is great, cooked right, the tortillas were cooked perfectly taco didn't fall apart, you get 3 for 5 bucks it's a steal.
Short Rib Taquitos:
M: Best dish of the night, super savory, the flavors are all there, they mix well. I am a huge fan of guacamole and cotija cheese and the short rib tastes amazing.
L: The taquitos were also my favorite, I have to say these are really filling, I absolutely agree I think it’s the best dish.
M: A good healthy snack for those at the bar not looking to indulge in heavy fried foods.
L: Good but nothing special… My favorite was the eggplant dip.
Smoked Salmon Dip:
M: Sliced bagel chips are amazing what a great idea. The dip is nice, glad I could remove the pickles.
L: Simple yet creative.
The Overall Experience:
BKLA has something to grasp on to, it’s solely about making one decision and doing it the right way. They clearly have the passion for it, as their customer service was noticeable not just with us but with the rest of the people in the establishment as we reviewed.
According to the chef Vahan, who’s been here since the beginning 10 years ago, they have gone through some different concepts before but the food has remained. Granted servicing a hotel is no easy task but if they want to attract more locals it’s crucial they decide on who they want to be and what their food and drinks should represent. It could very well be a sports lounge with a focus on beer and fatty centered foods, or it could be a sleek cocktail lounge with small bites offered in the front and dinner in the back, it’s just too much of too many different things all crammed into one.
BKLA does offer something no other hotel bar/restaurant has and that’s complete access for locals. Usually, to access a hotel’s bar or restaurant you must step inside the establishment, head to the roof or whatever- BKLA’s independent entrance lets us know they’re not trying to just be a part of the O Hotel, it’s an equal partnership that they well earned. It’s all just a matter of coming together and putting those creative minds to work.
The bartender, Fernando, has a personality that will draw you in and make you laugh until no end- the cocktails can/should do the same. The staff is friendly, warm, comforting, and welcoming, the food should also match that. There doesn’t have to be “something for everyone to enjoy”, it can be more or less “something anyone could enjoy,” with varietals and specials, of course.
Overall Score: 4/5
Happy Hour Score: 3.5/5
We’d like to thank Vahan and his team for taking great care of us during our visit. It was a pleasure meeting all the staff and interviewing them for this review.
We hope our advice helps and that, at the very least, it spikes some curiosity in you our readers, to go check them out.
Thanks for reading and as always….