Songbird Cafe - Speakeasy
Tuesday - All Night
DTLA is home to the Chinatown of Los Angeles, a common, popular, and eclectic area of any major city, our Chinatown is a little different. LA never had a big wave of Chinese immigrants, instead, there was a surplus of Japanese and Korean settlers. However, thanks to the new changes happening all over, Chinatown will play a big role in the changes coming to Downtown. The bar scene consists of mostly hidden gems, wine bars, dive bars, and the favorite local hole in the walls, but there’s a new bird in town- Songbird Cafe.
Much like the speakeasies in Europe, in order to enter the cocktail bar, you must pass their coffee shop, and yes it truly operates as a coffee shop from 8 pm - 1 pm Monday through Friday. Entering the cocktail bar feels something like Alice In Wonderland going down the rabbit hole and the inside has similar vibes.
The bar has an old school feel, there’s some art on the walls, but the light fixtures deserve your attention. The mood lighting they provide make it feel like an intimate experience for all, but if you want to show off your dance moves, there’s plenty of space past the bar on the left. The ceiling is adorned with falling flowers and framed screens projecting a show to go along with the music. See? Alice In Wonderland!
There’s a space at the end, between the runway and the booths, for live music performances and DJs on the weekends. It’s not a gigantic space but it’s pretty spread out so everyone is comfortable and can be in their own world. We highly suggest grabbing a seat at the bar, because Songbird isn’t just about the atmosphere it’s about the experience of the bar program.
Songbird’s strength comes from the team they recruited prior to opening the bar. Having some experience from their other very popular venue Apartment 503 in Koreatown, they went above and beyond by contracting none other than Jason Fyu to lead the bar and cocktail menu. Jason chose his teammates well and together they have executed a witty drink menu with a happy hour to boot.
While the regular drink menu at Songbird goes on for pages, their Social Hour menu is an ode to the simplistic beauty of classic cocktails done the right way, with the right ingredients, and a little love for the craft. Currently, their Social Hour is only available all night on Tuesdays, but that’ll soon change so make sure you keep up with their social channels for news.
Cocktail drinkers will be pleased to find plenty of spirit options all at $10 each.
Beer drinkers have some solid options from Garage Brewing, PBR, and St. Archer, a boilermaker combo with a salute to the hood, or if you’re “feeling wine-y” Songbird’s got you covered there too.
The bottom of the menu greets those turtle killers who want to ask for straws, we point this out because Mariana is a turtle fanatic and this… This meant the world to her. But okay, on to the drinks!
The HHC Team Sipped On:
Old Fashioned -
McKenna Bourbon, Cane Sugar, & Angostura.
A: Wow, this is delicious in so many ways. The ingredients are layered very well, it’s a little on the sweet side for me but I would say it has now taken the top spot for me since we began this journey.
M: I like that the strength of the whiskey didn’t attack my nose like OF’s usually do. It is sweet, it seems like the female OF.
The Cosmo -
Reyka Vodka, Fresh Lime Juice, Fresh Cranberry Juice,
M: I’d never go for this at a bar, not just because I don’t tend to indulge in vodka, but because of what I fear I’d look like holding a cosmo. But this one has me wondering, are cosmos cool again? They can be if they’re made like this. Three simple ingredients, and a pretty bad ass looking garnish.
A: I’ve been craving a good cosmo for a minute, this hit the nail on the head. A lot of people have shied away from them for years- I think it is time to make cosmos great again.
Tequila Daisy -
Lunazul Tequila Blanco, Fresh Lemon Juice, Housemade Grenadine.
M: Those in the hunt for a margarita will appreciate the Tequila Daisy. I wish I could have it with mezcal, but otherwise this is the least sweet drink of the night. As a good classic margarita should, it’s more lime heavy, so don’t let the color deceive you.
A: I have the biggest appreciation for housemade grenadine, it truly should be a practice among more bars. Not usually a tequila drinker but this margarita isn’t like any I have had, I love the color and the garnish to match gives this simple concoction a little flare.
Classic Daiquiri -
Cane Run White Rum, Fresh Lime Juice, Cane Sugar
M: The ratio between the ingredients couldn’t be more perfectly balanced. I understand the daiquiri as a classic cocktail, but I can appreciate it more when there are more lime juice and sweetness to it. I can more than one of these for sure, which is not usually the case.
A: Through time daiquiris have been subject to ingredients that make it taste stronger than it really is, but the use of real sugar cane here deserves applause. By adding more of the fresher ingredients the rum is balanced out quite nicely.
Garage Mango Hefe & Garage Marshmallow Stout -
M: I might have found the only beer in the world to match my distaste of hops. These two were quite the surprise for me. The Mango Hef is just everything I wanted it to be, from the smell of fresh mangos to the lightness of the taste, this is my favorite beer I have had in the last year, for sure. As for the Marshmallow Stout, it is a little bitter but I like it. Easy enough to drink, tastes like coffee sweetness, it’s not hoppy, it’s not overpowering, it doesn’t leave a coat on my tongue the way other beers do. Holy shit I think I finally found a brew for me.
A: Personally, the Marshmallow one is my favorite, the Mango one is good but it’s too light. The stout has the combination of bitter and sweet that I love. It hits all the right notes: creamy, smooth, and it’s delicious. They are both very calm, nothing crazy, yet also light, and very good.
The Overall Experience
Overall Score: 4.6/5
Happy Hour Score: 4.8/9
The Social Hour at Songbird Cafe is an ode to the classics, except, they’re done right, with fresh ingredients, and attention to detail. In our humble opinion, people have grown somewhat intimidated of classics because of how they vary from bar to bar and in strength, which kind of sucks for new and old drinkers doesn’t it? Well, Songbird is here to change that. They will make you fall in love with the classics either for the first time or all over again. However, it’s truly the hospitality that made the entire visit for us, these bartenders care and it's obvious from the drinks to the conversation.
We recommend going right on Tuesday for the Social Hour, stay a while chatting with the staff, they really know their stuff, discover their regular menu drink while you’re at it or have a laugh reading through the quirky names, you won’t regret it.
We’d like to thank Lisa, Jesse, Jason, and the rest of the Songbird team for granting us the private visit to learn more about Chinatown’s latest gem. Go hang with these folks and come back down to Earth in the most creative way.
Thanks for reading, and as always…