I grew up in LA in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when the night life scene, at least on the Eastside, consisted of Sunset and Santa Monica Blvd:
In those days, it was Skybar, Fly Bar, House of Blues, Saddle Ranch, The Argyle (now Sunset Tower), The Troubadour, The Roxy, The Whiskey, and The Abbey.
But you never went East of La Brea, at least for those who were into the bar scene. Sure, Hollywood had a revolving door of hot one minute, gone-the-next nightclubs (if you’re into that sort of thing).
But something happened in the last 10 years.
All of a sudden hipsters weren’t just in Brooklyn, they moved west, and they made LA’s East Side cool.
All of a sudden Los Feliz became the hot place to live and live it up. And with that came craft cocktails, a resurgence of hole-in-the-wall bars, and “Man Buns”.
Enter the Houston Brothers.
The Houston brothers are fraternal twins Jonnie and Mark, and they have developed an empire of Eastside concept-driven speakeasies, each completely curated and different from the next or any bar you’ve ever been to, for that matter.
They were able to weave together the charm of a hole-in-the-wall bar vibe (on a bigger scale), with the liveliness of nightclubs. They create fantastical experiences, consisting of outlandish concepts like burlesque dancers hanging from the bars, tight-rope walkers, fire eaters, and retro skate shows. They’ve got everything from kitschy details, secret entrances, and delicious cocktails to great live music.
Their bars are great for locals and visitors alike. Whenever I have a friend visiting LA, I make sure to take them to a Houston Brother’s joint. It’s always a hit!
My personal favorites are La Descarga and Davey Wayne’s, but decide for your self. Here’s my run down of all things Houston Brothers.
Harvard & Stone
5221 Hollywood Blvd.
Harvard and Stone was my first introduction to The Houston Brothers world, a couple years ago. I was living in Santa Monica at the time and my friends, who lived just a few blocks from H & S, had finally convinced me to make the long trek to Los Feliz (#LAProblems) with the promise it would be well worth it. They delivered, or rather Harvard and Stone delivered.
From the moment I walked in I realized I’d been going to the wrong bars for the past decade. It has a very gritty dark vibe, two bars, a smoking patio, live music, and the cocktails are on another level. They have a burlesque show twice every night that consists of babes in lingerie dancing from the rafters and on the bar. You can usually catch the first show around 10:30.
1159 North Western Ave.
After being bit by The Houston Brothers bug, I decided I wanted to check out La Descarga. It was brand new at the time, really exclusive, and I’d heard great things about it. It’s a Cuban themed Speak Easy that makes you feel transported to the dark & haunted alleys of Cuba.
It looks like a non-descript store front, with a single door guy out front. It’s always easier to get in with a reservation, which you can do easily on their website. Once past the door guy, you walk up a long set of stairs, and enter what looks like a grungy old motel room, where a scantily clad woman gives you a cheeky little one minute spiel and then pulls back clothes in a dresser and you walk through it only to reveal a spiral staircase looking over the bar.
The list of Rum cocktails are impressive and it also has a second room, down a brick alleyway, where you can order and smoke cigars, sit back, smoke and drink without judgment. Now as a smoker (I know, I know), this was a huge selling point to me. The only thing I miss about the 90’s bar scene is that you could smoke inside, instead of being shunned to the curb outside the bar. They also have a burlesque-ish show several times over the coarse of the night. It’s fabulous!
1727 North Hudson Ave.
No Vacancy, you mid 2000’s club kids may remember as “Jane’s House”. It’s a converted old Victorian House in the center of Hollywood. Now having been born and raised in the Hollywood Hills, and already having done the Cahuenga/Hollywood club scene for a minute in my early twenties, I was hesitant to try this bar out, but this bar is truly fantastical.
With a 1920’s vibe you feel as if you’ve stepped into one of Jay Gatsby’s parties from The Great Gatsby. The door guys are dressed in Zoot Suits. You, again, in true Houston Brothers form, enter the house to find a hallway with three doors. Which one could it be?
Once you open the right one it leads you into a room with a 1920’s themed chick in lingerie, followed by the bed she perches on splitting and opening to reveal a set of stairs. You walk into an old Victorian house with a bar to the left and a huge backyard, with a lavish stone fireplace, another bar and banquets, strung with café lights over head, and a tight rope strung across the yard to which you ask yourself (if you know anything about the Houston Brothers) “I wonder what’s in store for us”.
What’s in store for you is a great live band, fire breathing burlesque dancers, a tight rope show above the crowd, and a night to remember.
5574 Melrose Ave.
Pour Vous has a great old Parisian salon vibe boasting an indoor fireplace, and little nook seating areas. It of course has burlesque dancers, which no Houston Brother’s joint would be complete without, and true to Houston brother’s form- a surprise wow factor, which in Pour Vous’ case is a covered old Trolley Car for the smoking patio.
Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
1611 North El Centro Ave.
I love everything about the 70’s. So when I heard about the new Houston Brother’s bar, Davey Wayne’s (for short), I gathered my clique and showed up opening day for Happy Hour. I was told it’s like you’re entering a house party from That 70’s show or Dazed & Confused. Again…you had me at 70’s!
The legend is that the bar is reminiscent of the Houston Bro’s house growing up. You walk up to what looks like an old timey garage sale and yes all the pieces in the garage are thoughtfully curated vintage pieces and actually for sale! You then open the door of an old kitschy 70’s refrigerator and enter 1970’s Mecca, with a quintessentially designed 70’s themed living room, down to every piece.
There is a bar inside of the “house”, or you can venture out to the back yard, which feels like friends just hanging out at a summer backyard party, boasting hanging 70’s chairs, AstroTurf, and an old camper that serves as a second bar. They also have grills set up where you can order some incredible eats from the small 4-piece menu.
The beer is served in mugs that say “#1 Dad” and for that good old Houston Brothers “wow factor” they serve boozy snow cones. But what really impressed me is the 1970’s disco themed roller rink style skaters that put on a show on plexi-glass mounted over the camper. This is a must visit and just a Good Old Time at Davey Wayne’s!
Break Room 86
630 South Ardmore Ave.
With Davey Wayne’s being such a hit for the 1980’s born generation who frequent their bars and who appreciate but just missed the 70’s train, of course the Houston Brother’s decided their next move should be a bar honoring our birth decade. Welcome to the 1980’s… Break Room 86. There is a wow factor entrance as always (which I won’t ruin as this is the newest of their bars, and the cat hasn’t quite been let out of the bag yet). Once in you feel transported to a New York 80’s dance club, disco balls and all. It offers a playful 80’s themed cocktail menu, leather couches and booths, 1980’s games like Pac Man. In the back are four private karaoke rooms available to rent.
Butchers & Barbers
6531 Hollywood Blvd
And finally having mastered the bar scene The Houston Brothers have taken the much-awaited leap into restaurants: Butchers and Barbers is a classic American bistro, “Quality comfort fare that is polished yet unfussy”. Executive Chef Luke Reyes has created a menu that is seasonal as well as a charcuterie program and cures his meats in-house. The cocktails are crafted to complement the menu. “It’s a social dining experience on par with the Houston Brothers trendsetting hospitality establishments”.