Wednesday 02 May, 2012

Little Cave Becomes La Cuevita For Cinco And Beyond

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Just in time for Cinco De Mayo, the 1933 Group (owners of Bigfoot Lodge, Thirsty Crow, Oldfield’s Liquor Room, etc.) have rechristened The Little Cave as La Cuevita, transforming the ersatz punky dive into a surprisingly authentic-feeling comfortably upscale-ish cantina that wouldn’t be out of place in West Hollywood. That may get a ho-hum response […]




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Just in time for Cinco De Mayo, the 1933 Group (owners of Bigfoot Lodge, Thirsty Crow, Oldfield's Liquor Room, etc.) have rechristened The Little Cave as La Cuevita, transforming the ersatz punky dive into a surprisingly authentic-feeling comfortably upscale-ish cantina that wouldn't be out of place in West Hollywood.

That may get a ho-hum response from many people, but in Highland Park, the Eagle Rock-adjacent neighborhood that's been slowly--and now, quickly--getting hipsterized, it's, how do I put this, kind of a big deal. With several good bars like the Verdugo, the York, Black Boar and Colorado Wine (not really a bar, but go with it) already nearby, it's cool that the area now has another reason to pull in East-averse Angelenos. I'm not necessarily singing the praises of West Hollywood comfort zone bars, or trying to make the barrio safe for skinny guys with beards and cute girls wearing glasses they don't need. I'm just sayin...

la cuevita

I'm hoping they've named that mascot...something like Pilar or Jaime

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La Cuevita when you shoot with a flash

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...and what the lighting actually looks like

It's also a firm leap forward for the 1933 gents. Bare brick walls, reclaimed wood, atmospheric colorful lighting, a comfortable three-sided bar with Aztlan decor, loungey area and two semi-exposed patio areas, make this perhaps the most mature of their venues, with an almost "Dana Hollister-esque" level of design. Beer and spirits (tequila, mezcal, etc) selections are broad but not excessive, and specialty cocktails were concocted by Oldfield's Jared Mort and Thirsty Crow's Cooper Gillespie.

And they're virtually all winners.

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La Cuevita: Del Maguey la crema de mezcal, St. Germain, fresh lime, Fever Tree ginger beer

First I tasted the signature La Cuevita, a smoky-sweet Mule twist in a mason jar style glass that would stand up to the most blistering Summer heat.

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Jalapeno Margarita: Tanteo jalapeno tequila, honey, grapefruit juice, cilantro, fresh lime

Second was the Jalapeno Margarita, tasting of spice and heat and citrus, refreshingly less sweet than the typical marg. Perfect to accompany your asada.

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Piñaleta: Bacardi 8 yr. rum, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, cayenne-pineapple gum syrup, passionfruit juice, llme

Tres: Piñaleta, named for a Mexican candy, was even smokier than the Cuevita, but also sweet, creamy, and salty, surprisingly complex with a nice mouthfeel.

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Mole Manhattan: Old Overholt rye, Carpano Antica, Cointreau, creme de cacao, Miracle Mile chocolate chili bitters and hellfire bitters

Next came a nice shift, the Mole Manhattan, which tasted exactly like it sounds: a spicy chocolately rye drink, served up. Loved that too.

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Mezcalada: Roasted poblano pepper, Clamato, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, corona, fresh lime, house smoked sea salt

And finally, I saved the strongest flavored drink (if you can believe that) for last: the Mezcalada, a Michelada redone handcraft style–turning the simple beer cocktail into an elegant savory brunch apertif.

While I was there, I got a chance to talk with one of the owners, Dimitri or Dimitry (yes, seriously, that's their names) who pointed out that they are keeping low-price options on the menu like Schlitz on tap and several inexpensive tequilas not for hipster irony but so neighborhood locals feel welcome, too. I have a feeling the free tacos will make them feel even more welcome.

Oh, did I mention that? Every Tuesday, La Cuevita's serving $5 margaritas and FREE tacos made in house. Set your calendar alerts now, because I can tell you, they're good tacos, too.

Here's what else I like about 1933 Group:

• They don't play favorites when it comes to neighborhoods, with spots in increasingly diverse locations. I hear the next one is NoHo.
• All of their bars are conceptually distinct (even Bigfoot Lodge vs. Bigfoot West, the latter being like EuroDisney to the original's Disneyland--and with a completely different crowd) and understand that it's about having fun.
• Every bar has smart but approachable beverage programs – and Oldfield's may have one of the city's very best mixology programs (any top 'tenders reading this, please go and tell me I'm wrong).
• All the spots always seem to have cool DJs playing cool music appropriate to the room.

Sounds no-brainer, but doesn't happen often enough.

Okay, done. Felicidades a Cinco De Mayo, amigos.

La Cuevita, 5922 North Figueroa Blvd, Los Angeles

323.255.6871

 


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