New York is the best bar town in America, hands down. Want proof? Just ask a New Yorker–they’ll tell you. Loudly. What’s interesting, though, is that while the Big Apple’s most renowned bar owners and bartenders are clearly enamored of their scene (and rightfully so), a great many of them have taken a real shine to Los Angeles — from the folks behind the East Village institution Death & Co., who operate The Walker Inn and Honeycut in LA, to the famed NoMad, whose recently opened outpost in downtown LA is drawing rave reviews.
The latest iconic NYC watering hole to broach the City of Angels is Employees Only, which began serving food and slinging drinks in West Hollywood on April 15. Employees Only Los Angeles is being shepherded by the inimitable Dushan Zaric, who co-founded the original location in NYC’s West Village in 2004.
“People think we’re bringing New York into LA. We’re not. This has to be its own thing. It has to honor the market, the locale, the different seasons and the culture that exists here in Los Angeles,” says Zaric.
Cocktails are the primary draw at Employees Only, which positions itself as a speakeasy with a hidden entrance—and with a rotation of three psychics in residence on every evening of service, offering 15-minute spiritual readings for $25 per session for patrons seeking further enlightenment. The bar team, lead by Dee Ann Quinones, boasts a number of industry stars including Damian Windsor (The Roger Room), Josh Goldman (ink.well), and Speed Rack champion Anna Wingfield (Ba’Sik).
The food menu comes courtesy of chef Sascha Lyon, and features classic dishes carried over from the New York location such as the bone marrow poppers, tableside steak tartare, and a roasted black truffle chicken. Diners can also select tableside caviar service.
Located in the space formerly occupied by Baby Blues BBQ, Employees Only LA sports an art deco/modern feel: clean lines, minimalist detailing, and a light tonality. The bar pays homage to its roots with a selection of Employees Only classics ($16), along with a series of distinctive new cocktails including the Distance & Elegance (Buffalo Trace Bourbon shaken with chamomile-peppercorn syrup, St. George Bruto, and lime juice), the Hope Monkey (kaffir lime infused gin mare, shaken with house clarified lime cordial and absinthe bitters), and the Infinity Cocktail (Suntori Toki shaken with Salers Gentiane apéritif, homemade grenadine, Mirto de Saredegna, and fresh lemon juice.) Patrons can also choose to “Spin the Bottle,” and leave their cocktail selection in the capable hands of the bar team.
Employees Only LA boasts a dedicated menu of classic New Orleans cocktails in a private bar called Henry’s Room, an ode to one of the original co-founders, Henry LaFargue. Drinks in the reservation-only space include a Sazerac 1838, a French 75 1930, a Ramos Gin Fizz 1888, and the visually striking Café Brûlot, prepared tableside.