View more photos in the "Nightranger: Drinko de Mayo" slideshow.
GIVE ’EM SOMETHING TO TACO ’BOUT
Trendy cocktails are one thing, but every now and again, certain edibles attain a similarly en vogue status among voracious night hoppers. A few years ago it was all about the cupcake, and it seemed like ya couldn’t go to a Hollywood club without some blonde Barbie type celebrating her birthday by passing around boxes of red-velvet goodies from Sprinkles. Before that, sliders were all the rage. Of course, the bacon-wrapped hot dog is a sidewalk-drunkard staple at this point, but an even more old-school fave has suddenly kicked ’em all to the curb. Viva los tacos, trenditos! Yes, L.A. after dark is a veritable taco tornado these days. Party and club fliers tout “taco truck” like they’re “free drinks,” and we’ve noticed a whole lotta asada goin’ on both inside and outside our fave dives lately. Pre- and post-clubbin’ hot wheels include the Taco Zone truck in the Vons lot on Glendale Blvd., Tacos Arizas, which rolls around East Hollywood, and the Korean-BBQ flaired KogiTaco truck, usually posted outside 4100 Bar. Gotta mention Echo Park stalwart The Gold Room too, where a mix of Cuervo-shooting curmudgeons and spiky-haired 20-somethings go in for paper plates heaped with unlimited free — yes, free — ones. Just keep washing ’em down with cerveza and you’re good to go. Gold Room on Saturdays, by the way, has a DJ who’s out to please: reggaeton one minute and Beastie Boys the next. Muy bueno. .
Tacorama aside, Nightranger was feelin’ her Mexican roots last week. Of course, everyone’s an honorary Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, and the drinkiest night of the year calls for making the Mexi restaurant/bar rounds. El Chavo, where we started our eve, made full use of its beauteous new patio, with live music from Los Pochos and a Tecate bar. If you haven’t been in a while, El Chavo definitely deserves a revisit. New owner Melanie Tusquellas (Edendale Grill) has pulled off something not so easy to do: retaining the kitschy/colorfully authentic ambiance (the DayGlo sombreros and Dolly Parton pics remain) while cleaning it up a bit (wobbly, torn seats: gone). The food is still hot, heavy and heavenly, and the drinks pack the punch we remember (at the same prices). Tusquellas also joined forces with Dave Neupert (co-owner of The Short Stop, La Cita and Footsies), opening the cozy El Chavito bar next door last year and the brand new upstairs inn, El Tres. Nightranger got an exclusive tour when our pal Heidi Richman co-hosted a tasting event there, announcing wine king Karl Wente’s “Discover the Wine, Discover the Music” program and festival — which pairs music from the likes of Miles Davis, Allison Moorer, Hello Stranger and The Duke Spirit with similarly rich and robust vino). Wente will be a sponsor at Chavolot, the forthcoming outdoor concert series to be held in El Chavo’s spacious back parking lot. Tusquellas tells us her BFF Liz Garo (The Echo) will be consulting on the acts, so you know it’s gonna rock. If that weren’t enough excitement, Neupert and Tusquellas also have something else cooking for summer. Wait for it ... a taco stand! Chavo Taco will get in the tortilla-’n’-meat fold with a separate outdoor food shack for the more casual lunch crowd on the patio.
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We didn’t want to leave the gringo-groovin’ on the patio that Tuesday, but there was more on our drinko roll, including a Salsa stomp down Sunset to Cobras & Matadors, where DJ Pube$ (Dance Right)and C-Town (Mad Mondays) were on the decks. While we think the tapas here is tops, C&M lacked the loco vibe one seeks on May 5, and even with the cool sounds we were in and out pretty quickly. Though we dreaded driving in te-kill-ya traffic, it was surprisingly light and ultimately worth the Cahuenga car crawl. For the past five years, Velvet Margarita has thrown the wildest Cinco de Mayo mash in town. It being 5/5 and their fifth-b-day bash, Velvet owners Big Daddy Carlos and wifey Ava Burman Adley pulled out all the stops: Mariachis, a high-stakes celebrity poker tournament for charity, free food and drink, and a guest list that included Jamie Foxx, Dean Cain, Verne Troyer, some Dancing With the Stars cast, Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and wife Brody Dalle (Spinnerette), comic Jeffrey Ross, nightclub impresario John Lyons and pal/partner (in House of Blues, Avalon, Bardot) Dan Aykroyd (love his new vodka line — bottled in glass skulls — called Crystal Head, which was a party sponsor), and Vegas kingpin Terry Caudill (Binion’s), who’s joining forces with Carlos for a second Velvet Margarita in his casino. Big Daddy tells us that by 2010, there’s tons more Cahuenga-fication coming to Sin City’s old Strip, and proprietors like BeautyBar’s Paul Devitt, Broadway Bar/Golden Gopher/Seven Grand’s Cedd Moses, Homme and others will be involved. Here in L.A., those who missed the Mayo mayhem should pop by Cahuenga in June, when the eatery’s summer DJ series, “Rock ’n’ Soul,” returns with appearances from the spinners at last week’s party: Ricky Vodka, C-Minus, DJ Lethal (House of Pain) and mucho mas.