Ever heard of Tapas and Wine Bar C? Its (odd) name has been whispered for years among local urban adventurers, and its devotees are cult-like.
Located in a strip mall on the border between Little Tokyo and the Arts District, it has a giant grinning Santa Claus in the entryway, furry walls, and waitresses dressed as French Maids. (They will whip you with a belt if you ask nicely.)
But the craziest part is their signature drink, the Galvatron. It's less a "cocktail" than "five or six shots of pure liquor" including 151, bourbon, and tequila. No mixers. Drink it and you might black out instantly. For proof, just watch the video they show you before they serve it:
That's not to say that everyone stops at one. We can tell you from experience that after two Galvatrons you enter a relaxed, tranquil state not unlike what it must feel like to come to terms with the fact that you've fallen off a skyscraper and are going to die.
Tapas and Wine Bar C's weirdness starts with the name. For one thing, it's not mainly known for wine, nor does it serve tapas. It once did, apparently, but that was a while back, and they haven't gotten around to changing the sign.
The bar's owner Toshi Tani is a dapper guy in his early-30s. He doesn't seem like a party monster; on the night we met he wore a suit, and bowed upon introduction. (My girlfriend calls him "fucking hot.")
He says the drink, named for the Transformer, was born when a group of locals who frequented bar shortly after it opened in 2008 persuaded the bartenders to experiment with concoctions until they found something so hard to drink (and keep down) that it would serve as a rite of passage.
"People pass out a lot," says Coco, Tani's assistant. "They don't know how strong it is."
"Many times people drink it and run to the bathroom quickly, and try to bust down the door if it is occupied," Toshi says. "We've had to buy new locks. Other people go outside and lie on the street."
"We had to reupholster the furniture once," he continues. "Someone threw up all over the cloth and it wouldn't come out. Very expensive. One time a Chinese girl took one and said, 'Oh that's not so bad,' and so she took another. She stood up and we thought she left. We found her in the bathroom at 2:30."
Its destructive force has lead to strict policies. There is now a two Galvatron maximum. Oh, and for God's sake don't drive home. "This is a neighborhood bar, it is meant for walking," says Tani. "You should not drive here."
In truth, the spot was designed to be classy. It's got an amazing sake selection, and holds tastings on the second Wednesday of the month.
Then again, the boxomy outfits of the waitresses don't exactly jibe with the pretensions when it comes to liquor curation. When they aren't dressed as French maids they wear geisha costumes.
"We want to try to integrate Japanese culture with American culture," says Coco. "Also, all the waitresses are all into cosplay. They come from all around just to work here because they love the outfits. [One] drives from two hours away every day."
Oh, but she and everyone else who work there knows better than to drink the Galvatron. Because if they do that they won't be driving home.
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