L.A. hostess bars are often wrapped up in unfamiliar rites (sitting uncomfortably in a booth with women who pretend to like you) and unfamiliar languages. What's more, they're expensive: table-service expensive; C-note-tip expensive. What's more, there's little of this exotica to sample between the high-end clubs of Koreatown and Little Tokyo and the gritty, Latino taxi-dancing venues of downtown. One place, however, has opened up this world to the regular folk and made it not so taboo. Nongnuch “Candy” Phimmasone, a Thai businesswoman, opened Cindy Club in 1996 on the border between Koreatown and East Hollywood. It blends the friendliness of mostly Thai servers (and food) with a mixed clientele of Korean businessmen, local Latinos and Silver Lake hipsters. Women and couples hang out there. And prices are unparalleled. A table costs $25 an hour (multiply that by at least four elsewhere) and most drinks (beer, sake, soju and wine) rarely top $10.The recipe has been a winner, and Phimmasone has taken over two adjacent storefronts. Sure, women still sit awkwardly with foreign salesmen who drink sake (no hard alcohol served), but the warm vibe is more like that of a neighborhood bar than a foreign ritual. 4273 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 906-1640.

—Dennis Romero

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