Everybody knows Church and State. It's that loud bistro, decorated year-round with strings of Christmas lights. Walter Manzke used to cook there. The drinks used to be good, too. Is it still there? That part of downtown was pretty cool before the Old Bank district took over.
As it happens, Church and State is still there, on its street of luxury lofts, and it is nearly as hard as ever to get a table on a Friday night, even when the tables spill over onto the sidewalk. There's still a pretty serious cocktail menu, pre-Prohibition-influenced stuff with a modern twist, heavy on the absinthe; the wine list, although spendy for this part of town, is rich in the biodynamic, high-acid French wines that go so well with bistro food.
And if you liked Manzke's cooking, you're going to like Jeremy Berlin's cooking, too — pretty much the same cooking, actually, with the fried pig's ears, roast marrowbones, duck prosciutto and cheesy onion soup that Manzke made so popular, nicely executed, with a killer dish of herring and potatoes instead of the garlicky escargots.
Some of the 3-star restaurant touches may have faded away, and Berlin probably doesn't quite have Manzke's deftness with sous vide, but Church and State is still probably the best bistro east of La Brea.