The Place: Good Luck Bar, 1514 Hillhurst Ave. (90027)
The Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat.-Sun. 8 p.m.-2 a.m.
The Digs: “Do you want a Shirley Temple?” our father once said as we walked past the bar area of our favorite Chinese restaurant. We were on the way to our table, but he'd seen us ogling the bar on prior visits. Age-wise, we were still in single digits, but we were already regulars. The restaurant had a Bible-sized menu, plastic covering the red dragon-emblazoned seats and a piano player running through show-tunes in one corner. The restaurant was bright, but the bar, hemmed off to the side, was all shadows and glowing candles. Although we didn't necessarily want a Shirley Temple, the bar called out to us. It was empty most evenings. When it wasn't, a customer would sit alone, an incandescent fruit-studded bauble of glass tipped against his lips, his eyes trained on a game on the television. We didn't know much about alcohol then, but we liked colored liquid, tiny plastic swords and maraschino cherries. Before long, we'd cobbled together a fantasy: football paired with a huge tropical drink we'd have to devour slurp by slurp. Get rid of the television, add a few splashes of self-consciousness (and rum), and you have Good Luck, the Los Feliz bar swaddled in 50-year-old Chinese restaurant cliches.
While there are no plastic-covered chairs or vague cookie fortunes, the Good Luck Bar's interior is dark and red, the drinks have names like “The Scholar” and they come in coconut shells and faux-wooden cups. The walls are covered in characters. All that's missing are fried wontons and waiters with pink cumberbunds. Contrary to the theme, Pavement rattles the jukebox speakers. The bartenders are attentive and helpful. It's a nice place to be cool, dark and quiet on a Sunday night.
Verdict: The Scholar ($10) is pretty much a Mojito, albeit a strong, tasty one. A drink that comes in a ceramic coblet shaped like a man's face is always going to hit the spot, but why are the “Asian” atmospherics so appealing to customers? Half the positive Yelp comments about Good Luck come from folks taken by the theme. It's soooo “sleazy,” and exotic, like a “bordello” — an alluring backdrop for pedestrian late-night bar games. For those whose cultural sensitivity remains stranded in a James Bond movie, it brings to mind opium dens and backroom mahjong.
When we lived in San Francisco, we liked Chinatown bars because it was nice heading in to drink as the sun went down and tourists were heading out to eat and sleep. Bars like Good Luck don't really tap into the stereotypes, the kind of dangerous, enticing, unfixable Chinatown's Jake Gittes was supposed to forget about. Instead, they joke about the stereotypes that once surrounded actual shadowy spots. If you're into that sort of thing, then pull up a stool and have a drink. We recommend the “All Wong.”
Overall Grade: C