Cruise by Alcove Café & Bakery on Hillhurst north of Franklin in Los Feliz just about anytime, day or night, and you'll see people sitting on the exceedingly pleasant patio poking at salads, sandwiches, desserts, and other café foods and beverages. Now both passersby and Alcove customers will notice something else on the property as of this week: folks with cocktails in hand.
Big Bar has the luxury of opening for business with an eager built-in customer base and already buzzing vibe. Alcove's practically laptop-free zone — thanks to no wifi or power outlets — also helps set the stage for what's the most pleasant daytime drinking spot this side of The Hungry Cat. Big Bar has its own entrance from the front patio, as well as from inside Alcove. A wide passageway and another smaller doorway separate the two spaces, so the flow and details hit the just the right balance of integrated and discrete. Big Bar feels like a part of Alcove, but it's also its own thing.
The structure that contains Alcove and Big Bar was originally a 1916 residence blessed with terrific natural light, thus helping drinks bar manager Juan Sevilla (The Edison, Soho House) shine all the better. Sevilla describes the room, which most recently before Big Bar housed the Village Gourmet shop, as “a neighborhood bar, not a speakeasy [that] has the same vibe as Alcove: relaxed, laid back, neighborhood-friendly.” It's easy to get that sense during a weekday, when customers are eating lunch on the white marble-topped bar counter among dark stained wood surfaces and formidable stained glass light fixtures, while enjoying the perks of a big drink selection.
As for the design of the bar and work areas, “everything has a purpose,” Sevilla says. (Well, there are still a lot of pretty tsotchkes.) All food and coffee fixings are on the other side of the building, and the 1897 bungalow at the rear of the property that was wine shop for a few years serves as a private event space. Other details will be appreciated, such as under-the-bar bag hooks and that increasingly endangered species of restaurant/bar souvenir, i.e. matchboxes.
In addition to wine and beer (including Green Flash IPA and Lost Coast Downtown Brown on tap), cocktails are heavy on “classics, and twists on classics.” Sevilla has drawn from his experience at the Edison and put a version of the popular Whiskey Bar Punch on the list (Woodford, house grenadine, lemon, Angostura bitters, sparkling wine). Other carefully mixed concoctions include the Los Angeles Cocktail (Buffalo Trace bourbon, sweet vermouth, lemon, egg, nutmeg), Vie Rose (Oxley gin, cherry eau de vie, lemon, grenadine, sparkling wine), an Applejack Old Fashioned, and the seasonally appropriate and intensely smoky New Brunswick (Famous Grouse scotch, maple syrup, lemon, finished off with a mist of peaty scotch essence).
All cocktails are priced at $12, except for during happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, when the bar offers $8 select drinks, $7 well drinks, $5 draft beer, and other specials. Big Bar goods are printed on one face of the menu, while Alcove's full menu is on the flip side. Anything can be ordered anywhere, but Big Bar anticipated a certain type of food need; the menu is divided into Big Little Sliders, Cheese, Dips & Veggies, and perhaps most importantly, the Crispy section. Chances are there'll be an uptick in demand for bacon-wrapped dates with goat cheese, crab cakes, southern artichokes, tempura shrimp, and fries and onion rings.
And because Alcove's preexisting brunch and expanded cocktail agenda make for a natural combination, Sevilla will change the weekend daytime drinks, depending on what's seasonal and inspiring. But as long as circumstances permit, why wait until Saturday to enjoy a fine cocktail, since Big Bar opens at 11 a.m. during the week?
Big Bar: 1927 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz; (323) 644-0100.