The speakeasy concept has been so done, but Pretty Dirty, the intimate new hangout behind Eagle Rock’s 5 Line Tavern, has actually brought something new to the experience, and it feels like it’s just getting started. This is a sleek, and as the name suggests, sexy space — clean and modern, but sort of retro at the same time — with mirrors everywhere, lemon-hued interiors and light that casts a golden glow on each exquisitely crafted drink.
The crafting part comes courtesy of Erik Lund, who’s made a name for himself around town creating bar menus at Mess Hall and République. The menu is extremely focused and the small space allows guests to be too. There are only 14 seats in the establishment (which formerly housed Room 31), and a limited but highly inventive cocktail tasting menu features about 6 options, plus some select wines, beers and snacks.
Each cocktail here is created to be special. They are twists on classics, some bold and boozy, and some light and tart; if you open yourself up to new kinds of spirits you might not have ever tried, you won’t be disappointed. Pretty Dirty is a place to savor the flavors offered; they recommend a two-hour minimum visit for good reason.
“The idea behind the Pretty Dirty menu and the direction we’ve taken the bar is stemmed from ‘how can we make this the most delicious drink possible’,” says Lund. “This all comes back to our blends, and utilizing different high-quality spirits, liqueurs, amari and bitters in a way that we haven’t seen before, to add complexity and texture to drinks that will surprise our guests, but still keep them in familiar territory.”
On a recent visit we noted three “Citrate” options, which the menu explained, references “a salt or ester of citric acid.” From these, we tried “Where The Grickle-Grass Grows” (douglas fir, french alps, “marachareau”— $14) which made for a sweet and pungent starter, and followed it up with “Sergio & Ennio Make A Picture” (tequila, di amaro, strawberries, sunflower, pumpkin seed, and egg white — $15), a refreshing choice that never lost its zest as our main cocktail of the evening.
Our date enjoyed a libation from the “Redolent” side of the menu, referencing, as printed, “aroma causing a feeling of nostalgia.” An imposing alternative to an old fashioned, the “Historic Compromise: The Ballad Of Toni Negri” (gin, italian herb wine and bitters, pamplemousse, lemon and its oils — $16) made for a serious nightcap that didn’t attempt to hide its alcohol content. After this one we definitely needed a snack to soak up the spirits. Dirty’s Bread & Butter (rye sourdough with salted cream & basil oil — $6) hit the spot perfectly.
The sound system deserves note — a grooving blend of soul and funk from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that complemented the tipsy but chill vibe just right. The space has a lot of clean, minimalist lines, giving it an ‘80s flair, but it’s also warm and relaxed thanks to the lighting, which is dim but not dark.
“We envisioned the space to have aspects of our initial thoughts of L.A. nightlife,” says Devin Carlson and Nathan Warkentin of Suplex, the team behind the design. “It was about creating a space that resembled our hope of finding low lit back door bars that would house a perfectly curated guest-list. A place that mixes seedy with privileged and intimate. We realized our ambition through the use of neon, stucco, mirror, velvet and polished stone to exaggerate this feeling.”
The room has an exclusive, escapist feel (especially when there’s a sporting event and the loud crowds that come with them at the tavern up front) but it’s also welcoming. The drinks aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. They won’t turn walk-ins away, but reservations are recommended (through Tock) to get a seat. Do it and prepare sit and sip pretty inside what’s sure to become an Eagle Rock hotspot.
Pretty Dirty is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; 2136 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock.
Make reservations at exploretock.com/prettydirty.