“I'm just a nervous wreck is all,” says Jared Meisler of opening his newest bar, the Friend, on Silver Lake’s Hyperion Avenue. “It’s light and bright and playful and, more than anything, it’s different from anything that’s out there. Which makes it not as safe for us as a business investment. It’s unknown as to how people will respond to it,” he says of the new drinking spot.
The longtime nightclub owner doesn’t show his nerves as he walks around the freshly painted room, chatting with guests. The Friend is the latest iteration of a space that most recently housed Barbarella and the short-lived barbecue spot Charcoal. Despite the prime location, neither establishment saw long-term success. Yet the property’s seemingly cursed past does not play into Meisler’s anxiety.
“Not to talk bad about anybody but I think the reason the places didn’t work here before is because they just weren’t very good places. I think the location is genius,” says Meisler, whose portfolio of projects include popular West Hollywood haunts Bar Lubitsch, the Pikey and Jones. This time he has teamed up with graffiti artist André Saraiva and Maroon 5 drummer Mickey Madden for his first Eastside(ish) opening.
“It’s a real neighborhood,” Meisler says of Silver Lake. “People who live in this neighborhood are proud to live in the neighborhood.” He hopes to make the Friend a welcome part of it. “This place is going to be busy for a year just by virtue of being new. But I think that the neighborhood will, I hope, embrace us and, I hope, keep that going.”
So far, his plan seems to be working. On a recent weeknight, crowds of well-dressed young people trickled in. Servers, dressed in classic French striped boat shirts, smile as they welcome guests. Saraiva’s pieces hang on some of the walls, adding high-end art-world gravitas to the 1950s diner–meets–1980s pop art interior design.
Like all of Meisler’s previous projects, there is obvious attention to detail at the Friend. A disco ball hangs at the center of the room and a vintage pinball machine resides by the door. The decor is fun and thoughtful yet unpretentious.
Another way Meisler and his team aim to fit into the neighborhood is by keeping prices down on the food and drink menus. Cocktails and wine range from around $10 to $12, while most beers are under $10. There’s no real throughline with the cocktail menu. Meisler points out that the drinks, like the interior, are “playful and friendly.”
“I don’t think there’s anything too intimidating on the drinks menu. But at the same time, it’s not pedestrian,” Meisler says. The Artist, for example, consists of Jack Daniels, cold-pressed ginger apple juice, lemon, honey and cinnamon.
The food is also inexpensive. Eric Greenspan will be opening a third location of Maré adjacent to the Friend. He'll run the kitchen in both spots, though the menu at the Friend is more of an afterthought than Maré's will be. Light, French-themed bar bites such as a duck confit crepe, fries, a croque-madame and the like are available for when the drunk get hungry at the Friend. It’s certainly not a place to go just for the food. But judging by the crowds of people happy to stand around seeing and being seen, maybe it doesn’t need to be.