Leave it to Mark and Jonnie Houston, the twins behind Harvard & Stone, La Descarga and Pour Vous, to conjure up another uniquely-LA affair involving craft cocktails, performances (burlesque acts, tightrope walkers) and live music. Once past the smartly-dressed chaps holding court over the door (and behind door number 1902), prepare to be enamored as you descend into old Hollywood. The impressively restored Victorian home is outfitted with elegant dark wood paneling, red velvet tufted banquets, café seating and ample space that spills out onto a garden-style courtyard illuminated by two positively baroque fireplaces, which burn even in the thick of summer. And appearances are everything here, so patrons should adhere to a classy dress code.
Good for: Stepping out of the 2000s and into the 1900s, to indulge “all your pleasures,” from sipping pre-Prohibition era craft cocktails, taking in mesmerizing tightrope and sexy burlesque acts, to picking out little treasures from a “gift shop.” Big fishes sporting tailored suits and slick hair who want to impress all the little fish can reserve a spot upstairs with a private bar and bottle service, while partygoers in groups down below indulge in punch bowls (gin, rum or vodka-based for $300 plus, per bowl), as well as reasonably priced craft beer and coupés filled with elevated swill.
The scene: The party starts late, and if you’re not on the list, you better arrive early and make nice with the doorman. Inside, well-versed bartenders are meticulous with their drink creations even when folks go rogue and order vodka-tonics. Crowds gather in the courtyard hoping to be in an ideal position for elevating performances and death-defying acts, that take place literally above the audience—back inside the mansion, a dance scene erupts in a parlor room around the DJ while others go about indulging in grilled cheese sandwiches ($5) from a side-room pop-up grill.
The playlist: DJs hold court until a late-night live band takes over, maintaining pre-Prohibition themes (think: harmonicas, blues, bluegrass, jazz) and Angelenos revel in an energetic mood, dancing and tossing anticipatory glances skyward as the high-wire act mounts for its tense moments in the limelight. “Porch Sessions” feature a new artist or band each Wednesday night at 10pm.
Drink this: What makes No Vacancy truly a special outing is the curated cocktail list. In one night, you can experience a range of professional mixology styles from a “Dirty Dozen” of the bartending and mixology elite including Dave Fernie, Francois Vera, Marcos Tello, Adrian Biggs, Jim Meehan, et al—look for a plaque listing off all the names near the bathrooms. Start off with Fernie’s Gin and Jameson ($10), Jameson, Beefeater, fresh lime, grapefruit, orgeat and honey. Then try Vera’s The Professor ($12) Bols Genever, Solerno Blood Orange liqueur, aperol and fig bitters. Draft beer is $5 (for those Vermont-centric brew fans, Magic Hat #9 is on tap) while bottled beers run $6-$8. Wine is $10-$15 per glass and the offerings are all West Coast typical varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but there’s a perfect $11 glass of Chandon bubbly for kicking off celebrations. —Jonathan Cristaldi (September 19, 2013)
Jonnie and Mark Houston (Pour Vous, Harvard & Stone) unveil their latest Hollywood project, paying homage to pre-Prohibition with a painstakingly restored Victorian-style house, speakeasy vibe and serious shaking-and-stirring. Bar-goers can expect the same Brothers Houston touches such as a secret, back entrance á la La Descarga—a red-carpeted walkway leads you to three doors, so choose your suite wisely (hint: it's the same year that the house was built)—and live performances of DJs, dancers, old-timey band porch sessions and a surprise, gravity-defying act. The entire house is outfitted with antique touches (think: red velour chairs, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, original, wood moldings, vintage glasses) and clandestine corners—the "gift shop" sells retro candies and stogies, while the "telephone booth" doubles as a leather-tufted photo booth. Reserve a private room upstairs with its own private bar and available bottle service. The rest of us should come dressed to impress and settle into the main bar, decked out with a bitters bar, homemade seasonal syrups and tonic water and an extensive selection of spirits for creative cocktailing. Bar manager Sean Hamilton creates a menu of four punch bowls to share and a "Dirty Dozen" list of concoctions from bartenders near (Marcos Tello, Dave Fernie, Julian Cox) and far (NYC's Jim Meehan and Dushan Zarick). The bar is dedicated to gin (about 36 bottles) and whiskey (60+), so try both—the Gin and Jameson ($10) mixes Jameson, Beefeater, lime, grapefruit, orgeat syrup and honey. There's also an all-American selection of craft beers (10 on draft, 4 by the bottle) and wines, as well as retro bottled sodas (Bubble Up, anyone?). To kick off summer, we suggest heading to the outdoor patio/greenhouse bar for a Royal Swizzle ($12), Atlantico Reserva rum, orange liqueur, lime and orgeat syrup and garnished with mint. —Katherine Kims (June 21, 2013)