There's a purity and pride to Silverlake.
It’s a neighborhood where cultural heritage is doggedly preserved, honored and protected from outside adulteration. Exhibit A: an artifact of musical and cultural significance, the mural on Sunset where singer-songwriter Elliott Smith posed for his "Figure 8" album cover before his death in 2003. Fans still come to pay tribute here with candles, flowers and well-wishes written in Sharpie. In the buzzy area, the owners of the space could probably have sold at any time, but instead waited for a buyer who would agree to honor the memory of Smith and his music. Enter Bar Angeles, a proud Italian eatery whose top-notch drinks and communal atmosphere pay homage to Smith’s musical legacy.
Bar Angeles—named for Smith’s song, "Angeles"—moved a section of the mural to the building's interior, making it the bar’s back wall and the focal point of the room. Next, they employed chef Joey Booterbaugh, formerly of Cafe Birdie, to devise a vegan-friendly menu of delectable small plates, gourmet pizza and a game-changing cheeseburger, though it's now Patrick Zagorski who took the reigns and now helms the kitchen. Finally, they had barman Greg Mills craft a cocktail program where effervescents breathe new life into old classics, and it's familiar face Alex Barbatsis—formerly of Cafe Birdie's speakeasy bar, Good Housekeeping—who runs the show currently. Bar Angeles has no signage save for a tiny neon placard above the door. It’s easier to find this place by the swooshy, iconic “S” on the front wall that forever heralds Silverlake’s musical hero.
This isn’t a rowdy kind of bar. It’s a spot where the neighborhood can come together and drink amongst friends at rows of six-seater library desks and candle-lit two-seaters. The long bar gives imbibers quick access to bartenders who pre-taste each boozy concoction—via sterile straw, or course—to assure top quality before serving. There’s comfortable, soft lighting provided by funky, spherical lamps whose thick rope cords loop and weave over and under high ceiling rafters like jungle vines. Sporadic live musical acts, expected to increase in frequency, provide an enervating, egalitarian ambiance that would make Smith proud.
A weeknight with friends when you’re already in your after-work duds and ready for a stiff drink and a pizza. Bar Angeles is also great for a date; you can hide in plain sight among a room of hip locals taking in some of the best food and drinks in the neighborhood.
Bar Angeles’ intrepid cocktail menu brings sterile classics to wider appeal and tames liquid confections into maturity. The Sunset Spritz ($12) is a perfect brunch drink: tall, cold and refreshing. The Aperol and pamplemousse (read: grapefruit) deliver a sweet effervescence that mixes with sparkling wine and soda water for a taste you’ll want by the jugful. The Pimm's Cup ($12) is a standout whose generous helping of mint makes for a clean finish in this not-too-sweet gin mix. There are also eight beers on tap and another three in bottles or cans, including 101 Cider House's Black Dog sour cider. Don’t forget about the wine list, with 14 red and white wines, five sparkling options by the glass and another 13 by the bottle.
Their popular happy hour—6 to 7pm daily—brings negronis to $8, select wines to $7 and draft beers to $5. Also, the burger comes down to $7, which, next to the Brussels sprouts, just might be your favorite thing that keeps you coming back.
Correction: Patrick Zagorski and Alex Barbatsisis currently run Bar Angeles' kitchen and bar programs, respectively; this review has been updated to reflect this.