Following in the speakeasy trend set by the likes of the Varnish and La Descarga, this Koreatown lounge—a low-ceiling, white marble and green-leather banquettes set the "Caesars Club" vibe, perhaps a nod to the former karaoke inhabitant. As expected, the entrance is unmarked: A stylish red door leads to a theatrically disorienting wall of doorknobs and keyholes. Once inside, there’s a small selection of beer and wine—four bottled beers (IPA, Lager, Brown Ale, Triple) and six wines by-the-glass (bubbly, white, rose and red)—but the cocktail program is front and center. Fresh herbs, fruits, simple syrups and torches set the stage for well-made, craft cocktails prepared by attentive and friendly bartenders donning classic white collared shirts and black vests. There’s a limited late-night, food menu from the next door Stall 239—try the Lollipop Chicken Wings ($7) and not-so-date-friendly garlic fries ($3).
Good for: Sipping craft cocktails amongst a celeb contingent, thanks to co-owner/actor Hill Harper.
The scene: Weeknights offer more of a "Sinatra" vibe, which we take to mean there’s “No one in the place." The focus is entirely on the art of mixology and serious aficionados can indulge in well-made drinks. Weekends offer a completely different experience with an undoubtedly Koreatown contingent of the young, attractive and well-dressed—dress code is enforced—crowd into banquettes. When the bar gets slammed, an abridged cocktail list replaces the 11 signature cocktails normally on offer and DJs turn up the music giving the place a "club" feel.
The playlist: At the will of high-minded DJs.
The bartender says: There’s an unintended surprise thanks to all the “hush, hush” mentality: An unabashed fully marbled hallway leading to wholly unmarked restrooms—choose wisely ladies and gents.
Drink this: Signature cocktails run $12 across the board. The Torpedo is a luscious taste-bomb of pear vodka, pear nectar, lemon juice, egg white, maple syrup, fresh ginger juice, black pepper and droplets of toasted sesame seed oil that add nutty complexity and a savory surprise. Balled-Up builds on homemade ginger beer with bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup and mint leaves. If you like it sweet, try the Old Money—Scotch whiskey, demerara syrup, fresh ginger juice, bitters and an orange peel.
|Venue name:||Lock & Key|
239 S Vermont Ave
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 7pm-2am|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
4.8 / 5
- 5 star:15
- 4 star:1
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:0
I have been coming to Lock & Key faithfully for the past two years. My most recent visit (2/22/18), however, has completely tarnished my love for this establishment...
Me and two of my girlfriends arrived around 11:30 that night. We made a stop before so we had cups and trash we wanted to dispose of. As I was looking for a place to throw things away, one of my girls placed her cup on a counter at the spot next door. A bouncer (a black guy whose name I was told is James) YELLED at my friend "Well the least you can do is put that in the trash can (which was in line of sight of a tree so she didn't notice it) instead of right there!! I mean really girl? Put it in the trash!" then rambles on while walking inside. No "please." No calm, respectful tone. So we all paused and stared at him because we were baffled as to why he was speaking to us in that manner. I shrug, place the trash in the trash can and get in line. While the other bouncer checked our IDs, he apologized on behalf of James for his obviously rude and unnecessary outburst. I say "It's cool. We just wanna get inside and have a good time."
We go inside and my girl who got yelled at thought it would be remiss if she didn't respectfully address James to let him know his rude outburst made her uncomfortable. My other friend and I wait at bit while they converse. It got to a point where James began to get very belligerent so I drag my homegirl away as I have a SERIOUS problem with men being hostile and aggressive towards women and ultimately he wasn't worth the argument.
We go inside and he FOLLOWS us to continue to harass us. So I step in and ask him what his problem was. He completely disrespected my friend, all but calling her an outright b*tch. At this point, I want nothing more to do with this man, we attempt to walk away yet again and he blocks our path yelling and carrying on. I think part of what really irritated him is the fact that I remained super calm while he behaved like a crazy person, he couldn't phase me. He asks "Do you wanna go have a good time?" I say "Yes, we do". He says "Fine go have a good night then". I say "You too." He gets angry and says "What you mean 'you too'? Hell nah man you gotta go!!" ..........seriously??
I ask him why am I being kicked out, he says "You got shit fucked up here homie. WE run shit. You don't run shit here. Get out." So we walk out and demand to speak to a manager. A manager came out asking what happened and I told him the entire story. He apologizes that we had to experience that and says unfortunately all he can do is go back to his staff and teach them how to better handle such situations in the future........really? That's it? You came outside simply to do recon? He says we would not be allowed back in because "You're just gonna go inside and once the drinks start flowing, you're gonna get turned up and just taunt him saying 'aha we got back inside' and start causing trouble."
Are you f**king kidding me? What is this, high school?!
He claims that situations like this happen 2 to 3 times a night and he simply could not risk allowing us back inside because we would start problems. All we wanted to do was have a good time. We were willing to let all of the bs go. And it's crazy that he says it happens at least 2 to 3 times a night. Well then, John W. (I asked him what his name was, he simply said John, I'm like John do you have a last name, he says W. really? an initial? petty, childish and unprofessional.), if simply doing recon and following up with your staff on how to better handle certain situations is the protocol you follow whenever something like this goes down, you are either a very incompetent and ineffective leader or your staff is terrible or both if you have to constantly explain to them how to handle things at work.
Thumbs down to bouncer James. Thumbs down to manager John W. Thumbs down to the other staff members that were at the door and witnessed what went down but did not speak on our behalf. Thumbs down to Lock & Key for a terrible experience. I have no idea if that staff member was under the influence, has some sort of mental issue or if he was being discriminatory (I am a gay man of color and I see other posts on Yelp about this place that mention experiences with homophobic staff) but I have never felt so disrespected nor have I ever been thrown out of an establishment. I've introduced over a dozen of my friends to this place over the years. NONE of us will ever be returning.
I honestly visited Lock and Key wanting to order a ramen burger which apparently moved. So I tried out their lock and key burger and loved it. Ordered it medium rare. It was cooked to perfection. The fries were amazing too. More than worth the $10 price tag. Did I mention it is huge?
Lively, and always consistently amazing cocktails. The staff is so friendly and they have this cool outdoor space. Its the original cocktail bar concept in Koreatown and they left the attitude out. Thanks Lock&Key!
It's kind of a hidden red door situation. You have to find the right door knob to get into the bar. Awesome drinks and a good food menu. You don't expect that from a bar
Bomb!! Food is amazing, service treats you like fam, and always got new creative drinks every season!
Their cocktails are made with detail using, fresh juices, house made tonics, infusions, and syrups are and they have close to 300 spirits. Moreover, the service is outstanding. The staff know how to make the night amazing.
This is one of the greatest places in LA to go to for specialty cocktails . not only do they have great service. the people there are amazing. this is a must go to spot in Los Angeles
Lock & Key is a beautiful hidden bar with some of the most incredible cocktails that LA has too offer. The Ktown Chemist Barstaff are all very knowledgeable and love helping you find something you'll love on or off menu. Everything is fresh, the food is delicious, and the bands, events and Djs always keep things fun & interesting!
Great day party spot! Get there early on Sundays to avoid the line for "Ice Cream Sundays". Also the patio area gets pretty packed. But it's always good music, great drinks, and good vibes.
I don't totally understand Lock & Key. In theory, it could be really great. There's the whole speakeasy, secret entrance thing going on that people love, and the drinks are great. But only if you can actually get to the bar, which, after 9pm most nights, you can't. Their system behind the stick is maddening, they don't have any strategy for crowd control, and the place gets packed beyond belief. I do like that you can order from Ramen Burger next door...