There’s something about Hollywood that seems to keep pulling me back. No matter how much I try to stay away, I seem to end up there at least once a week. Maybe it’s the grit, maybe it’s the streets full of both hope and despair, or maybe it’s just the fact that I live
This week I stepped out onto those star-lined streets to try Lono, an “urban oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood Boulevard.” Where, “a curated adventure awaits the intrepid explorer in all of us in this classy homage to the escapist drinking palaces of yesteryear.” First of all, can we ban the use of “Urban Oasis” from now on? The fact that I have only gone to four bars for this column and two of them have used this joke of a description is preposterous.
Walking into Lono is a delight. Where as most Tiki bars over do it, Lono’s homage to Hawaiian culture is beautiful and fun. The tasteful décor and inviting ambiance draws you in, and the bar doesn’t seem to stop. The space is massive, cascading from a bar/sit-down dining area to a massive lounge; Lono utilizes what I’m sure is a considerable monthly rent check.
I got to the bar around 6:30pm this past Tuesday. And while Tuesday night isn’t exactly the best night to see a bar in full swing, I have my reasons (I don’t like waiting in lines). The crowd was small and quiet, post-work colleagues enjoying cocktails and appetizers as well as some ex-fratstars out for an early evening on the town. While it was a slow night, Lono has the potential to be a cracking Friday or Saturday night spot. It’s size, location, and multiple bars make it an excellent hot spot to attend if you want to see Youtube stars living their “Best Lives.”
The bartender at Lono was professional, fast, and skilled. I ordered the Curse of Lono, which, “as tradition dictates, this recipe has been entrusted only to the proprietors. They’ll only say that it is a special blend of exotic juices, intense spices & intoxicating spirits served in a fiery chalice…” Basically it was a sweet rum cocktail with a splash of 151 set on fire. While I have lit too many tables on fire trying to make them at home, I will always jump at the chance to have a burning cocktail where someone else is responsible. My date had the Ring of Fire (mezcal, aged cachaca, aperol, fresh lime, pineapple, ginger, habanero & togarashi spice), and they were both amazing. It’s becoming rarer and rarer to feel welcomed at a bar, and I know many bars see hundreds of patrons a night. But when a bartender can engage with you, answer all your questions, and make you feel right at home, he or she will be getting 10/10 from me every time. And that’s exactly what the staff at Lono managed to do.
Lono stuck to the script when it came to LA prices. Everything was expensive, but with the intricate cocktail options, skilled service, and high alcohol content, I didn’t mind one bit. And as if they had read my past reviews, the happy hour prices were great! Cheap beer and appetizers a plenty, make it possible to do this sweet spot on a low budget.
While I didn’t know I would be hungry, the menu at Lono sure got me there. I got an order of the Yakisoba Madripoor (ramen noodle stir-fry, charred market vegetables, golden chive, kimchi) that was FANTASTIC. The salty/sweet sauce coating the perfectly pan fried noodles was accented by crunchy veggie bits and a ridiculous kimchi. The rest of the menu looked eclectic and delicious. With great bar snacks and what looked like terrific entrées, Lono doubles as a great date night dining vibe, as well as a hip Friday night hang.
Lono is a modern Tiki bar and an amazing escape from the streets of Hollywood. Unique drinks, personal service, and a beautiful setting make this spot the perfect tropical storm. So if it’s your turn to pick the spot for date night, or you want to wake up with a rum headache because you’re feeling nostalgic about college, get over to Lono, you won’t regret it.
(All rankings out of 5)
Bar Flies: **
Overall score: 93/100