Mama Shelter

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Photo: © Alen Lin

Hollywood, a land of crushed dreams, dirty streets and some of the worst dressed Marvel characters in the world. There’s something about this part of Los Angeles that has a charm to it. That is if you exclude the ¼ mile radius around the Grauman’s Chinese theatre, for the love of God don’t go there.

There are plenty of famous bars around Hollywood that either flat out suck or take so long to get in, that the “great buzz” you got from those 3 IPAs at the pre game is wearing off. I’M LOOKING AT YOU NO VACANCY. So when I found out that my holiday work party was going to be held at Mama Shelter, I was intrigued but prepared for a let down. But like Derek Jeter in game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, luck was on my side. For those who don’t know that one, Google Jeffrey Maier, that kid is a national hero and better be getting free slices in NY to this day.

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Photo: Via Urbandaddy.com

At the corner of Selma and Wilcox, right up the street from Amoeba Music sits Mama Shelter, “a true urban refuge that’s not just beautiful, modern and lively but also popular, friendly and sexy” –via mamashelter.com. And while I normally would distance myself from any establishment using the phrase “Urban Refuge”… I will make an exception here. Walking in to Mama’s I knew my party was upstairs, but just the entrance made me want to show up fashionably late. A downstairs bar and restaurant showing Thursday night football seemed like it could be better than Fetworking (this is my new term for Forced networking, and yes I would like your endorsement on LinkedIn).

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Photo: © Alen Lin

But once the elevator doors opened just seven floors above the star lined sidewalks of Hollywood, I was happy I didn’t stay below. Straying away from the classic posh rooftop décor, Mama Shelter takes on a Mexi-cali vibe that could not be more inviting. Bright colors, serapes, old time movies and a beautiful 360-degree view of Hollywood makes it feel like you died and went straight to John Leguizamo’s heaven.

It’s my humble opinion that a bar with a little something for everyone is a bar that is perfect. And while I have yet to find a bar with sports, a dance floor, games, a cigar lounge, craft beer, cheap beer, a rooftop, a basement, great seating, adequate noise levels etc. etc… (I could do this all day, I AM PICKY DAMN IT), Mama shelter gets about 4 of these, which is pretty darn good. An open area for large groups, intimate tables for conversations with a date or to sit at by yourself because your’e sad, games and great drinks were all readily available. And while the only game was miniature foosball and the cocktails were $14 I loved it. Mainly because the drinks were paid for by work and after 4 of them that foosball table felt a lot bigger than it actually was.

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Photo: © Alen Lin

And speaking of foosball let’s talk food! I know those have no correlation but transitions are hard so I’m going to just move on. Appetizers on appetizers were brought out, and each looked more delicious than the next. But the star of the show for me was the Crispy Tofu in Korean BBQ sauce. Staying true to it’s name, this crispy yet delicate finger food spiced up my evening and padded my empty stomach with the strength to keep drinking gin at a rate that definitely concerned some co-workers. Please take note, if you started reading this column for meat reviews go watch Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, cause your boy is all about his soy game.

The Staff at Mama’s was the definition of professional. No note pads, quick service and friendly demeanors. And even though their slogan “Mama loves you”, is creepy and I don’t like it one bit, the wait staff sure made me believe it.

And while I normally would love to review the clientele of a bar, because how much fun is judging strangers right? I will not be able to do so as the majority of people surrounding me were there for the Holiday party. And since I take very little in my life seriously, this column will be. So no people reviews this time (my apologies to Brian Williams, I know this is his favorite part of the column. It’s my hope that you respect my journalistic integrity here Brian, and please be respectful in the comments).

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Photo: © Alen Lin

Mama’s is straight up just a good time. Frills, but not too many, pricey drinks that are worth the view, a talented and caring wait staff and solid food make this a great bar to go with friends, or a date spot that’s sure to impress. So if you find yourself itching to get out in Hollywood, head here. You’ll love the drinks and be high enough off the strip that you can pretend that hellscape below is all in your imagination.

 

(All rankings out of 5)

Décor: ****

Bartenders: ****

Bar Flies: N/A

Price: $$$$$

Overall score: 92/100

Tended: Tom Bergin’s

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Photo Via: Iamnotastalker.com

Los Angeles is a hell of a city. Debatably it’s the city of the moment. A city that has too much of everything. With eight professional sports teams, what feels like a million different restaurants and a never-ending sea of new people coming to chase their dreams and clog up traffic, it can be a little overwhelming at times. But to my absolute delight, this plethora of options spills over into the world of bars. So, so many Bars.

I’m David Ledwith and I absolutely love to drink. I love the social nature of it, I love the taste, I love the feeling and beyond all else I love a great bar. Yet, just like so many others I fall prey to the fact that it’s remarkably easy to do nothing at all. Not getting dressed up, not spending money and not going out are beautiful things. And it’s strikingly simple to look back at your week and realize that you just wasted 7 days of what my Dad’s friend Michael describes as, “your glory years son”.

And so, to better take advantage of the city home to California’s steepest street (TAKE THAT SAN FRANCSICO), I plan to dive deep into LA’s historic and hidden bars, searching each week for history, fun and lots of drinks.

For my first attempt at trying to mask my functioning alcoholism with journalism, I decided to head down the block from my apartment to Tom Bergin’s, an Irish pub going strong in the Mid City Area since 1936. Bergin’s exterior looks like a cross between a quaint Galway cabin and a steak house where old producers sit in the back and make comments about the waitresses’ figures. With plenty of parking in the lot out front, it’s a perfect place for the idiots who still drive to bars when Lyft and Uber exist.

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Photo Via: Tom Bergins Facebook

The bright neon sign out front beckoned me, and the sound of trivia coming from inside pulled me right in. When you walk into Bergin’s you immediately notice the shamrocks plastered on seemingly every inch of wall space in the bar, ceiling included. And unlike other “Irish Pubs” in the area, who try to fake their authenticity through Leprechauns and Guinness signs from Urban Outfitters, Bergin’s transports you to another part of the world. The wood work combined with the old Hollywood memorabilia makes for a straight forward, no bullshit Irish pub that doesn’t try to pretend like it’s not smack dab in the heart of LA.

While I didn’t try the food, or the Irish Coffee, I went for a drink that can be a hit or miss for me at any bar. An Old Fashion will tell you right away if the Bartender has been around for a while, or if they are doing this just to pay the bills for their acting lessons. To my delight, it was clear… Bergin’s meant business.

Once I finished my first drink I had to know what the hell the over 1300 shamrocks in this place were all about. Name after name as far as you could see. After asking the bartender who without a doubt, gets asked the same question 10-15 times a day, she kindly explained how every name on every shamrock is or was a regular of the bar, all the way from when they opened to now. Names of men and women I’ll never know anything about, and names of men and women that will go down in history. It seems that Bergin’s has been host to regular patrons like Julia Roberts, Ronald Regan, and even Cary Grant, who’s shamrock sits framed above his old booth near the back of the restaurant. And touting LAs 2nd oldest Liquor License (claimed not confirmed), there is no telling how many of tinsel town’s most historic asses have sat on these barstools.

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© John Rabe

As most of my drinking experiences go, after my first drink I wanted another. And when a bar has a beer and a shot combo, I’m going to take it. I went with one of their three “Boilermakers”, a Harp and a shot of Jameson Black Barrel. As I tilted my head up to put back the whiskey I noticed that Rams memorabilia adorning the wooden guts of the bar. Signed posters, banners and more, not only was I in a great pub, but what seemed to be a pretty decent sports bar. So if you’re like 80% of this city and you just became a fan of the local teams because you have no allegiance to your city back home (go Niners), this could be the place for you!

The clientele of a bar can be as important as the people that staff it. While I love a good dive bar, the threat of a stabbing could keep me away. And I’m all for a roof top lounge, but if all I’m going to hear about is someone’s great new web series and auditions they almost got, I’m going to throw myself off that same roof. Bergin’s seemed to have a pretty solid neighborhood feel. With a median age floating around 30 to 35, the crowd was a little old. But no one acted their age. Loud hoots and hollers, a couple of black outs and some people just enjoying a late dinner, it was a perfect mix of calm and rowdy.

After driving by Tom Bergin’s at least 5 times a week for the past year, it was a pleasant surprise to find out I lived so close to such a great Bar. What the establishment lacks in cheap prices, it makes up for in charm, history, authenticity and damn good cocktails. So if you find yourself in the mid city area, and you need a place to watch Todd Gurley light up defenses, or just want a good stiff drink, stop by Bergin’s, you wont be disappointed.

 

(All rankings out of 5)

Décor: *****

Bartenders: ****

Bar Flies: ***

Price: $$$

Overall score: 90/100