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“Hell of a night to throw this, man,” Zach Pollack, the chef/owner of Alimento, tells Matt Molina, the chef and co-owner of Everson Royce Bar, as he trudges into the L.A. Arts District bar. He’s got a point: It’s the fifth of July.
“I woke up fine and did my walk this morning,” the chef responds brightly from his barstool perch. “I went pirate yesterday and went all rum.”
“Hair of the dog, man,” Pollack says, as ERB’s co-owner, Randy Clement, hands him a flute of something restorative and bubbly, and thunders a booming “Hey, man!” It’s 9 p.m. this head-throbbing Tuesday, and Pollack’s the first of a crew of chefs stopping by what has become the latest post-shift haven for spare but satisfying burgers, shots, cheap beer and blowing off steam among restaurant industry folk (see the slideshow below).
“Help the people. Just help the fucking people,” Clement recites—the ERB mantra—at the counter. “We knew what it was like to get out of work at 1 a.m. and there was nowhere to go. So we came correct day one: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.”
First, it was the Bestia team just a few blocks over who called ERB their local haunt, but the roster has grown to include the teams at Bäco Mercat, Church & State, Faith & Flower, Eggslut, Officine Brera, Simbal, Pok Pok, Broken Spanish and, of course, Osteria Mozza, Molina’s old gig before ERB. Since opening eight months ago, the sleek, spacious bar has been a hit among non-chefs, too, hailed as the “Arts District watering hole you’ve been dreaming of,” by LA Weekly, and the “refined neighborhood bar the Arts District always needed,” from Eater. It’s somehow the cool kids’ table and, at the same time, a place for everyone: punks, nerds, anime fans and all.
Which is exactly what Clement and Molina want.
“At the end of the day, ERB is more yours than mine,” Clement explains. “What it has become is a place that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, whether you want to drink a $1,000 shot of whiskey or $5 Modelos.”
And a place where a James Beard Award winner is flipping burgers and frying up taquitos in the back of the bar.
“What I’ve been used to my entire life is we’re in a restaurant, we’re talking, then someone comes with the food and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with it,” Molina says. “It’s a bar! It shouldn’t be like that. The food had to be something that was sharable that didn’t require a lot of attention.”
Back in the late 90s, Molina, then a brunch cook, met Clement, a waiter, working in the trenches of Campanile. Post-Campanile, Molina climbed the ranks of the Mozza family, where he got the Beard, and Clement went on to open Silver Lake Wine (“There was no wine store there, and we were like, ‘Fuck it, let’s open a wine store,’ because that’s the only skill I had,” Clement says.). They were hard workers (and saw it in each other), who share a similar definition of good, and that’s what brought them back together.
In Clement’s mind, good is somewhat elastic—defined in this case by what they’re excited about and want to introduce people to, like, say, doing mushrooms for the first time (“You don’t eat it by yourself. You should do it with some people who have done it before,” Clement says. “You can push them out of their comfort zone if they so choose, and you can be like, ‘Are you cool? Are you OK?’ That’s exactly how you should feel.”).
But it’s also what the people want (“One day, it’s American whiskey, then it’s Japanese whisky; now it’s natural wine, then it’s Georgian wine and sour beer. Those things are part of the whole picture, but the people—you need people,” Clement says.).
“I want people to be like, ‘Man, I’m glad I’m here,’” Clement concludes. “That’s it.”
Outside in the backyard under a string aglow with lights, where République’s Walter Manzke catches up with HomeState’s Briana Valdez over burgers and Simbal’s Shawn Pham talks melons with Madcapra’s Sarah Hymanson, it’s clear that everyone is glad to be here.
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