“This is the kind of day when you want to be belly-to-belly with a good woman, in a warm bed under a tin roof with the rain beating down and a bottle of good whiskey right next to the bed.”
~ Hunter S. Thompson, The Great Shark Hunt
Friday night saw the soft opening of Tony’s, the latest venture from Cedd Moses and his 213 group. The bar’s location on the southern edge of the Arts District is somewhat remote, especially compared to other 213 ventures located in the heart of downtown. Tony’s is easy enough to spot; the “Tony’s” cocktail sign up top shines like a beacon on 7th street. The Toy Factory and Biscuit Lofts are just a block away on Industrial, and their residents will likely make Tony’s one of their regular watering holes. Rare for downtown is Tony’s attached parking lot, absent a valet and free, which was a nice touch.
Stepping inside Tony’s, we were immediately enveloped in darkness. As our eyes adjusted we saw a pool table off to the left, which saw some regular use throughout the night. Smokers hanging out in the patio also got to play ping pong, which may not have the mystique of pool but will no doubt see plenty of action over time. The bar itself runs the length of the room, its most notable feature being the huge longhorn head mounted above it. Chalkboards above the booths to the right list spirits by group and prices. The reported homages to Hunter S. Thompson were subtle: his photo was mounted by the men’s room, a diorama/shrine was located in the back. If anything, Tony’s itself is a salute to Thompson’s prodigious thirst for whiskey.
It was quiet early on, but by midnight Tony’s started to fill up. The crowd was lively, and though it was busy it never got packed, which was fine for a soft opening. One sour note: the music was blasting at an ear-splitting volume all night. I don’t know to what extent the staff were aware, but having to scream to my boothmates was ridiculous. We noticed other guests cupping their ears and retreating to the patio. Hopefully this gets sorted, it’s the kind of thing that could mar an otherwise enjoyable night of drinks.
The cocktail menu was still being finalized on Friday, but with a whiskey list a mile long guests weren’t wanting for options. I was looking forward to trying Stranahan’s, a small batch, 94 proof whiskey made with local ingredients (e.g. water and barley from the Rockies). Stranahan’s is aged in charred, new oak barrels like bourbon, so I ordered an Old Fashioned. The tasting notes from Stranahan’s and elsewhere mentioned wood, smoke, sweetness, caramel and vanilla. It certainly made for an unusual tasting Old Fashioned, quite literally different than any I’ve had before. My fellow imbiber (and Old Fashioned connoisseur) Scot noticed hints of chocolate as well. If you order a Stranahan’s, make sure to check out the bottle; it’s hand-labeled with a batch number, the distilling date, and the distiller’s signature and comment. I neglected to examine the bottle at Tony’s but will definitely do so on my next visit. I finished up with a Knob Creek Manhattan, nicely executed and a good way to close out the night.
Tony’s simultaneously fits into and breaks out of the established Cedd Moses model. It’s yet another update of an old downtown spot, designed with an eclectic eye and meant to evoke the comfort of an old neighborhood bar. But Tony’s is also isolated from other 213 spots, and might indicate that Moses is again anticipating a time when development catches up to his vision of a future downtown LA.
2017 E. 7th St. (E. of Mateo)
Los Angeles, CA 90021