Live music at Villains Tavern, Downtown Los Angeles

The cavernous and popular downtown hideaway, Villain’s Tavern, has enjoyed an enthusiastic following ever since the space threw open its doors in the not so distant shadow of the famed Los Angeles 6th Street Bridge back in 2010. But in a city where what’s hot and what’s not can shift over the course of a single photo shoot, resting on one’s laurels is rarely a successful game plan. Dana Hollister, restaurateur / hotelier/ nightlife impresario, understands this concept far better than most, which not only explains her stellar track record but also the latest reinvention of Villain’s Tavern.

I popped into Villains Tavern last night to check out the new seasonal food menu which was conceptualized by Chef Vartan Abgaryan of Hollister’s Cliff’s Edge and I left satisfied that this was one bar whose reputation as one of downtown Los Angeles’s coolest destinations would remain intact for some time to come.

Stellar live music each and every night is one of Villains’ staple attractions and Thursday night was no exception.  As authentic Americana performed by two bands worthy of a spot on ABC’s Nashville blared and patrons grooved, I sampled Villains’ new cocktail experience complete with ‘crafted cocktails on tap’ alongside menu items like the Fish Tacos and the hearty Villains Burger, which is made with ground brisket, Mezzo Secco jack and topped with tomato, avocado and jalapeno aioli.  And on all fronts Villain’s excelled itself.  (In fact, I highly recommend the Pierre Le Grand cocktail, a delicious concoction of Absolut Elyx, Yellow Chartreuse, Pineapple, Lime and Sugar Cane that is so smooth it’s almost lethal).

Though I didn’t get to try them this go round, I’m looking forward to going back to sample everything from new bar snacks like the Salted Caramel Corn featuring bacon & bourbon, caramel, sea salt and black pepper to other downhome menu showstoppers like the Grilled Cheese, Kentucky Shrimp, the No Kill Burger, Bacon Dog and tempura Green Beans with chili aioli. Exactly how many ways can you spell Y-U-M!

Hidden away on the still more industrial side of downtown Los Angeles, Villains Tavern feels more like a speakeasy and a well-kept secret than a hipster destination, which is precisely how I suspect the regulars hope it remains. And something tells me that no amount of reinvention will change that aspect of this tavern’s ultracool vibe.

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