There are times when you need to catch up with a friend, but you aren’t in the mood to go to a club and it’s too late for coffee. Where do you end up? A bar, of course! You might be coming from work, in your work clothes and not trying to deal with over-served rambunctious patrons at a sports bar — you just want a classy place where you can take the edge off with a drink, comfortably talk with your friends and maybe even grab a bite should conversation run later into the evening.
Having been named Best Speakeasy by LA Weekly, Next Door Lounge looks to fit the bill perfectly for these occasions.
ShopEatSleep was invited to dinner with Chef Nikki Martin, who showcased the new menu and carefully concocted cocktails. The Food Network star crafted the new menu with the 1920s speakeasy in mind and put the restaurant’s wood-fired oven to good use.
Next Door Lounge barrel-ages its own spirits, and many of the new menu items take advantage of liquor in the cooking process. There are hints of extra flavor everywhere. Next Door Lounge’s signature item, the burger, is a great testament to this theme. Featuring Bulleit bourbon onion confit on top of a 100% grass fed beef patty, this burger is grown and sexy.
Perhaps you’re on a date and not ready to commit (to a full meal), small bites such as bacon-wrapped feta-stuffed dates and deviled eggs made with vodka and vermouth are popular choices. The bacon-wrapped dates are sweet and savory, though the feta inside the dates will come out with every bite, so despite being on a stick, you might want to cut this up and take a few bites to eat it — lest you find yourself unable to converse for a couple of minutes should you try to eat them whole.
My favorite item on the menu is the arugula flatbread. This wood-fired flatbread pizza with feta and roasted grapes is enough to not feel hungry afterward while being flavorful, easy-to-eat and absolutely shareable. The taste is light, and the rosemary oil won’t leave your shirt a saucy mess. It’s a very clean and satisfying choice for your night out with the girls or splitting with your Tinder date.
I have two drinks tied for first place for me on the drink menu: the barrel-aged negroni and the barrel-aged “Madattan.” The negroni uses a saffron-infused gin that grows on you with every sip. At first, you find it light, yet a tad underwhelming, as you search for the saffron. On the second sip, you search again, ready to find it. By the third taste, there it is — and you realize you’re hooked. The Madattan is immediately intoxicating, in a good way, thanks to the house-made wildflower bitters. From sheer presentation, you expect an old man drink. Once you raise your glass to drink it, you pause instinctively to take in the surprisingly soft aroma of the bitters. Your brain is expecting a stiff drink, but your nose is instead embraced and wooed by the Birth of Venus. You won’t stop talking about these two drinks.
Go on a Wednesday night for Whiskey Wednesdays, and you’ll get to sample flights of their barrel-aged whiskey as selected by head mixologist Zachary Henry. If you’re feeling more adventurous, every other Tuesday is their Hollywood Heist dinner show. Entertainment for the evening includes a variety show, as well as audience participation in a series of challenges.
Next Door Lounge is located on 1154 N. Highland Ave., just north of Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. You’ll recognize it by the subtle signage in the shape of a key and the less-subtle James the Dapper Doorman ready to greet you as you enter. The atmosphere is casual, but gentlemen will have to remove their hats. You really shouldn’t be wearing that fedora anyway.
Note: The meal was hosted.