By Ezra Klein
Los Angeles’s Edison is the sort of bar that residents of the District envy. Built in an old power plant, the Edison has impressive drinks, killer architecture, and bartenders who will sit around expounding on the history of the ice cube. The first time I went was a revelation: This was to bars as Restaurant Eve was to Amsterdam Falafel. It was a given that I’d head over while home for Thanksgiving. Indeed, I couldn’t wait. I planned it out. Made sure our dinner reservations were near our drinking destination. Put on my finest ratty-chic sweater.
But I didn’t end up going to the Edison. It’s not that I didn’t try. Alongside assorted siblings, in-laws, and significant others, I queued up on Friday night to spend more money than I really should feeling cooler than I actually am. But I was turned away. Pumas — even these Pumas! — count as “athletic shoes,” and athletic shoes are a fatal error. The group behind us in line learned much the same lesson. The Edison, despite being empty inside, was admirably determined to prevent people from exchanging money for drinks.
So it was off to the Varnish for us, a small bar tucked inside Cole’s, Los Angeles’s second-most convincing originator of the French Dip (the first, of course, is the far-superior Philippe’s). Their system was similarly frustrating, but much less honest. There, the doorman put our names down, promised to grab us at the first available opportunity, then commenced letting everyone else into the bar while swearing that our turn was coming up, just 20 more minutes, honest.
Is this all whining? Well, yes. This is a blog, dammit. A food blog. This blog is built for whining, just like these boots were built for not letting me into the Edison. The explanation for my evening is simply, as my readers will no doubt inform me: My group didn’t make the cut. We weren’t cool enough to get into these bars. And they’re right! We weren’t! Or something!
That never happens in DC. The bars, of course, are rather less cool. But even the good ones — the Gibsons and Bar Pilars and Corks and Proofs of the world — let you in with sneakers. They’re not that cool, but then, neither are you. And you’ve both tacitly agreed not to make too big a deal of this, instead concentrating on the essential business of exchanging hard-won money for gussied-up alcohol, the better to enjoy your night with friends. Turns out, I like that deal. I’m happy wearing my Pumas. Restaurant Eve is all for the good, but Amsterdam Falafel is the stuff of everyday life.