When the iconic Power House closed down this past summer for renovations and a brand-new concept, many mourned it as the passing of the last Hollywood dive bar in the now cleaner Hollywood Boulevard strip. But considering its location in the shadow of the Vegas-showy Hollywood & Highland shopping complex and craft cocktail venues like Spare Room and Sadie it was amazing that the dive lasted as long as it did.
Now thanks to designer Matt Winter (Melrose Umbrella Company, Oldfield’s Liquor Room) and bartender Damian Windsor (Warwick, Roger Room) Jeffrey Best’s Power House joins the ranks of those craft cocktail bars on the boulevard as a fancified watering hole. Its new design has a timeless feel with white-painted brick walls, marble table tops, and a warm candlelit glow. No TVs or no neon inside. (The iconic “Power House” sign still shines brightly out front, however.)
Inspired by the bar’s location steps away from the main Hollywood Boulevard drag, Winter redesigned it and Windsor created the bar program to emulate the old European alley bars; circa the Prohibition years when well-trained but unemployed American bartenders sought work abroad. “They went to Cuba, they went to the islands, to France. In Paris there was an American bar, Savoy in London, Harry’s was in Venice. And all these places invented the Bellini, the French 75, the Bloody Mary. A lot of these cool, classic simple drinks,” explained head bartender and cocktail collaborator Ryan Sumner.
So Power House customers will, too, get high-end service–from the likes of skilled bartenders Windsor, Sumner and Leo Rivas from Seven Grand—in a neighborhoodie bar with an opening menu of 22 approachable, well-crafted cocktails. They’re cocktails that Windsor said he loves drinking himself, simple old and new world classics. “And there’s nothing here, with the exception of the cucumber foam, that you couldn’t just do at home and make yourself, or ask for in another bar,” adds Sumner.
You’ll find the Alley Oop, an updated version of Windsor’s popular Tijuana Brass, from his Roger Room years, which now features cucumber marshmallow. There’s the Basque country classic Kalimoxto, a red wine and Coca-Cola mixture. “It’s surprising how delicious it is. Because basically the flavors in Coke are cinnamon and orange. Mash them together with red wine and it makes a great little dark sangria,” said Windsor. And here the Tequila Por Mi Amante, a drink normally made with strawberry-infused tequila, is instead crafted with strawberry-infused blanc vermouth. “Makes it more aromatic, a little sweeter, and it cuts some of the punch of the blanco tequila.”
Although Best’s other Hollywood bar, Warwick, affords the bar crew some prep space should they need it since the new-old bar lacks it, there won’t be many housemade ingredients or schmancy “mixology” for that matter. “Everything is pretty standard off the shelf,” said Windsor. “We may have some cool spirits on the shelf but that’s just from our experience and to cater to a more discerning demographic. But we can definitely pour a vodka soda and vodka Redbull.”
Power House’s former dive bar denizens may miss the $3 PBRs here, but the drinks at the new and improved place are still at neighborhood-friendly prices with beers (eight taps and 25 bottles and cans) starting at $6, spirits at $10 and cocktails ranging from $8 to $16.
And, no, there still isn’t a dress code even though the bartenders themselves don vest-and-tie uniforms. “We just want a place for people to slip in, still friendly, still neighborhood but because this is our craft, this is our trade, we have total respect for it and want to share it with everybody,” said Sumner. “So we want it to be super casual.”
Just because things are cleaner and shinier, Windsor says the bar caters to everyone. “If you want to come in and have a glass of wine and read the paper, do it. Or you want a fancy cocktail because you’re celebrating, all right! I totally expect to see laborers and tuxedos here. People waiting for the bus at the bus stop and people celebrating movie premieres around the corner.”