All aboard for a great evening of cocktails and conversation. From 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night, if you look behind a bookcase – but not just any bookcase – you can find yourself, Harry Potter-like, inside a rather magical train station. That would be the entrance to Melrose Station, a nicely secret speakeasy reachable inside the Glass Hookah Lounge on Melrose Ave.
Melrose Station has the vibe of a train station that is part futuristic – the stunning modern chandelier and cool gray walls – or you could possibly be slipping into a private entrance to the plush waiting room for the carriages of the Orient Express. The words ‘Melrose Station’ are stenciled on the walls in big block letters. It’s a little steam punk, and a lot art deco. Melrose Station owners say they’ve intended to create the feeling of a 1920s-era prohibition speakeasy, and that’s certainly a strong part of the overall aesthetic. Yet Harrison Ford and his Blade Runner replicants wouldn’t be out of place either.
While craft cocktails are obviously the thing here, the tasty small plates gracing the “Our Bites” menu are hardly afterthoughts. It’s easy to eat your veggies with the “Salad on a Stick,” featuring heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, cucumber, spinach, and basil with a balsamic glaze. Yellow tail sashimi, flatbreads, sliders, well-designed cheese and fruit plates, and that erstwhile bar standard of artichoke dip also make fine choices for noshing. Desserts are a pleasure too, with the warm white chocolate soufflé or some surprisingly delicate cheese cake, offering an elegant option to satisfy your sweet tooth.
The cocktails are all artfully prepared, and there’s a wide range of flavors available to keep you “on track.” Try the Berry Me Already, a sweet but not cloyingly so concoction of Denizen white rum, triple sec, fresh berries, and a nicely astringent house citrus mix. The latter turns up in a number of cocktails on the menu.
The bar’s namesake cocktail is the smooth but spicy Melrose Station, which packs a lot of zing. It’s crafted from St. George Green Chile vodka infusion with house citrus mix and a sweep of agave nectar. With an El Silencio Espadine Mezcal infusion, house citrus mix, and fresh pineapple, the Pez is both edgy and fun. And by all means, get the iPhone ready for a photo of the Oh Mai Flaming Tai with Cointreau, white rum, and grenadine set ablaze; or enjoy a mammoth chunk of pineapple and fresh mint with your Parlia Mint Hill, made with super smooth Hillhaven Lodge whiskey.
A Foggy Night comes in a round goblet resembling a large snow globe, this one filled with ice. The drink is crafted with a potent mix of whiskey, Smoke Chase vodka, orange bitters, and lemon and olive oil. Inventive and beautiful, the orange peel inside the globe is lit by the bartender using a food smoker. Otherworldly. Equally beautiful visually is the Afternoon Tea, crafted from lavender-infused gin, crème de violette, egg white, and edible flowers floating alluringly atop the creamy beverage.
Excellent though the small plates and cocktails are, it’s the mysterious vibe of the place that makes it a ‘must stop’ on Melrose Ave. With a fashionable dress code, friendly and well-skilled bartenders, the spot is as popular and pleasantly sophisticated as it is off the beaten track. And don’t miss the photo booth, concealed inside a phone booth. Part of what makes the evening here so pleasant is the ability to make an online reservation, thus assuring yourself of being a passenger-to-be for the night.
Once you’ve stepped inside the Glass Hookah lounge, a destination in its own right, ask a host how to enter the station, be led to a velvet rope and that book case, receive a “train ticket,” and step into the new dimension of Melrose Station. You might be entering 1923 or you might be on your way to Hogwarts or Dr. Who territory. Wherever you’re headed, you’ll do it in style, a shimmery drink in hand.
The Melrose Station bar
7384 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046