Harnessing the perfect balance of sophisticated cocktail bar and cozy neighborhood hideout, Echo Park’s Bar Flores invites you in with a cocktail and keeps you with homemade tamales. Bring your friends -- and definitely bring your grandma.
OUR ARTICLEBY: Dakota Nate Contributing writer
The city of Los Angeles is no stranger to a proper cocktail bar. After the whirlwind cocktail renaissance faded as quickly as it came, it left bartenders of the world a little frazzled, which led the industry to dig deeper into what really mattered. In order for a bar to survive and rein successfully in such a saturated market within a vastly overpopulated city, it’s no secret that you have to sparkle a bit more than the rest. Whether it be by design or selection, or something as simple as the right vibe, when you walk up the Talavera steps to Bar Flores in Echo Park, you instantly feel at home.
Occupying the former Lost Knight space with neighbors such as lowkey Lowboy downstairs and eclectically chic Adamae, Bar Flores is a bright and open contrast to the dark, pubby atmosphere that lived in the space before. Bars such as Gold Room and Bar Calo have moved the surrounding neighborhood up in the ranks as arguably one of the best neighborhoods for nightlife in the city of angels. In other words, the block is hot. Owner Karla Flores-Mercado, a native of Sinaloa, Mexico who moved to LA at age 10 has the rhythm of the city practically running through her veins, but still bares her Latin heritage with pride — and the atmosphere of Bar Flores presents that beautifully. With her mother and father working in the restaurant industry since before she was even born, it’s only right that she continues a sort of tradition: her way.
Backing Chef Felix Barron of KTCHN LA as his right-hand cocktail woman, the pair would feature weekend pop-up brunches around town that would pack the house from morning to afternoon in the dining rooms of dinner-only establishments. Later Karla went on to open her own pop-up speakeasy series and running it out of a friend’s warehouse, Sip in LA, which initially focused heavily on old school jazz music and all things retro and later transitioned to blasting Latin music and dancing until you dropped. The rule was: if you were dressed the part and there was room for you, you got in. Trying to provide music that basically doesn’t exist in LA unless you pay for it, the Sip in LA quickly became a 300 person-a-night ordeal once a month.
If there’s anything to know about Karla, it’s that she’s extremely detail-oriented. After Sip, she took on the bar program at Wolf & Crane and the success of the Chinatown watering hole skyrocketed. Now with her own space to do what she wishes with, you can bet that’s exactly what she’s doing. A beast behind the bar herself, Karla still jumps behind the well and gets down to her roots with an almost entirely female staff. A very close-to-home food program is being doled out by Karla’s father, serving up the family’s signature tamales from 5pm to 10pm daily, with a recent addition of mulitas and tacos.
Small tables and booths guide you through to the bar and out towards a spacious patio that overlooks Sunset. Trinkets such as fresh flowers and a port centerpiece. As far as the drinks go, you’ll find a menu of elevated spirits and flavor profiles bound to make even a chef that just got off his 12-hour shift smile. The Mezcal Cocktail is a bit of a fan favorite with a balanced complexity that tastes as bright as it looks. With flavors of Valencia orange and carrot intertwining with the sultry smoky heat of Mestizo Mezcal and Sal de Gusano. You’ll find a few other colorful treats listed by their base spirit alongside the patio-sipper of all patio-sippers, the Flores Sangria. When it comes down to it all, Bar Flores emanates many of the best things you’ll find in Los Angeles: community, diversity, great drinks, and great food. We think it’s time to plan a tamale night, don’t you?
Pictures of past decorate the hallways, these are the mothers that made us. Karla Flores-Mercado’s grandmother sits above the bar
Dive into the cocktail menu from top to bottom with revelry, it changes with seasons
My oh my what a view of Sunset Blvd
Is there such thing as too many tamales? We think not
THE MORNING BUZZ
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