POWER HOUSE HOLLYWOOD
A SEEDY FAVE ALL DOLLED UP NOW
Hollywood loves a good reinvention story. Second chances and a facelift are par for the course in this town—from starlets to celebrities to a tried and true watering hole. And located in the heart of Hollywood, at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, is Power House Hollywood, which is now running on its third leg.
I’ve seen this local bar all my life growing up in Hollywood. How can you forget its iconic neon sign that shines like a beacon? When I was old enough to drink and finally made my way inside I was shocked to find out it was such a dive bar (and that’s putting it mildly). Eventually I developed a fondness for dives and I’d have the occasional drink there. A couple of years ago nightlife impresarios like Jeffrey Best and Damien Windsor took over, classed up the joint and introduced cocktail culture to the former seedy bar.
Now Power House Hollywood is a craft cocktail bar that embodies Hollywood from its airbrush beauty to not so subtle blemishes both rugged and gritty. Originally opened in 1947 and completely renovated in 2014, the bar has struggled with its identity ever since its grand makeover. At first it wasn’t a dive anymore and the handcrafted drinks and top shelf spirits were too expensive for the old regulars. Now it’s not as handcrafted and the booze isn’t so top shelf and a reinvention may be necessary again.
During our recent visit, we came in from the Hollywood rat race outside and found refuge in the bar’s charming and welcoming interior, which has been described as possessing a polished feel of a Southern gentleman's (or lady's) relaxed watering hole, circa 1910.
Gone are Damian Windsor’s much lauded cocktails, instead you’ll find the local favorite Beer and a Shot for $8. I appreciate a bar that aims to keep it real. The current menu features five handcrafted drinks. We started with The Jeffrey—a mix of vodka, Pernod Absinthe, lime, ginger beer and lemon bitters. I didn’t care for its black licorice taste and just wasn’t a big fan of Jeffrey.
Likewise, the Rose Water made with gin, St. Germain, Chambord, lemon, prosecco and rose water was too syrupy and tart to really enjoy. And The Foreva Friday, made with bourbon, pineapple and lemon, was also sour and somewhat bland. Not a good combination.
I thought for sure I would hate The Malibu Silk made with mezcal (a favorite of mine), Malibu rum (Really? Really?), Aperol, pineapple, lemon and lime but instead found it to be quite good. I liked that the mezcal really came through so you have to be a fan of smokiness to enjoy this libation.
I think my favorite of the menu drinks was the Hello Yellow made with vodka, St. Germain, pineapple, prosecco, and Yellow Chartreuse. I’m not a big vodka fan as I’d rather drink gin, but I liked the subtlety in this drink. While the vodka doesn’t add much flavor, the other ingredients, especially the Yellow Chartreuse, really work well.
As most bartenders around town will tell you, I don’t like sweet drinks and I thought there was too much pineapple and prosecco and Malibu on the menu for my liking. But what I really enjoyed was having a conversation with my bartender Chris, telling him what I like and having him come up with some delicious off menu drinks. I always like testing a bar and its staff with the classic Martinez (if they ask if I want an olive I’m out the door) and Chris made a solid one. I balked when he suggested a Manhattan or Old Fashioned as those are two played out classic cocktails but he did make a very nice Sazerac.
Like a rebellious starlet, the bar looks nice on first glance but it definitely has it dark and seedy side, which reflects the neighborhood—let’s be honest, Hollywood Boulevard long ago stopped being the streets of dreams. I like the subtle seediness of Power House, which it had for years and years. I’m not venturing to Hollywood expecting drinks on par with Melrose Umbrella Company or 1886, which are the best cocktail bars in town, instead I like hanging out in a seedy chic bar where I can skip over the menu and know that I can get solid drinks nonetheless. While a reinvention or makeover wouldn’t hurt, this is a great go-to spot in Hollywood to escape the tourists, unwind and enjoy some cool cocktails.
Power House Hollywood is located at 1714 Highland Ave. Open daily from 7pm-2am. Call 323-463-9438.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy: Jose Martinez & Power House Hollywood