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Light beer and weighty thoughts

November 24, 2005|Cindy Chang | Special to The Times

ON Friday night, artsy types arrived at a Chinatown bar to listen to a PhD, an urban historian and a media artist discuss "The Seduction of the Future: Fantasy Worlds From the Early 20th Century."

On Sunday, the same bar hosted a launch party for "L.A. Artland," a book on the contemporary Los Angeles art scene. The billing the following day was "Alcoholacaust," a lineup of metal and noise rock that featured $3 draft beers all night.

In between the special events, the space filled with weekend drinkers looking for a bar off the beaten track of Silver Lake and Echo Park hipsterville.

It was a typical week at the Mountain, an eclectic cross of Parisian cafe, neighborhood bar and independent bookstore.

The Mountain has a bona fide art-world pedigree: Co-owner Jorge Pardo is an internationally known artist, Steve Hanson owns a nearby gallery, and the third partner, Mark McManus, is an architect. The three envisioned the bar as an artists' gathering place, where talk of gallery openings, critical theory and politics would commingle.

A little more than two years after it opened to press fanfare and a reported Brad Pitt sighting, the Mountain lives up to that promise.

Early in the evenings, the bar is so casual that you can bring takeout from a nearby Chinese place and wash it down with a $3 Bud Light while an iPod plays New Wave tracks.

Things get livelier late Fridays and Saturdays, but even then the bar retains its non-scenester feel.

The Pardo-designed interior remains striking. The orangish walls are mottled with paint drips reminiscent of bloodstains, and the enormous, scarab-like ceiling lamps glow an eerie red. (Pardo plans to install new lamps of his own design every few years.) The effect might be summed up as chinoiserie meets Addams Family.

The bar's underground-cool vibe is enhanced by the neighborhood, with its slightly down-and-out feel and genuine ethnic patina. Chalked on the door of the bar is the name of the venerable Chinese restaurant -- Man Jen Low, or General Lee's -- that once occupied the space and played host to its share of Hollywood luminaries.

Outside in the quiet alley that fronts the bar, there are two ways to spend a quarter: a few bounces on one of the kiddie rides or a toss into the wishing well that dates to 1939, back when the old General Lee's was one of the only places in town to get Chinese food. Now that same building is one of the only places where you can listen to a reading by a Guggenheim fellow while sipping a Scotch on the rocks.


The Mountain

Where: 473 Gin Ling Way, L.A.

When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays; 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays

Price: No cover. Draft beer, $5; well drinks, $5 to $6; bottled beer, $3 to $5.

Info: (213) 625-7500;

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