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COVER STORY

Ready to serve at crack of dawn

September 20, 2007|August Brown

Late-night drinking in L.A. is like piloting a plane through heavy turbulence: There will inevitably come a point where you lose contact with your crew, and you'll just have to wait out the storm. Because L.A.'s last-call laws leave a dead zone after 2 a.m., if you didn't pound enough to last until morning, or have the foresight to secure rations at home, you're pretty much out of luck.

But if the light of day reveals that your one-night stand could lose 20 pounds and a patch of back hair, you probably need a drink, and quickly. Fortunately, another proud L.A. tradition is the 6 a.m. first call, where gaffers, off-call doctors and ephedrine-addled taxi drivers meet to wash the impending morning away.

Westsiders keep things blurry after sunrise at the Gas Lite in Santa Monica, and Westlake's venerable Pacific Dining Car has left Angelenos itching for a single-malt scotch for breakfast with eye-popping tabs for decades. The gay club scene gets its own beery breakfast of champions at Spotlight in Hollywood, while the notorious King Eddy's in the thick of skid row is the perfect place to come down from your rave. First Cabin in Arcadia will test the mettle of dive bar aficionados, but the Socratic ideal of the predawn first call is the Drawing Room in Los Feliz.

Adjacent to Hollywood's coterie of strippers, Kaiser Permanente surgeons and film industry crew, the Drawing Room is equal parts Chinese vice den, hillbilly karaoke club and Eastside scenesters' only source of vitamin C for the day (thanks to an ace Bloody Mary).

On a typical Saturday, a quartet of astonishingly vibrant youngsters polished off an all-night "Twilight Zone" marathon with identical tumblers of vodka, tomato juice and untouched celery. "We're going to go to brunch, play golf and pass out until Monday," said Antae Bargan, a plumber and student eager to greet the day by debating the merits of the comic strip "Rex Morgan, M.D." with the Hawaiian shirted-bartender. After too many mornings like his, even a fictional doctor would probably be useful.

Gas Lite, (310) 829-2382; Pacific Dining Car, (213) 483-6000; Spotlight, (323) 467-2425; King Eddy's Saloon, (213) 629-2023; First Cabin, (626) 446-2575; Drawing Room, (323) 665-0135.

-- August Brown

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