Morgan Margolis, left, is owner of the new Bow & Truss restaurant and… (Genaro Molina, Los Angeles…)
The slender glass of sherry blushes a reddish brown and tastes of leather and summer cherries. Musky-sweet and light on the palate, the Spanish fortified wine is the unifying force behind the bar program at Bow & Truss, North Hollywood's new Latin restaurant from Morgan Margolis and Knitting Factory Entertainment.
On a recent Monday afternoon, Margolis gathered with mixologists Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest of the bar consulting firm Tello/Demarest Liquid Assets to talk about the drinks and sample a few. The hit of the day is a cocktail called the Horse Thief Old-Fashioned, which is made with Scotch, Pedro Ximenez Sherry and absinthe: a trifecta of clamorous flavors that hit all the right notes when combined over ice and garnished with a twist of fresh orange.
The arrival of a restaurant and bar like Bow & Truss has been heralded as a bit of a tipping point when it comes to destination drinking and dining in North Hollywood. It's walking distance from the Federal Bar, Margolis' first restaurant venture, which opened a little more than a year ago and draws a hip and fashionable crowd from over the hill as well as a satisfied roster of locals. Like downtown L.A. in 2007, when Cedd Moses opened his pioneering whiskey bar Seven Grand (also with Tello and Demarest), North Hollywood is showing it's ready for a high-concept craft cocktail bar.
Bow & Truss is also a tipping point for Margolis and KFE's fledgling bar and restaurant division, which Margolis plans to expand on a national level in the coming years, perhaps using the Federal Bar as its flagship. But conquering NoHo comes first.
"The neighborhood response has been tremendous," says Margolis, sitting at the bar on a handmade wooden stool. "We opened 'quietly' on Saturday night and did 291 covers."
Demarest, who lives in the neighborhood, says he's seen big changes in the past few years, which is why he was happy to take on the project.
"There are just so many more people walking around at night than there used to be," says Demarest. "That was the milestone for downtown too."
Adding to the allure of Bow & Truss is its lovely arched wood-beam ceilings (from which it derives its name). Margolis converted an old auto garage into an airy, modern Spanish tavern complete with an open kitchen, a square bar and an expansive front patio that is as rambling as a yard in the Spanish countryside.
The food is by Stefhanie Meyers (Rivera, Playa) and features a variety of tapas-style dishes including some tasty grilled sea bass tacos on moist corn tortillas, lobster ceviche in a mildly sweet lime sauce with salty plantain chips and hot iron skillets of seafood paella.
Demarest says he and Tello settled on sherry as the house libation because it speaks most clearly to the history and spirit of Spain, plus there isn't another bar program in the city that focuses on the beverage (one that some people are likely to associate with a night spent at Grandma's playing gin rummy).
"I think it's a smart choice," says Tello, skewering an almost transparent slice of cucumber into an accordion shape to garnish a drink called Pio Pica Crusta, made with Palo Cortado Sherry, maraschino and lemon. "Although people said, 'You're going to do what in the Valley? You should do some margaritas.'"
With Bow & Truss launched, Margolis says he already has an idea for a third North Hollywood project.
"I must've lost my mind to think I can do it again. I like to equate creating a bar to having another baby," jokes Margolis, who has three children. "Did you forget what the first time was like?"
"Bars and babies, they look cute on paper," chimes in Demarest, also a father.
However, with a still-unnamed beer-and-wine bar going in down the street from Bow & Truss, and the new Laemmle NoHo 7 theater around the corner on Lankershim Boulevard joining favorite neighborhood spots like Eclectic Wine Bar & Grill, Margolis' bet on North Hollywood doesn't look as crazy as he might think.
"The Federal Bar has 7,000 Facebook fans and this place already has 400," says Margolis. "The word is out."
That certainly appeared to be the case on Tuesday night, two days before Bow & Truss officially announced its opening. The restaurant was packed inside and out, the bar buzzed with bloggers toting smartphone cameras and a pleasing din emanated from the bustling kitchen.
"The best part is that this place is just a short subway ride from Hollywood and downtown," Demarest says, enjoying a meal in a booth with friends. Now if only those subways stayed open into the wee hours.