The long established El Cid restaurant and bar has undergone a makeover… ( Michael Robinson Chavez/Los…)
Fifty years is a long time to have a bad reputation. That's almost how long Silver Lake's El Cid — the Spanish restaurant known for its flamenco dinner theater — has been open. It's also about how long Angelenos have raved about the show while lamenting the quality of the food and drink. The venue is now under new management, however, and the guardians of the historic space are as serious about food as they are about hosting quality entertainment.
Owner Scott Milano has brought in foodie and organic jam-maker Laura Ann Masura to revamp the bar program and chef Olivia Hernandez to create a menu of seasonal tapas. Milano, who formerly owned Foodchain Records, also replaced the venue's sound system and worn red velvet curtains, and re-landscaped the gorgeous back patio so it's perfect for alfresco dining.
"I think I would have been haunted for the rest of my life if I had changed anything besides the menu significantly," says Milano of the restaurant and club, which was built in the early 1900s by D.W. Griffith as a movie studio, and in 1963 was turned into a cozy replica of a 16th-century Spanish taverna with dark wood beams, twisty staircases and two rustic bars backed by brick and tile walls. "We're just dusting her off and tuning her up."
The mission of El Cid 2.0, says Milano, is to return it to the neighborhood as a quality destination for a great meal and an excellent show. And flamenco isn't the only type of entertainment you can catch at this cabaret. Former head of A&R for Foodchain, Kelly Spencer, is booking local rock 'n' roll acts. There are also short-film nights, and comedy and burlesque shows.
"El Cid shouldn't be so destination-oriented," says Masura. "We're making it a place where the neighborhood can just come and hang out. Although we're really working hard to keep the flamenco tradition alive and growing, this should be a place that everyone knows about. No mother should ever come to town and not be taken to a flamenco show at El Cid."
If you opt for dinner theater on Friday, Saturday or Sunday night you can nosh on Hernandez's new tapas menu (which is being rolled out slowly in the form of specials), including paella Valencia, tender fire-grilled lamb chops with a saffron reduction and rich brandy cream sauce, traditional gazpacho de tomate and carne chimichurri skewers.
"People tend to come to the shows in groups and a tapas menu encourages a convivial sense," says Hernandez, who honed her skills doing high-end catering for companies including CAA. "We'd like to do more wine pairings as well, and I'm working on a ceviche flight."
The menu and cocktail list will change with the seasons and what is available from local farmers.
"I'm a super food nerd," says Masura, who regularly uses jam from her company Laura Ann's Jams as mixers in her cocktails. "Everybody behind the bar is so creative and we're always coming up with new ideas for drinks."
The cocktails present a pleasant departure from the traditional mixology menus that are prevalent around town these days. Here you'll find rich, slightly off-the-wall creations like the Strawberry Vanilla Bean Margarita made with tequila, Laura Ann's Strawberry Vanilla Bean preserves, lime and agave nectar; and L.A.'s Maple Pumpkintini, which is a decadent combination of Stoli vanilla vodka, spices and Laura Ann's Pumpkin Butter and goes down too easily — like boozy dessert in a glass.
"If we changed our reputation from that really cool music venue to that place with really good food we could do so much more," says Masura. "I studied at cheese school in San Francisco and we're bringing in some cheese platters and finding all sorts of local purveyors while still pushing an authentic Spanish vibe."
Milano says that reactions from the neighborhood have been universally positive, with people happy to see the beloved venue receiving the TLC is deserves.
"The guy who owned it before was a nightclub guy," says Masura. What Milano has done, she says, "is amazing."
"It's really been a restoration project," adds Milano. "I'm very respectful of the place, at a certain point it speaks to you and tells you what it needs."
Where: 4212 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A.
When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Wed. to Sun. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sun. brunch
Price: Tapas, $6 to $11; signature cocktails, $10
Info: (323) 668-0318; http://www.elcidla.com