Touring the Trendy Side Of California Hot Spots

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
December 26, 1993

So you’ve been to Disneyland, seen a taping of the “Tonight Show” and had your picture taken on the Golden Gate Bridge. Now that you’ve gotten the touristy things out of the way, are you ready to take a trip on the wilder side of California?  Then read on for some highlights of the nightlife scene in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

LOS ANGELES

Cat & Fiddle, 6530 Sunset Blvd. (213-468-3800). Easily my favorite L.A. hangout. Trendy, but not snooty, this pub and restaurant is one of the places to be seen this. People have a difficult time remembering what it’s called –
I’ve heard Fiddle Dee Dee, Cat in the Hat and Cat in the Fiddle – but in a city filled with poseur clubs, the Cat & Fiddle stands out as winner.  There’s a lush courtyard filled with trees that makes patrons feel they’ve walked onto the set of a Robin Hood movie.  A couple of big bikers work the door, politely asking to see IDs.  The beautiful people start heading in around 11:30 p.m.  Did I see anyone famous there?  No, but it was worth the trip to see a smashing Bjorn Borg-lookalike romp around in lederhosen.

Gardens of Taxco, 1113 N. Harper, West Hollywood (213-654-1746). This Mexican restaurant doesn’t serve the best food in L.A., but it’s definitely one of the most entertaining.  The waiters memorize the night’s menu (there are no printed menus) and guide diners towards their favorite dishes.  And true to our waiter’s word, the food is, “spicy, but not hot.”

Hollywood Athletic Club, 6525 W. Sunset Blvd. (213-962-6600).  Just down the street from the Cat & Fiddle, this place is a must for celeb gawkers. I saw Kiefer Sutherland and Tori Spelling (not together) hang at this former gym. There’s still an upstairs track, but it’s for show, not jogging.  There are 43 pool tables that usually fill up quickly. There can be a line to get in if you’re not connected. Watch where you park your car – this is in a so-so neighborhood.

Kings Road Cafe, 8361 Beverly Blvd. (213-655-9044). Pick up a paper at the newsstand right next to the cafe and treat yourself to a leisurely meal.  Just at the intersection of Kings Road and Beverly Boulevard, this restaurant is one of the best places to catch a quick, cheap breakfast (about $7). It does wonders with eggs and
serve coffees in huge, bowl-sized mugs.

Pasta Etc., 8650 Sunset Blvd. (310-854-0094). A fun place to people watch, Pasta Etc. serves killer salads and salmon pasta.  Our waitress was more infatuated with the unnaturally young grandmother at the next table, but the food was worth the slow service.

Viper Room, 8852 W. Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood (310-358-1880). Even though actor Johnny Depp is the owner, the Viper Room had no fame outside of L.A. until River Phoenix’s unfortunate death there. The club features live music by bands such as the Buzzcocks and Dig. It’s said the cover charge doubled after Phoenix’s death, to $10.

SAN FRANCISCO

Brandy Ho’s, 217 Columbus Ave. (415-788-7527). A trendy restaurant located in the heart of Chinatown, Brandy Ho’s has the look and feel of a European bistro.  The good news is the Hunan cuisine is tasty and the chefs don’t use MSG in their dishes.  The bad news is Brandy Ho’s doesn’t serve fortune cookies after meals.

Cafe Claude, 7 Claude Lane (415-392-3505). You can feel the patrons oozing ennui as they listen to live jazz bands and tenderly nurse their espressos.

Cafe de la Presse, 352 Grant (415-398-2680). Just around the corner in the heart of the city’s French quarter, this espresso house describes itself as “le rendez-vous de San Francisco.”  It’s as French as Claude is English and has a fine selection of light meals, imported beers and killer cappuccinos.  A section of the cafe is devoted to periodicals, both American and international.  It also sells cheap postcards:  seven for $1.

Cafe Paradiso, 1725 Haight St. (415-221-5244). I know, yet another cafe.  But it was such a treat to be in a city with coffee houses on almost every corner that I couldn’t resist this one either.  Paradiso had thought-provoking artwork and better food than most of the coffee houses. Try the vegetarian nachos.

Country Cheese Co., 415 Divisadero St. (415-621-8130). When you’re running a little low on cash, head here to buy the fixings for a reasonably priced meal. There are imported cheeses, dried fruits and smoked meats.  Ask Mario to help you select what you need.

Horse Shoe Cafe, 566 Haight (415-626-8852). This place has the artsy, rundown look and feel of a University of Chicago hangout. Take a quick look at the cluttered bulletin board and on any given day, you can find a lost kitty, a roommate or a used car.  Located in the back of the Horse Shoe, patrons may play with the  shrink-wrapped computer – 25 cents buys four minutes of computer time.  Among many things, the SF Net allows hackers to send E-mail, find out what’s happening in the city and delve into the philosophy file (don’t ask). For a nightcap, I recommend the hot chocolate.

Slim’s, 333 11th St. (415-621-3330). Boz Scaggs owns this nightclub where Chris Isaak used to be a regular performer until he warbled his way to fame. Clean and inviting, get there early to grab a bar stool or be prepared to stand all night long.  Or arrange to eat upstairs – then you’re guaranteed a table.

Twenty Tank Brewery, 316 11th St. (415-255-9455). Full of ruddy-faced college types, it’s definitely mainstream but convenient for clubbers on their way home from Slim’s.

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