Tucked in the lower level corner of The Bloc, on the other side of the walkway connecting the retail and hotel space to the 7th Street Metro Station sits District, a restaurant and bar destined to be DTLA’s living room.
“We’re a great bar with a killer kitchen,” says manager Steve Nydell and he isn’t wrong. In the kitchen Executive Chef Hansen Lee crafts L.A. fare inspired by his Korean heritage. “It has to be fresh ... It has to be local. It has to be seasonal. We’re cooking food for L.A,” says Lee.
He points to the L.A. Tacos on the menu, rightly deserving its place as one of District’s most popular dishes. “A Mexican staple with a Korean twist,” Lee says with a smile. One bite and you know why: sautéed kimchi and queso fresco dance on your tongue, the marinated beef is tender and juicy. For a main course Nydell recommends the Backyard BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs. The ribs are thickly crusted in espresso grounds, which seals the flavor into the meat. There’s the crunch of the rub as the meat falls off the bone.
Not to be outdone by the kitchen, mad scientist Tony Gonzales mans the bar. His skills are extraordinary, and District gives him a place to show them off. His lavender whisky sour is a sensory trip, combining the creaminess of egg whites with the tartness of the cocktail and the pleasant smoky aroma of burning lavender which, by the way, is still on fire when the drink arrives. Then there’s the “Beatnik,” with beets (just keep reading) and roasted apple infused into applejack (apple alcohol), mixed with vodka and spritzed with lemon essence. The spritz is key, explains Gonzales, because it tricks your nose into thinking you’re tasting citrus.
Gonzales has clocked in many painstaking hours pinpointing the delicious flavor combos out of unlikely ingredients, right down to figuring out how to get the perfect sprig of dill every time.
District was the recipient of the 2016 Gold Key award for excellence in hospitality design and it’s easy to see why. The space is industrial, well-lit and inviting. The tables have phone chargers on them, an attention to detail sure to keep you connected.
“We’re a neighborhood spot,” Nydell explains. “We’re here for the people who live and work downtown.” He notes how they now serve breakfast, giving you no excuse to check out what they’re serving up no matter the time of day.
Written by Abel Horwitz
Photographed by Eric Cacioppo