Wolf & Crane
The ‘neighborhood’ bar is ubiquitous and no neighborhood feels truly lived in without a watering hole that allows neighbors to gather together for one purpose: to experience the brevity of those fleeting moments of connection that occur when one is properly juiced. Inspired by the Japanese neighborhood bar, Wolf & Crane is Little Tokyo’s ‘neighborhood’ bar. The space itself is moody, lacquered with wood — the tables, the bar, stools and seating are all made from wood — and cozy. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar and it feels like home or at least, a place where you’d be happy to be a regular.
Wolf & Crane focuses specifically on Japanese whiskies, with options for just about every palate from the self-avoid whisky snob down to the curious cocktail purveyor who may not know much about Japanese whisky. Japanese spirits are featured throughout the cocktail list and many of drinks pull inspiration from Japanese flavors like the shishito infused gin cocktail, O’Shito! Or, you can try the highly recommended Nikka Coffey Whisky, neat or on the rocks. Wolf & Crane boasts one of the best Japanese whisky collections in Los Angeles, making it a real treat for whisky lovers or those who want to learn more about Japanese whiskies.
What really makes the bar special, however, are proprietors Michael Francesconi and Matthew Glaser’s dedication to making the bar a part of the Little Tokyo neighborhood. “We immersed ourselves in the community: we joined the neighborhood business association and the neighborhood councils, shook hands with all the elders in the community. We wanted to make a neighborhood bar and we couldn’t do that without intimately knowing the community,” says Michael. It shows particularly in one special design detail: the nafudake, wooden name calligraphy shingles traditionally found in Japanese dojos are used as a sort of ‘hall of fame’ for long time bar visitors. Each nafudake is dated, allowing patrons to follow their own personal history at the bar.
“Bars in Japan are simple and beautiful. The bar should speak for itself,” Michael says. Daniel, the bar manager agrees. “We all kind of develop the menu here as a team. The old fashioned is really solid. The bitters were developed especially for us by Drunken Crane bitters and has notes of oolong, jujube, and cherry. It has a nice tea spiciness to it.” The team at Wolf + Crane is dedicated to creating a bar where patrons walk in and it feels like having a drink with a group of your closest friends. “Intentionality is in every movement and that extends to the customer service too. The Japanese style of bartending is to give the customer what they want. That’s what we hope to do here: the care and attention to what you want.”
Written by Oriana Koren
Photographed by Oriana Koren