The Downtown Arts District is one of the most thriving areas of L.A. and Westbound is a neighborhood highlight that is equal parts historic and hip.
The speakeasy-inspired craft cocktail bar lies on the site of the original 1893 Santa Fe Railroad’s La Grande Station. With its red brick construction, Moorish dome, and exotic gardens, the station exhibited all the promise that California could offer. In its 46 years as the main Santa Fe terminal, the La Grande Station embodied cultural diversity, adventurous design, and the pursuit of something greater. Now, Westbound, which opened in May 2016, is serving up cross-cultured craft cocktails and fresh, seasonal small bites in an environment inspired by luxury railcars of past and present.
“Westbound is a neighborhood bar but still feels like a destination,” says owner Sarah Meade. “We want you to come in, feel relaxed and stay a while.”
It’s certainly easy to stay a while thanks to the bar’s warm and inviting decor. Think cozy train-style booths and outlets at every table plus underneath the bar (seriously, why doesn’t every bar have this). House cocktails rotate seasonally and are carefully curated by Westbound’s innovative mixologists. This fall, try out the Explorer, made with Copper & King’s brandy, Altos tequila, Plantation Pineapple rum, lemon, pineapple and orgeat and red wine or the Around the Way Girl, which is sweet as brown sugar with roasted and pureed yams, Cutwater Three Sheets Spice Rum, Plantation 3 Star Rum, coconut and orange.
“The Around The Way Girl is very much a painkiller,“ says Meade. “It’s like a fall-inspired tiki-style drink with yams.”
Keeping with the historical vibe, the bar also boasts a unique offering of classic cocktails with a twist which reference famed drinks of the past. The 1896 Gaelic Royal Fizz, by George Keppeler of Modern Drinks, features Monkey Shoulder whiskey, lemon, orange, vanilla, egg and soda, while the 1884 Martinez, by O. Byron of The Modern Bartender, is made with Bols Genever, Mancino Sweet Vermouth and Luxardo Maraschino, aged in a clay pot.
The Food at Westbound
On the bites side, oysters on the half shell, with strawberry and watermelon granita, harissa and basil, are served in a mermaid-worthy shell platter, while their cheese plate, with spiced olives and charcuterie, is nothing short of a feast. Also on the menu are specialty paninis and freshly baked brown batter chocolate chip cookies served with whole milk (and a splash of Barcardi 8 Milk Rum Punch if that’s your style).
Come the holidays, keep an eye out as Westbound transforms into an over-the-top, winter wonderland complete with fresh falling snow, kitschy Christmas and Hanukkah decorations and seasonal cocktails, known as Miracle on Santa Fe. In the meantime, check out one of their weekly tasting events in partnership with The Museum Of The American Cocktail, where guests can sample new spirits from curated distilleries.
“Since I moved to the west coast six years ago, I’ve never seen a space that’s so comfortable, yet isn’t divey,” says Chad Owen, Brand Development Manager at spirit supplier Altamar. “Westbound’s where you want to be, not because you are trying to date someone or it’s the ‘it’ place to be, but because it’s home. It’s got killer food, excellent drinks and you’ll be treated well. It’s one of the few bars I’ve ever been to that I wish I lived next door to.”
300 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, 213-262-9291
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 5 p.m. – 2 a.m., Sunday 5 p.m. – 2 a.m