Even in the middle of the afternoon on a bright, sunny LA day, The Arsenal is dark and creepy. From the outside, it looks like a a psychotic Civil War veteran’s wood cabin that you stumble upon as you, Hansel, and Gretel go snorting around for candy hidden deep in the forest. “Arsenal” is spelled out in Olde Shakespeare English Lite font over the door. Inside, the Arsenal is even darker.
The bar is divided into three small areas, all caught in different eras of history from right to left. The room off to the right is feels like an 1800s saloon built inside an arsenal, with guns and weird scary ammunition and other war memorabilia mounted on the walls. The Arsenal’s central room is retro dive, deep and narrow, with a small raised lounge off to one side and the bar toward the back. I think there was a jukebox and a DJ booth back there, but don’t quote me on that. I do know, however, that a DJ spins on some nights, so there’s got to be a booth somewhere. The far left room is a somewhat sleeker covered patio with slightly updated decor. It’s smoky because this is where all the smokers smoke and the smoke hangs just below the “covered” of the patio.
I’ve been to the Arsenal at least a half-dozen times now, and for some reason, though each time I say to myself “*eh* This place isn’t really anything special. I don’t need to come back,” I come back. I guess that is exactly it – the fact that it is nothing special and just a neighborhood bar.
But for a neighborhood bar, the Arsenal gets fairly crowded on weekend nights. Every time I’ve gone, the crowd is different. During the week, it feels like after-class meeting place for Anderson and UCLA Law. All the boys are dressed in barely trendy Banana Republic business casual, and the girls must have changed into their “going-out” clothes in the car on the way over. A few nights, I felt out of place because I sat on the covered patio, overrun by Asians. Or maybe Asians are the only ones left in LA who actually smoke. Oooh, someone slap for me such a racial comment!
My most recent trip was right around happy hour. My personal poison is always vodka and soda, or vodka rocks if it’s been one of those days. However, the Arsenal has a decent cocktail menu, that’s not too heavy on the frou frou fruity frilly drinks. That just wouldn’t go with the Civil War battle decor. The Dark and Stormy, made with dark rum and ginger beer sounded awesome, and very fitting for the atmosphere, decor, and my personal pissy mood, but I went with a somewhat girly Grasshopper. I know that sweet, creamy, pretty pastel Sprint green is highly inconsistent with my choice of clear vodka cocktails, but there are a few drinks for which I allow myself to be an inconsistent, prissy, picky little princess – Chambord/vodka, Bellini, and Grasshopper. If a bar can make a proper Grasshopper (without cream or milk, though), I always order it.
Arsenal has food, too, but I’ve never ordered it. Two grasshoppers are very filling.
I’m never going back to the Arsenal again, but when I do, I have to try their Manopolitan. *blech* I don’t like Makers Mark, but come on, it’s called a Manopolitan. LOL!
12012 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064
** a year ago today, i played around montmartre (lounge in LA, not france) **