Death & Co LA Review: Drinking Spirits in the Dark

Death & Co LA is less descent to the underworld than enjoyable speakeasy

If we told you there is a bar with “Death” in its name, located in a basement in the downtown Los Angeles area, and that its visual aesthetic was geared toward the opaque and the tenebrous, you would probably expect some kind of Goth doom-and-gloom club blasting Bauhaus over the speakers. You won’t get that at Death & Co LA, but you will get low-key atmosphere, imaginative cocktails, and enjoyable food options.

Death & Co LA Review: Location

Death & Co LA is located on E. 3rd Street, a few blocks east of Little Tokyo, not far from Angel City Brewery. Nestled among local establishments (Breadlam, Kreation Organic Juicery), the entrance is easy to overlook, an inauspicious door with a small sign visible to pedestrians on the sidewalk but not to passengers driving by in cars. The actual name is merely Death & Co; the LA designation is used only on the official website (where it unfortunately resembles “DEATH & COLA”) in order to distinguish the Los Angeles venue from its brethren in New York and Denver.

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After passing the guard at the door, you enter a dark corridor where a receptionist guides you down the stairs, warning you to move slowly so that your eyes can adjust to the absence of light as you descend into the shadows below. The interior is painted black, and the underground lair into which you emerge is encased in shadows. Dim lamps cast a paltry glow upon the bar, abetted by flickering candles on the tables. You are likely to find yourself stumbling as you try to seat yourself. Eventually your eyes will adjust, but Death & Co’s interior will never look bright.

If this sounds moody, it is to some extent. The passage down the stairs certainly suggests a descent into the underworld – perhaps into the afterlife. However, once you are seated, there is little to suggest you have entered Hades. The atmosphere is more along the lines of a speakeasy, and the upbeat pop-rock music riffing from hidden speakers will dispel any sense of gloom.


Death & Co LA Review: Food

Food is limited mostly to appetizer-type items and a couple deserts: pickles, salad, pate, chocolate chip cookies, and strawberry shortcake. It is possible to fashion something resembling a complete meal out of the available options, but it is a bit of a stretch.

The House Pickles and the House Salad may not sound like anything special, but both are excellent; the later benefitted from the sesame flavor combined with the kosho vinaigrette. Our guests informed us that the crab-to-bread brioche ratio of the Dungenes Roll was disappointing, and that the sourdough toast was the best thing about the Chicken Liver Pate. The Cavatelli pasta with Sweet onion, peas, and thyme received a passing grade. Overall, we enjoyed what we ate, but it served mostly as an accompaniment to the cocktails.


Death & Co LA Review: Cocktails

The real appeal of Death & Co LA is its cocktail menu, which is approximately four times the size of its dinner menu. The bar offers a unique selection of eccentric creations, which invite customers to explore unusual flavor combinations. The quirky names include pop culture references such as Moneypenny, which combines gin and Lillet Blanc (like James Bond’s famous Vesper Lynd martini), along with Cacao and Buddha’s Hand citron (a citrus fruit with a lemony fragrance that presumably substitutes for Bond’s long, thin slice of lemon peel). The only horror-themed drink is the Basilisk (combining single malt, lime, chartreuse, and mint), which is named after the legendary reptilian beast that could kill with a single glance.

Lest you be intimidated by the unusual flavor combinations of drinks with names such as Virginia Beach Vanity Plate, the cocktails are separated into four categories, providing suggestions of what to expect: Fresh & Lively, Light & Playful, Bright & Confident, Elegant & Timeless.

Of the cocktails we sampled, highest praise was bestowed upon Ecstasy of Gold and Pirate Radio. for its abundant flavor. The later, categories as Fresh & Lively, earned points for its rich color and abundant flavor. Ecstasy of Gold (named after an excellent music cue from the 1968 film The Good, The Bad & The Ugly) lived up to its name; the Bright & Confident drink combines rye and pasilla chili spirit for some powerful flavors, mellowed with grapefruit, honey, and lemon.

Also enjoyable were the Sound System and Rocksteady (both Light & Playful). Customers who prefer more traditional cocktails or non-alcoholic beverages can order off-menu, and the results are equally good (particularly the potent in-house ginger ale).


Death & Co LA Review: Conclusion

The ominous name, moody lighting, and underground location may suggest a sinister descent into Hades, but like Clifton’s Gothic Bar, Death & Co is not quite the themed location you might expect. Its tenuous connection to the macabre is a less important aspect of its appeal than its imaginative menu. Cocktails are the star attraction. The food is good but too limited for us to recommend this as a dining destination. You are better off stopping here for appetizers and drinks before moving on to a restaurant with a more diverse menu.

Death & Co LA Ratings
Overall
4
  • Ambiance
  • House Salad
  • House Pickles
  • Dungenes Crab Roll
  • Chicken Liver Pate
  • Cavatelli
  • Ecstasy of Gold
  • Pirate Radio
  • Sound System
  • Rock Steady

Bottom Line

Death and Co sounds sinister, but despite its dimly lit underground setting, the venue is more friendly than frightening. The real appeal lies in the imaginative cocktail menu, augmented by a small selection of appetizing food items.

Death & Co LA is open for indoor dining 5-11pm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, 5pm-midnight on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays. Outdoor dining is available Thursday through Sunday, 5-11pm. The address is 810 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Get more information at the official website.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.

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