This week, we’re reliving the Great Los Angeles Air Raid, celebrating the life and creative marionette wonders of Bob Baker, gaming old school and visiting some of my favorite places for a quick bite and drinks.
Los Angeles Air Raid
The Great Los Angeles Air Raid dance party and historical re-enactment returns to the Fort MacArthur Museum, 3601 S. Gaffey St., beginning at 3 p.m., Feb. 23.
The event, a fundraiser for the museum, recreates the February 1942 night when thousands of Southern Californians thought they were under attack from the air. Over 1,400 rounds from anti-aircraft guns were fired that night, but nothing was hit. Was it an enemy attack? War hysteria? Some have even suggested visitors from another world.
In addition to the re-enactment, this event includes special exhibits on display, a swing dance class and a dance party featuring Pete Jacobs and the Ft. MacArthur Officers Orchestra.
Tickets are $35 in advance through theairraid.com or $40 at the door.
Bob Baker Day
The Bob Baker Marionettes will celebrate the 95th birthday of their late founder with a carnival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 23, at Los Angeles State Historic Park, 1245 N. Spring St.
This free event will feature live music, puppet-making workshops, midway games, educational and exhibition booths from the local art community, food trucks, walk-around entertainment and a DJ set from OK GO’s Tim Nordwind.
The Bob Baker Marionettes have been delighting families for decades. The company lost their historic home in downtown LA last fall, but they will soon be moving to a new home in Highland Park.
For you fans of vintage arcade games like Pac-man and Asteroids, you’re in luck — the SoCal Retro Gaming Expo is coming to the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 Green St. Pasadena, on Feb. 23-24.
The event will feature retro gaming vendors, artists, YouTube personalities, voice actors, tournaments and a free play arcade and console area.
The expo will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Tickets are $40 for a two-day pass, $25 for a Saturday pass and $20 for a Sunday pass. Children 12 and under get in free with a paid adult.
For more information and a ticket link, visit www.socalretrogamingexpo.com
Because this weekend is relatively light in terms of events, I’m going to list a few of my favorite places to get a drink or a quick bite in DTLA.
• Phillipe the Original, 1001 N. Alameda St. In existence for 110 years, this place is an iconic eatery. While their claim to be the originator of the French dip sandwich is disputed by Cole’s, Philippe’s is the clear winner in the “who does it best” debate. The sandwich consists of either roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb (my favorite), turkey, pastrami or ham served on a lightly textured, freshly baked French roll, which has been dipped in the natural gravy of the roasts. They always have lines of customers, especially during Dodger home games, but it’s always worth the wait.
They are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
• Cielito Lindo, E. 23 Olvera St. Another LA institution, around since 1934, this tiny stand serves up the best taquitos in the city. They come smothered in avocado sauce with optional beans and cheese.
They are open from 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. the rest of the week.
• Cole’s/The Varnish, 118 E. 6th St.
While not as good as Philippe’s, Cole’s makes a damn fine French dip. It’s a nice, homey kind of place with good food and a location close to DTLA attractions. They also house a speakeasy, The Varnish, housed in a refurbished storage room. The Varnish, open everyday from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers both classic and updated cocktails. The only food allowed inside The Varnish is the French dip.
Cole’s is open from noon to 2 a.m., Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday and Sunday.
• Seven Grand, 515 W. 7th St., #200. It’s the best damn whiskey bar in LA. Here’s the description offered by the bar’s operators, 213 Hospitality Group: “The comprehensive whiskey bar features one of the largest selections of premium whiskeys in the West, with bottles displayed in vintage cases from the custom-designed building’s original proprietors, Brock & Co. Jewelry Emporium.”
The bar is also home to the Whiskey Society; a membership program providing guests the opportunity to further explore the spirit via education and experimentation, often with notable whiskey industry guests.
They are open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday.
Note that you can visit Mas Malo, a pretty good Mexican restaurant, on the first floor of the building.
• Gallery Bar and Cognac Room of the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Ave. When I want to enjoy a classic cocktail in a classic setting, there’s no finer place than the Biltmore. First off, you are sitting in one of the great historic buildings of LA. This 1923 Beaux Arts beauty was the first home of the Academy Awards and has seen six U.S. presidents, royalty and notorious gangsters like Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone. There are frescoes and murals, carved marble fountains and columns, crystal chandeliers and embroidered tapestries. I prefer the comfort of the sofas and love seats of the cognac room while I enjoy signature cocktails like the Black Dahlia (named in honor of the hotel’s most unfortunate guest Elizabeth Short), the Biltmore, for you gin drinkers and the bourbon-based Paper Airplane.
The Gallery Bar and Cognac Room are open from 4 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday.