643 North is Downtown’s latest gastropub with an Italian twist. Like similar establishments, the focus is on featuring great drinks paired with sophisticated small and larger bites. In this case, the food is comforting (and reasonably priced!) while keeping somewhat of an edge to satisfy most L.A. diners. The challenge is its location: its building is off the beaten path in Chinatown on North Spring Street near Cesar Chavez Avenue.
Let’s get down to the important stuff … the well-stocked and carefully crafted drink menu! Many of the cocktails were designed by bartender Adam Acuff (Far Bar) and the full bar has 12 beers on tap, a menu for patrons to craft their own martinis and Manhattans, specialty cocktails, artisanal wine, aperitifs, digestifs, and alcoholic coffee drinks made with beans from Little Tokyo’s Demitasse Roasters.
Luckily, Melissa Richardson Banks of Downtown Muse joined me for my first visit to 643 North, which allowed us to sample a greater variety of drinks. We started off by sipping from the restaurant’s signature menu. Our first drink was the “Red Hot Cherry Pepper,” which is a spicy mix of Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and Cherry Heering liqueur accented with a sliced red bell pepper and chopped jalapeno pepper. It had a nice kick in the mouth with a balanced spicy, yet gentle flavor.
Our next drink was “Smokey the Pear,” a light mix of High West Whiskey Campfire®, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, spiced pear syrup, lemon juice, and Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters. This refreshing cocktail is just right and is not overpowered with sweetness.
“Go Figure Yourself” – perhaps 643 North’s most complex and best signature cocktail – offers a perfect mix of Avion Reposado tequila, Bénédictine liqueur, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, fig thyme syrup, lime juice and fig bitters topped with a splash of Pinot Noir. The drink evolves the longer it sits – the first sip gives you a nice wine flavor followed by a nice second layer of reposado with a fig finish. After 10 minutes, the flavors mature (wine breathing!) and the flavor solidifies into a complex rich flavor that pleases the palate and does not overpower … potent, rich and downright delicious.
Regarding beer, 643 North has done a great job in selecting seasonal craft beers. From the current menu, I love the Smoked Porter from Stone Brewing Co. and the Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout by Great Divide Brewing Company. There are also selections from Black Market Brewing and Ninkasi Brewing. You can get a flight of four for a reasonable $12.
Last, but not least, 643 North offers a hefty selection of aperitifs and digestifs. After tasting several small bites and sampling pizza, we opted to share a flight of digestifs (four for $16). I recommend the Fernet Jelinek (Czech) if you like strong, explosive flavors and the Rhubarbo Zucca Amaro if you prefer velvety smooth complex flavors. Either one will pacify you into a well-earned food coma destined to come.
Be sure to ask bartender Adam Acuff for suggestions as he is well versed in his craft and can help guide you in your adventure. Cheers to the newest – and most welcomed – addition to the DTLA culinary family!
For a full story on the space and food check out my friend Downtown Muse‘s story at http://downtownmuse.com/go-spring-over-to-chinatown/ All images below by Downtown Muse