The elements of surprise and delight are what come to mind as a first impression of the newest addition to Hollywood Boulevard’s dining scene. The latest, LONO Hollywood, is an impeccably designed themed eatery reminiscent of famed Don The Beachcomber’s (formerly located on McCadden Place and demolished decades go).
The Umbrella Hospitality Group’s Austin Melrose and Zach Patterson have brought to the streets of Hollywood a blend of cinema nostalgia and Tiki bar in a retro experience in dining featuring carefully crafted cocktails and food fare presented by Executive Chef David Lesporon and Chef de Cuisine Sam Hoke.
The Melrose/Patterson partnership began years ago in their hometown of Bend, Oregon. “We’ve both worked in the food service industry since our teens,” said Austin. “Zach and I have done it all. Working in the business we learned it from the bottom up.” Handsome, with a boyish charm, he made his way to Hollywood with stars in his eyes and an acting resume in his hands. Although enjoying some success in TV and films, in 2008 he and Zach jumped on an opportunity to open their own watering hole.
Both accomplished bartenders, they had a vision of what a “real” bar should look like and The Melrose Umbrella Co. was born. Paying homage to the history of the post-prohibition era, and the rebirth of America’s culinary contribution – the cocktail, the warm and friendly atmosphere has drawn a loyal following. The building in which the Melrose Umbrella Co. is housed was built in the midst of the excitement of the demise of prohibition, after the 18th amendment was lifted via ratification of the 21st amendment repealing the ban on liquor.
LONO Hollywood, their latest venture, is a time progression into the 1940s and 50s. America had been to war and thousands of soldiers and sailors had seen the world. To keep up the spirits of the folks back home, Hollywood produced scores of films with exotic locales—most notably the epic Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart and Claude Raines. Classic restaurants Trader Vic’s and Hollywood’s own Don the Beachcomber and Seven Seas offered rum drinks and South Pacific atmosphere.
Designed by Matt Winter and Austin Melrose, the space blends classic Tiki Bar with elegant Rick’s Café and the Coconut Grove. The bar is playful and friendly and welcomes Tiki Bar fans from across the globe. (Who knew there was such a thing? Dollar bills signed by these bona fide aficionados are tacked to the ceiling attesting to their visit.) Showcases filled with WWII memorabilia, Trade Vic and Don the Beachcomber souvenirs pay homage to the past. Reverence for the genre and old Hollywood abound. No detail in wall coverings, art or wicker and rataan furniture is spared.
Moving toward the covered back “patio” do not be fooled. It only gets better. Look behind a palm and you expect to see Peter Lorrie or Sydney Greenstreet suddenly appear. In fact, Peter Lorre does appear. His Walk of Fame star is steps away from LONO’s entrance.
Striving for authenticity in its cocktails and food, all drinks are made with fresh ingredients—no canned juices or syrups. Just reading the menu is like a trip to the South Pacific: Coconut popcorn, Kuai Fried Chicken, Kung Pao Ribs, Green Papaya Salad, Ota Ika (Tahitian-style ceviche). The piece de resistance for a group of 4 to 22 is their Luau spread featuring Peking Duck, prawns and enough food to feed an island village. Book 48 hours in advance.
This holiday season do yourself and your guests a favor and step into the elegance and romance of old Hollywood. Once you enter LONO you will be transported to another world—one that may have only existed in the movies, but still lives in our hearts.