Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Scoop Effect: Pure Luck Pub

I like it when communities happen organically. About a year back, we talked about the very special vibe growing in the Wilshire Vista area, and I'm constantly struck by what's gone on on Fairfax Ave. in the last couple years (and someday I'll sit down and write about it!). Lately, the sense that a new micro-community is abrew is most evident on that tiny block of Heliotrope just above Melrose in East Hollywood. And the brews in question are coming from Pure Luck -- a good-natured pub that just joined the movement.

It started a while back with the Bicycle Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to getting Angelenos on bikes. Through workshops and drop-in sessions, they teach you to fix your bike, and connect you to a community of bikers, riding events, bicycle film festivals and art exhibits, and more. (We will omit any here talk of my personal relationship with bikes, or -- ahem -- lack thereof.) But not much else: surrounded by scrappy residential, a mishmash of quinceaƱera rooms bumping with rancheros and banda, and a dark and unwelcoming Korean eatery, this little stretch of Heliotrope was kind of abandoned.

Then came Scoops. A one-man ice cream shop with no advertising, after about a year, became the destination for exotic flavors (including 4 vegan ones each day) and a warm, inclusive vibe not often found in LA's less do-it-yourself establishments. The affable and endlessly generous proprietor Tai Kim put Hel-Mel (no, I did not make that silliness up) on the map, and these days, it's such a happening spot that he's hired other scoopers (used to be that his only help was his mom), and the place teems with hipsters and LACC kids nightly.

Soon, an airy cafe opened up next door to Scoops. Serving Lavazza espresso drinks, baked goods, and salads hand-tossed by the shop's Italian owner, City College Cafe offers a place for students to get their caffeine fix while getting some studying in.

Over too-frequent visits to Scoops, we saw another shop go up: A slick orange building across the street, Orange 20 Bikes picked up the vibe that the Kitchen was generating, and built upon it, custom-building quality bicycles for the urban rider.

And now, next door to Orange 20 comes Pure Luck. Well, actually, Pure Luck was already there, but it was that creepy Korean spot. Now, in new hands (said hands belonging to a Bicycle Kitchen volunteer), it's far better lit, has a sparse earthy vibe, with just a few tables, one wall lined with nouveau-70's bamboo wallpaper, and a fireplace at one end. A cozy pub was just what this stretch needed.

So what do they serve? Beer, along with a vegan take on beer food. No frat house fare here -- more like four dollar pints of Fat Tire, several Craftsman varieties (after my heart, they are), and the like. Now then, I can't tell you about the quality of the food just this second because I was feverish and appetiteless on my one trip there, but I can tell you about the menu. On that particular day, it included staples like fries, tostadas, and spring rolls, as well as more inventive choices like carnitas tacos, made from jackfruit instead of piggy, and ceasar salad rolls.

It's clear from the block's architecture that it was destined for walking, socializing, enjoying a beer or a coffee. In fact, we can get a few glimpses into its past incarnations in this Chowhound thread. I'm happy to see that it is coming back around. With all this bicycle-oriented goodwill, it might even inspire me to learn to ride (I know, I know. Don't tease). Then again, maybe I'll just participate by drinking beer.

[thanks for the photo of the shop]

[Note that the title of this post is a pun on the Stroop Effect. A little bad psychology humor there for ya.]


  1. So when exactly are you going to learn how to ride a bike?

  2. um, uh, i'm kinda busy with the bake sale. maybe later?

  3. Waitwait, you don't know how to ride a bike?? How will we get around when we visit Beijing in 2010?

    Nice spiffy new site design...

  4. um, can we focus on the food here people?

  5. Very cool. As an East Hollywood resident community activist who also happens to live on Heliotrope (a few blocks up), It's great to see what's going on here. If only we can get the cafe owners to stay open a little later...

    Oh yeah, the term "Hel-Mel" was coined by both myself and Bicycle Kitchen cook Somer Waters during an email exchange in 2005 I believe.

  6. wow, elson, you're a hel-mel OG, aren't you?! i'm with you on the later hours -- by the time i make it over there, city college cafe is always closed!