Yes. I had a date the other night. The date began with a tug-o-war – a “you pick the place/no, you pick the place” kind of game. I won. So he picked. I picked the last couple times.
I get a text from my date much later in the day, “The Red Door?” “Sure,” I text back, though I don’t know that I had ever heard of the place before. I’m too busy to research it. I don’t even find out where it is. He’s a smart cookie. I leave it up to him.
He picks me up around 7:30 and tells me “we’re off to Toluca Lake!” He sets his GPS to 10057 Riverside Drive. He’s not too familiar with the area. As I’m talking a mile a minute, chattering about my day, I notice him wincing, trying to find where this place is. He just can’t find it. Before I have the chance to offer my help, he’s turning down an alley behind the block where the restaurant is supposed to be. As we drive slowly down the alley, I see three red porch lights high up on a building. But as we approach, they suddenly shut off – kind of like a kid who quickly hides the forbidden candy before he knows he’s been caught. The alleyway goes dark. My gut tells me,”This must be it.”
We park the car in a place that avoids the “Customer Parking Only, All other Vehicles will be Towed” signs for Trader Jo’s and Paty’s Diner. There are more than a few spots available. We walk down the alleyway toward a deep, dark, richly red colored door. No sign. No sign anywhere. But it’s obvious this is the place. It’s a red door. The doorway seems a bit narrower than most so it’s a little creepy as we walk in. Outside the door, no one else is around. Are we in the right place?
This is so cool! I’m kind of excited now to see what’s behind this door.
Walking in, we find it’s dark and rich with deep reds. As I continue to walk through, I feel like I’m being enveloped by red velvet. This could be a bar a vampire may frequent. Yet it feels comfortable. Cozy. Sexy, actually, in its own nighttime sexy horror kind of way.
The bar is long and there is plenty of seating in the space for a small crowd. Tables and chairs. Sofas. Stools and bars. There are four t.v.s over the bar playing four different movies. Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Hocus Pocus and some zombie movie. All in black and white. This is not a sports bar.
“Good, no sports,” I think.
After we order our food and a bottle of wine, the owner, Mike, comes over, welcomes us, and introduces himself. He’s proud to share the history of the place – how he and his partner, Doc, convinced the owner of the restaurant on the streetfront to give up some of the restaurant’s storage space to open up a bar in the back. This was a vision they both had for some time. After taking down walls, building out back, reorganizing the space and decorating the place, a bar was born. A “secret” bar, at that. They wanted to stir up intrigue, and that they did. It started out as a hit with the locals, many of them people who work for the t.v./movie studios around there. Since then, the “secret” bar seems to have become less and less of a secret as time moves on.
Mike calls out Doc to meet us and Doc is a quiet man. Both really cool people, though. With Doc there, Mike brags about the restaurant they took over after the previous owner retired. Doc does some of the cooking. They renamed it Riverside Cafe.
It has great pizza, apparently.
And, when you sit at the bar, they have sports.
The Red Door and The Riverside Cafe are at 10057 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake, Los Angeles, CA 91602.
Yes, he paid. And, yes, I did get a kiss goodnight.