You would never stumble upon Villains Tavern just walking around downtown LA, as it's hidden in a pretty desolate part of downtown near the arts district. You'd likely come across signs of a shoot or taping as you get close, but when I found it I loved the ambiance. The indoor bar is fairly small with little seating, but this is LA and outdoor seating is where it's at, especially when there's live music (as there frequently is here).
The spring menu is divided into two section: The Garden and The Shrubbery. The Shrubbery contains all the drinks made with shrub (aged liqueur made with vinegar). I noted it was now a thing and popping up all over, but this was the first bar I encountered that had a whole section dedicated to shrubs.
The Venus Flytrap ($12) is made with Milagro Reposado, apricot orange muscat shrub, fresh lime juice, sea salt, and orange oils. The shrub was made using orange muscat vinegar and cane sugar.
The head bartender said that he would suggest this cocktail for those who like margaritas but wanted to venture out.
The Garden section also has the Autumn crocus ($12), what the bar calls "the ultimate spicy Margarita" with reposado tequila, agave, muddled mango, chili (Tapatio), lime, and salt. The Autumn Crocus had suck a kick to it, though, that I personally thought it was more adventurous than the Flytrap.
I also liked the White Snakeroot ($13) made with Black Bush, Cardamaro, Rosemary and strawberry aged balsamic shrub
Spindle Tree ($13) was a table favorite with Russell's Reserve rye, Becherovka (which the bartender described as "like Fernet Branca, but lighter), honey, mint, and bergamot bitters.
I previously didn't realize that Villains Tavern serves a good variety of food. Even if you're not hungry, you should still try the Bourbon Bacon Caramel Corn ($5)
Grilled cheese sandwich with bacon marmalade ($6), served with fries
For those wanting a lighter, healthier fare, try the Pharaoh Salad ($11) with farro, roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes, feta, cucumber, and vinaigrette.
Last time I came here for a birthday party, I fell in love with the outdoor seating area, but there are many other reasons to visit this off-the-beaten-path bar in downtown LA. Oh, and did I tell you they have giant Jenga tournament here on Wednesdays? Yes, GIANT JENGA!
1356 Palmetto St
Los Angeles, CA 90013