A lounge that opened Monday in downtown Santa Monica is combining cocktails with ingredients from the nearby farmers market with barbacoa tacos out of East LA.
Partners Peter Trinh and Jeremy Adler have turned the dark, enclosed space that cocktail bar Copa d’Oro occupied for 10 years and turned it into a bright lounge called Lanea where patrons unwind with drinks featuring health and wellness ingredients and tacos made by Barba Kush owner Petra Zavaleta. Trinh and Adler have updated the place from top to bottom, repainting the bar in light blue and white, cutting out a wide window onto Broadway and adding tropical plants.
Adler, who ran New American restaurant Eveleigh in West Hollywood, said he and Trinh wanted to create a laid-back hangout that reflected its beachfront location rather than emulate Copa d’Oro’s old-world ambiance and esoteric approach to cocktails. Trinh is also a partner at The Craftsman Bar & Kitchen a few blocks away.
“We’re two and a half blocks away from the ocean. Don’t you want to feel that?” Adler said. “We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously.”
Beverage director Bethany Ham is clearly having some fun with the drinks, which include a raspberry-colored mezcal concoction with ginger and turmeric and a tequila cocktail with spiced coconut cream, apricot and lime. The bar stocks 83 mezcals and 89 tequilas, she said.
Ham said she selects ingredients from the downtown farmers market and tries to use all parts of the produce. A blue cane rhum and coconut cocktail includes a cordial infused with mint stems, which can’t be used as a garnish.
“My cocktails come from a place of seasonality and sustainability,” she said. “Since this is Santa Monica, we use a lot of ingredients that people here really like, things like turmeric and superfruit.”
Ham’s creations are priced between $12 and $13, while beer goes for $8 and most wines on the menu range from $11 to $15 by the glass.
“Eventually we might have a happy hour, but right now we’ve priced everything as though it’s always happy hour,” she said.
The food from Barba Kush includes five varieties of tacos, including a vegetarian option, chips with salsa, guacamole or queso, and a consome. Two tacos will run you $8, while appetizers range from $5 to $10.
Barba Kush’s signature taco is made with barbacoa. When Adler first tried one, he said, he went back every day for three weeks.
Zavaleta cooks the barbacoa the way she learned in Puebla, Mexico, where she grew up, wrapping the lamb in charred agave leaves and pit-roasting it underground for a day and a half. In the kitchen at the back of Lanea, the Barba Kush team piles the barbacoa onto tortillas that they press and grill minutes before, adding salsas rojas and verdes, guacamole, pico de gallo, onions and cilantro.
The Zavaleta family started selling barbacoa and menudo out of her home in East LA a couple of years ago, moved into a food truck in 2018 and opened a storefront in Boyle Heights earlier this year. Adler said he’s excited for Westsiders to experience Zavaleta’s talent and try Puebla cuisine.
“When (Zavaleta) saw the bar for the first time, she got a little misty-eyed,” Adler said. “They were cooking in their backyard, and now they’re between 2nd and 3rd on Broadway in downtown Santa Monica.”
For now, Lanea is open daily from 5 p.m. until late. Trinh said the lounge is planning to add weekend brunch hours starting at 11 a.m. beginning July 27, featuring breakfast tacos and a live mariachi band.