Last Thursday I finally had an opportunity to check out Honky Tonk Hacienda at El Cid restaurant. This is one of two nights of Swing-danceable music put on each week by Suzanne O’Keeffe (the other night being The Moonrise Club on Tuesdays at the same venue). I had heard good things about this joint so I was eager to visit! Here’s my report for y’all.
El Cid is located in Silverlake on Sunset Blvd between the 101 and 5 freeways. Look for the huge “flamenco” sign. Parking was a bit of a chore that night because I didn’t want to pay the $10 valet charge. I circled around a few times before I found a sweet spot almost in front of the restaurant.
But, Suzanne tells me that parking usually isn’t a problem (there must have been something going on that night). If you can’t find parking on Sunset, she recommends checking out Manzanita or Bates (side streets).
After parking, you’ll be rewarded with a really delightful oasis. When you enter, you’ll go down a couple flights of steps to a lovely outdoor area with hanging lights and an old movie playing against the far wall. This place clearly has a long and storied history. To your left there is a bouncer who will take your $10 cover charge (at least, that’s what it was when I went). Be warned, you will need an ID to enter.
The actual restaurant has a cool Spanish theme, with two levels and lots of ornamentation. The walls are brick, giving it an outdoor feel even though you’re inside. The place is not that formal – the tablecloths are the red checkerboard kind that you see at Italian restaurants. The place is dimly lit by chandeliers and small lights. Right in front of the stage, there is a medium-sized central dance floor which is quite good. It can accommodate about eight couples comfortably; more if you squeeze.
The place is well air-conditioned and has free ice water at both bars, which dancers love (hopefully that will continue)!
OK, let’s get down to the important stuff. Are there people to dance with? The night I went with Petunia and the Vipers, the answer was definitely “yes”! I counted more than ten regulars from Joe’s Bar (who I recognized; there were probably more). There were other dancers and some rockabilly folks as well. I mostly danced with folks I knew from Joe’s, but also some new people.
On any other night, you might want to check the Moonrise Club or Honky Tonk Facebook Events pages to see which other dancers have RSVP’d. The safest thing to do is to bring your own partner and be pleasantly surprised at the other dancers who show up. However, if you’re adventurous, you can also just go alone and let the chips fall where they may, which many people did when I went.
The bands and musicians that play here are absolutely top notch. Some of the bands are the same as the ones that play at Joe’s Bar. The bands on Tuesdays (Moonrise Club) are more 20s/30s, hot jazz and gypsy jazz (i.e., Jonathan Stout, Janet Klein, and other “Happy Feet Monday” bands), whereas the bands on Thursdays (Honky Tonk Hacienda) are more Western and rockabilly. Suzanne clearly has a good handle on these genres of music. You will not be disappointed in her choices.
I had never heard of Petunia and the Vipers before that night, but they came highly recommended and did not disappoint. I would describe them as roots, Western, and a little rockabilly with a good amount of yodeling (yes, it is awesome)! My previous experience with Western Swing had been mostly with self-deprecating, light-hearted bands like The Lucky Stars or Deke Dickerson, but Petunia’s songs are much darker. Clearly, Petunia has wrestled with some demons, and this comes out in the music, which we now get to enjoy.
Not all of their songs were Swing-danceable. Some were waltzes, or had weird rhythms. After all, this is a live music venue, not a Swing dance venue. But most were danceable, and all were great to listen to, at the very least.
Overall, I would highly recommend The Moonrise Club and Honky Tonk Hacienda at El Cid if you are into really good live music in a unique ambiance! The attendance by dancers has been growing as the word has gotten out, and hopefully it will continue to do so. Check the LA Lindy Hop calendar to see who is playing, then grab a partner or your dance crew and come on out, or be adventurous and come alone and see who shows up.
El Cid is located at 4212 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles 90029. The opening band started at 9:30PM with the main act at 10:30PM, so this is a late-running venue.
Have you been to Moonrise Club or Honky Tonk Hacienda? What did you think? Please comment below! – Brian