Name Check


Alma Cider & Beer, an intimate bar in Virgil Village, is the latest example of Design, Bitches award-winning work

Photo above and throughout by Yoshihiro Makino

“What’s in a name?,” Juliet mused in “Romeo and Juliet”. In the case of Alma Cider & Beer, located on the increasingly charismatic stretch of Virgil Avenue between Beverly and Sunset Boulevards, the moniker, which means “nourishing” in Latin, is an apt one. The 558-square-foot bar, one of the smallest in the city, grew out of owner Lee Briante’s desire to create a real neighborhood hangout. “He wanted to design a place that would see regulars return week after week,” says Design, Bitches Rebecca Rudolph. “His vision was to create a neighborhood bar that would highlight the deliciousness and craft that goes into making cider unique without feeling alien,” adds her partner, Catherine Johnson. 

Design, Bitches are well known, for their work on such visually arresting spaces as Superba Food & Bread, Verve Roastery del Sur, Chequer Hall, Button Mash, The Oinkster and The Springs. Manipulating color, unexpected materials, vibrant artwork and bold lighting, the jovial, comfortable initial experience deepens over time into something mysterious and compelling.

A sconce from Artemide heralds the entrance and an arresting blue exterior. Wall sconces from Rich Brilliant Willing, a pendant from Louis Poulsen and picture lights from Restoration Hardware illuminate the tiny interior. That rich cobalt blue is pulled inside, washing the walls and the floor. Oak, used for the ceiling, the bar and the tabletops, adds to the feeling of warmth.

“It’s a microcosm, embracing both the quirkiness of the neighborhood and the artifice and nostalgia of old Hollywood noir,” Rudolph explains. A visual kaleidoscope, the setting changes as the day wanes: the dark walls recede as the sun sets; mirrors blink and flash; the lights from cars, passing through frosted glass, throw a shower sparkles across the bar. Nestled within the woodwork, miniature townscapes, created by Briante, glow.

A ‘Parrot Tank’ over the bar, reminiscent of a fish tank complete with handmade paper parrots & foliage, nods to a particular quirk of the surrounding area. “One of the eccentric things we love about the neighborhood is the abundance of parrots,” says Rudolph. “Painted on walls, kept as pets or clustered in the branches of the street’s palm trees, they’re everywhere.”

“People seem genuinely surprised at the atmosphere when they open the door,” says Rudolph, “We have been told there are regulars who came in multiple times in the first week!”

Alma Cider & Beer, 904 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029, (323) 522-3362