Gorky’s Was There First – With Borscht & Brew

Several decades before the reinvention of downtown Los Angeles into a loftified art walk circus, the place was dead at night.  Dead and scary with zombie crack addicts and also sad and lonely with one of America’s most populated tent city homeless encampments.  Today every classic joint has been purchased and reinvented by well-oiled club magnates and skid row is planted with 8am-midnight parking meters.  But back then, few ventured downtown at night.  There was Al’s Bar, a spotty arts district and Gorky’s.  Gorky’s, a 24 hour restaurant serving hardy eastern European soul food and their own brew.  Craft beer in the heart of downtown LA decades before the term craft beer was even thought of my a few yuppie entrepreneurs.  But downtown Los Angeles got a lot worse before it got better and Gorky’s didn’t make the cut.  All the facts are contained in a long ago published article in the LA Times that’s still available if you follow this link.


Sometimes I wonder if Gorky’s even existed.  But then I  found this shot hidden away in an old box of negatives.  Someone wearing a Gorky’s tee shirt.  That sight inspired a mind’s eye vision of visiting Gorky’s late one night for the stew.  It was freezing outside, my breath a frozen cloud in front of my face.   Long Live Gorky’s!  Long Live deserted downtown LA, where the produce market bar rocked and rolled every morning until 9am.  Now that was some good time.



2 thoughts on “Gorky’s Was There First – With Borscht & Brew

  1. I remember Gorky’s. I remember the controversy when a patron decided to give his freebie meal vouchers–winnings in a promotional contest–to the homeless outside. The LA Times ended up running a story about that tempest in a tea kettle. All the places you mention in your blog, I remember…you should do one about Kelbo’s…

    1. Khanh, I lived behind the Kelbo’s near Pick/Swatelle and occasionally stopped by the Coco Bowl for a celebration. Drove by the one on Fairfax a few times before they knocked it down but never stepped inside. Moved away shortly before they sold out to the bikini club. Look for a post on Kelbo’s soon.

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