The colorful history of this Pico Boulevard watering hole is rich with legend. Built as a military outpost in 1874, the original adobe structure was destroyed by Santa Ana winds shortly thereafter and lay in rubble until the turn of the century, when an industrious Mexican woman and her only son built a saloon on the site. “El Arsenal” was destroyed by flood in 1916 and went dormant for a time before reopening as – wait for it – a speakeasy in 1929. Reflecting the Parisian influence of the time, Le Hot Arsenal became the westside’s answer to the Folies Bergere, featuring burlesque dancing and other live entertainment for twenty years. But an errant cigarette burned Le Hot to the ground, and in 1950 the bar reopened simply as The Arsenal, where it’s been in continuous operation for sixty years.
Given its tumultuous history of reinvention, it comes as no surprise that The Arsenal has undergone two renovations in the past seven years. The most recent appears to have been more of a touch-up than a full overhaul, in which the main bar and patio area were spruced up with a sleek new color scheme and splashes of trendy wallpaper. Both the food and drink menus have also been revamped, featuring quasi-gastropub staples such as faux-artisanal cocktails, beef sliders, mac&cheese (made with gouda, of course) and perhaps most interestingly, poutine fries. Remaining gloriously untouched, however, is the original dining room, which radiates mid-century cool with its deep red booths, handsome wood, warm lighting, and cozy corner bar. It provides a mellow contrast to the newfangled scene directly adjacent, and proves that some things are better left alone.
The Arsenal, 12012 W. Pico Blvd, 90064. M-F 5pm-2am, Sat 6pm-2am. Closed Sundays.