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Bar Covell: A Los Feliz Gem

Dustin Lancaster had been at Café Stella for 4 ½ years and was ready to make a move.  Having lived in the trendy Los Feliz neighborhood for years, he knew that the area was in need of something more sophisticated.  The concept for the understatedly hip Bar Covell was created by Dustin from the idea that every customer be treated like a regular.  His customers at Stella would let him chose their wines because he had created a trust with his clients who he would take on a guided tour of wine with each successive meal.  And so, Bar Covell was born.

One of the most unique elements of Bar Covell is that you never know what new wine gem you might find on their lists because there is no list.  Matthew Kaner, wine genius and wine program director holds daily tastings of the wines for all bartenders who come to know the wines front, back and sideways and always know the right questions to ask to pick a wine to please you palate and your mood.

Dustin’s philosophy behind this ever evolving living wine list, is that it is the story behind the wine that makes it remarkable.  Conveying that to their customers with passion and expertise, and making the wine experience at Bar Covell an adventure, is what packs this small space night after night.

Their food menu evolved somewhat similarly.  It was never Dustin’s intention to open a restaurant, so when they opened the first week they didn’t even have any food options.  As the bar evolved so did their menu and slowly a cheese plate, then a charcuterie plate and finally flatbreads and their infamous croquet monsieur were added to the menu.  Although the menu is limited due to a lack of kitchen space, these small plates are always paired beautifully with whatever the bartender may suggest that particular night.  Dustin’s favorites include the spicy mac and cheese and their infamous croquet monsieur, my personal favorite.

When I asked what one of Dustin’s current favorite wines is, he picked a Minervois by Luc Lapeyre.  Dustin described the wine master as a huge burly bearded man who only produces limited and exclusive number of cases a year and has such a phenomenal old world attitude that he writes all invoices and communications by hand.  This wine choice exemplifies Bar Covell’s focus on storytelling.

Dustin attributes Bar Covell’s success to his customer who are fiercely loyal as well as to his success in timing., “We opened in a neighborhood that I had intimate knowledge of and was lacking in this type of establishment, so opening it then and there helped.”  They also put customer service and quality products above all else and believe that’s why they have gotten such a remarkable consumer response.

As always I had to ask Dustin for his 3 bar/restaurant must haves:

  1. “A vintage black telephone.  It reminds me of a bar from the 40’s and the ring reminds me of that “any place” bar.  I love that aesthetic.”
  2. “Good lighting.  I can’t stand a bar that is too bright or too dark, hue and color are critical and you have to find the right mix of softness and warmth.”
  3. “Good bartenders.  “That is what I felt I offered at Stella and what I hope to continue to offer at Bar Covell.  I genuinely like people and I want to know what makes them tick and what they want, that’s the craft of bartending.  It’s unfortunately a lost craft especially in La where people are just doing it to get by and not as a vocation.

What’s next for Bar Covell?  They are in the middle of an expansion, taking over the space next door and adding an additional 800 sq foot tasting room and space for private events.  Stay tuned for big things from Dustin and the Bar Covell crew.

Check them out at Bar Covell and stay tuned for more from LaurelK.com

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