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Inside APB, Melrose’s New Vegan-Friendly Cocktail Den

The former Darkroom bar has been outfitted anew, and now comes with vegan sushi from Niku Nashi and drinks from Julian Cox

Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Mellow Melrose bar the Darkroom has been fully retrofitted for the modern age, emerging into the light as a cool and airy new hangout for cocktails and vegan sushi named APB. It’s a stark new shift for the longtime bar, which stood for years as a welcoming neighborhood watering hole for the extended Hollywood area. New owners Jeffrey Best and Ken Jones insist that while the look, feel, and name may be different, the intentions are still very much the same.

The newly-minted APB (which stands for All Plant Based) opens later this month with arching latticework booths and plenty of worn-in brick, offering a kind of relaxed English manor look that’s complemented by lots of light and foliage. Don’t expect the place to be stale, just lived-in, with scuffed-up light fixtures, deep green paint, rough wood, and streaming light from an exposed skylight high above the dining area. It’s a new look that follows a familiar format for Best (who designed the place himself alongside LA-based restaurant and bar designer Ricki Kline), one used to great effect at Best’s Beverly Hills cool-kid hangout the Hideaway these days.

A vertical view of a leafy and wood-lined English-style restaurant and bar with tall ceilings and a skylight.
Let the sunshine in.

Better still, the new APB on Melrose will have cocktails from none other than staple LA bartender Julian Cox, like the 5th & Adams with mezcal, pineapple, ginger, citrus, and bitters; or the Tale of Genji with vodka, matcha, oat milk, agave, lavender, and cinnamon. Not only will all of APB’s spirits be certified vegan, the space will also offer a full rnageof non-alcoholic drinks and will host a “zero hour” for booze-free happy hour seekers.

On the food front, chef Niko Zaragoza (previously of Ooka Sushi, Teppanyaki House, and Sushi R91) will oversee Niku Nashi, a dedicated vegan sushi project that will operate out of the space’s kitchen. Zaragoza is planning a number of familiar dishes across the Japanese spectrum, from gluten-free udon noodles and tempura pearl oyster mushrooms to vegan gyoza and two-piece plant-based nigiri plates like charbroiled eggplant marinated in sweet soy sauce and cajun-flavored seared tofu with spicy unagi and a garlic chip. There will be hand rolls, cut rolls, bento box sets, and desserts as well. While Niku Nashi and APB are obviously very intertwined, Zaragoza and partner Brad Saltzman are also prepping for a larger future expansion into Los Angeles that goes beyond APB’s walls. The opening menu is below.

APB opens in late February at 7302 Melrose Avenue, keeping daily hours from 6 p.m. until late, and is only available to the 21-and-older crowd.

A close up of a Japanese handroll with mushrooms on a slate plate with orange flower on top.
Maitake hand roll from Niku Nashi.
Ryan Tanaka
A slate plate holds rolls of sushi with vegan ingredients including blackened tofu on top.
Cajun seared tofu cut roll.
Ryan Tanaka
A mural of a woman’s mouth over brick looking down over a booth inside a new restaurant.
Small wooden bartop seats with woven stools in side a new restaurant.
Wooden archways and wooden tables inside a new English-looking restaurant at evening.
Booths, tables, and bar seating.
A long run of bar seats in a wooden bar with English accents, at evening.
Bar seating at the ready.
An English-style new restaurant and bar called APB at evening.
Late evening lights and lots of greenery.

APB (All Plant Based)

7302 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036 Visit Website
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