Dec 28, 2011

Magic In Every Glass

Harvey The Bartender

I'm one of those people you probably don't want to sit next to on a long haul flight--- a talker (don’t worry, I won’t disturb you if you’re reading or sleeping). I love to talk to people in lines, waiting at crosswalks, at the table next to me in a restaurant. Why? You learn a lot about a place that way. So what a pleasure it was to arrive at the Hotel Amarano in Burbank, Calif., (my hometown) where the bartender, Harvey, draws guests and locals alike to his tasty drinks and to his head scratching card tricks. But mostly people come just to talk to Harvey who, it seems, has become a friend to many, affirming the soul of a place is indeed its people.

To say that it's like Cheers would be cliché, but this is a blog so I can get away with cliché. But the bar at the Hotel Amarano is a modern version, with better lighting and no fat guy in a stool. It's a place where everyone really does know your name, and I have a feeling it's Harvey people are coming to see. I had only been here once, for a few hours back in September and Harvey remembered me when I sauntered in a few days ago. I've been to hotel bars and chatted with bartenders before, all over the world, but Harvey is the first I had come back specifically to see. I wasn't alone.

The bar and lobby of the Hotel Amarano
I bellied up one night and easily jumped into a conversation with various other patrons, all of whom it seems had been coming to the Amarano for a while. They had funny stories about Harvey (what happens at the bar stays at the bar), who, in the course of an evening showed me killer card tricks (I'm still practicing one of them), while mixing up delicious conversation and concoctions like banana split martinis and blueberry vodka tonics, among others. A woman wandered in about 10pm, having just finished work, and ate her dinner at the bar, like joining family at the kitchen table. Another young man (he looked no more than 25 but it's LA---he could be 80 with a good plastic surgeon) came in alone and sat at "his usual spot" he said, at the end of the bar, and talked to others who knew him by his first name. The Amarano's "Norm" perhaps? I started chatting with a man whose wife was home cooking Christmas dinner, and as we discussed the Italian themed menu, hunger pangs and mouthwatering ensued.  His cell phone rang, we shook hands, and he said ciaoA few minutes later, someone I knew from high school walked in with his wife and friends. Wow. I hadn't seen him in 20+ years. Since I haven't been to any of my reunions, it was kind of fun to reminisce a little. People ebbed and flowed from the bar stools all night, and each time someone left, Harvey came from behind the bar for a hug, a kiss, and a sincere show of friendship.  One guy waved, wished Harvey a Merry Christmas then said, "see you tomorrow." Even my husband, who is generally anti-social said if we lived in Burbank, he'd hang out here. Perhaps a reason not to move back. When it came time for me to head up to my room, I asked Harvey for the check. He said the man with whom I had been discussing Italian cooking had paid my bill.  It's that kind of place with those kind of people. Good to the bones.

Entrance Hotel Amarano
I don't mean to take anything away from the Hotel Amarano itself. The rooms were nicely appointed, big, comfortable. It's boutique but not as trendy as say the W Hotels. But it's not the Holiday Inn either, and a good value for LA while being close to Universal Studios, Hollywood, and the Metro Link to downtown.  The hotel's lobby is a well-decorated and an easy place to hang out and have drinks or coffee, or meet clients. The food is very good too, and I have come several times just to have appetizers in front of the fire. The staff are friendly and efficient and I have never seen a doorman/bell captain run faster and work harder.  He could probably have used some help on the day I waited 15 minutes for my car because he had to load luggage and golf clubs into another guest's trunk. Poor guy.  I am looking forward to seeing the new 1100 square foot suite, as well as the 32 new guest rooms and swimming pool that will open Spring 2012.  

Harvey and his flying cocktail shaker
But the reason I come to the Hotel Amarano, and the reason I'll go back, is because, as I said, I like to talk to people, and there is no better place in LA to do it than at the bar, next to the friendly cast of locals who also find Harvey, and his shuffling deck of cards, the real magic behind the Hotel Amarano.

Martinis a go-go


Michele Scott as A.K. Alexander said...

I stayed at the Amarano last July when my oldest son had a major surgery at St. Joe's. Harvey was awesome! When I went back in November with my son for his second surgery, I stayed again at the hotel and it was as if I hadn't been gone a day. Harvey remembered my name, the wine I like--everything. He remembered my kids' names. He is truly one of those very caring and special people that walks this planet. When in Los Angeles I won't stay anywhere else and that is mainly because of Harvey and the family feel. The hotel is a home away from home. I can't say that about any other hotels.

And if you ever get a chance to have the home made chicken soup it is delicious!

Kimberley Lovato said...

Thanks for your lovely note. I hope your son is doing better and who knows, maybe i'll bump into you one day at the Hotel Amarano.

Thanks for writing.