During my recent trip to Long Beach, I had the good fortune of checking out some incredible shops and restaurants during my stay. We’ve featured quite a few remarkable places here on the site, but few have truly taken my breath away like The Federal Bar.
Originally opened as a bank at the turn of the last century, The Federal Bar has been immaculately and meticulously restored so it looks as if it was just built. When you walk in, you are immediately greeted by one of two breathtaking crystal chandeliers hanging from the three floor-high ceiling. As you follow the cherry pillars up towards the ceiling, you see the original hand painted beams running the entire length of the building. The beautiful damask curtains are nestled between the windows which flood the floor with natural light from outside. The bar on the right as you walk in is so well integrated into the look of the interior, you almost don’t even notice that it’s there. At first I was skeptical of their rather limited looking whiskey selection, but as I traveled towards one of their several private siting areas, my fears were laid to rest. At the rear end of the restaurant sits a beautiful floor to ceiling mural, beside which rests one of the more impressive whiskey bars I’ve ever seen. As incredible as all this was, I had only just begun my exploration of The Federal Bar.
It turns out, there was not only a basement bar which had private VIP areas nestled inside one of the banks original vaults, there was also a legitimate Speak Easy used during Prohibition which was converted to yet another bar within a bar, within a bar. As we entered the dimly lit basement, it definitely felt more like a nightclub. Nothing too fancy, just some velvet red curtains, some sitting areas but still a very weathered, vintage looking bar which kept with the overall aesthetic of The Federal Bar. It had a little more underground, grungy feel to it, but that’s what was cool about it. Plus the vault. My God, the vault. The door was so intimidating I was almost afraid to go in it. Lastly we were led into the speak easy. The lights were out because it wasn’t open yet, however we were lucky enough to be told the password to get it once it opened: “Johnny sent me”.
I was so enamored with The Federal Bar that I had to go back during dinner. Their beer selection is quite good, as was the food, however, the service was a bit lack luster during dinner time. We had to wait over an hour for our food, which was unfortunate, and we were sat so far away from the bar that it also took forever for our drinks to show up. Thankfully our waitress (who was decked out in fully 20’s flapper garb which I thought was a nice touch) was aware of the problem and was gracious enough to give us a nice discount on our meal which made up for any unpleasant feelings which were had during our meal. After speaking with some locals about our experience, it turns out that since The Federal Bar has opened service has been a bit dodgy. People tend not to mind because the interior is so awe inspiring, but if you’re going to invest so much money in restoring a building like that, one would think service and getting food out on time is something that wouldn’t be overlooked.
Still, if you happen to find yourself in Long Beach, or are in LA and feel like taking a short drive, I cannot recommend enough stopping into the Federal Bar for lunch or dinner. All that’s missing is George Banks from Mary Poppins walking up to you singing about tuppence (whatever those are). It’s a wonderful time warp of a restaurant that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.