Downtown will see many opening nights this year; here's where to go now

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Banquette Café and Wine Bar

Blossom
426 S. Main St.
(213) 623-1973
Banquette Café and Wine Bar
400 S. Main St.
(213) 626-2768
Locals are flocking to Blossom, a Vietnamese café from the family who owns Chinatown’s Via Café. Menu includes standards (pho, curries, spring rolls) as well as the taco-crepe banh xeo. No liquor license yet, but soon; the family also plans to open a high-end tea shop next door. However, they close at 9 p.m., which means no post-Disney Hall outings. blossomrestaurant.com Monica May oversaw kitchens at Cinespace and Smashbox before buying Banquette Café in November 2004. Part of Cedd Moses’ ubiquitous 213 Ventures, Banquette Café and Wine Bar has the charm of a Parisian bistro. However, bistro food is often overrated; not so here. Breakfast is a baked egg on a bed of buttery leeks; the “apple toast” is two slices of toasted country bread with chunky homemade apple butter. Lunch and dinner: homemade soups as well as a fine list of wines by the glass. How civilized.

Pitfire Pizza

Tiara Café

Pitfire Pizza
108 W. 2nd St.
(213) 808-1200
Tiara Café
127 E. 9th St.
(213) 623-FOOD
Variety Weekend sang the praises of Pitfire Pizza last fall (“Any Way You Slice It,” Nov. 10); we see no reason to change our tune. This summer, look for wine tastings on the mezzanine, which will also be available for private parties. Veteran restauranteur Fred Eric knows things often don’t go as planned; he intended to use a Fashion Week party in March to open Tiara Café. “The construction contractor guaranteed it would be done,” he says. “It didn’t happen.” Now, pending a few permits, it’s slated to open May 15. Part of the holdup may stem from Eric’s own outsized ambitions for the 3,600-square-foot Tiara: “I took the Ferry Building in San Francisco and crushed it down to one location.” Part restaurant, part marketplace, part take-out that he terms “Dean & DeLuca meets Jamba Juice,” he wants locals to treat it as a handy supplement to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. When it does open, expect to see breakfast, lunch and a light-supper “Champagne hour;” a full dinner menu should follow this summer. tiara-café.com

626 Reserve

Golden Gopher

626 Reserve
626 S. Spring Street
(213) 627-9800
Golden Gopher and Broadway Bar
Jackie Pratt turns people away every time she opens the door at 626 Reserve. “People are chomping at the bit,” she says. For the past year, leasing agents at City Lofts have lured buyers with the promise of a ground-floor wine and tapas bar. Come Thursday, Pratt and partner Tyree McLyn will make good with 32 wines by the glass and 57 by the bottle. Seven are from California; the others call France, Spain, Italy, South Africa and Greece home. Rodelio Aglibot, formerly of Koi, is in charge of food: cheese, salads, paninis, sweets and snacks like warm paprika-coated almonds. 626 Reserve stemmed from Pratt’s habit of handing out food and wine to art lovers at Gallery 626 next door (owned by her husband, Tom). A former producer on “Steve Harvey’s Big Time Challenge,” Pratt says the gallery will still offer refreshments — only now, she’ll charge. 626reserve.com

Cedd Moses’ development company has a motto: “Live urban, drink urban.” The result is Golden Gopher and Broadway Bar, a double shot of nightlife that courts a local crowd and entices the adventurous. Chandeliers, dim lighting and smoking patios give both a WWII vibe, though the Gopher’s Ms. Pacman and jukebox are a touch more barfly. Feeling antisocial? A lucky provision in the Golden Gopher’s liquor license means you can take a bottle to go. Golden Gopher, 417 W. 8th St., (213) 614-8001; Broadway Bar, 830 S. Broadway, (213) 614-9909

Pete's Café & Bar

Mountain Bar

Pete’s Café & Bar
400 S. Main St.
(213) 617-9000
Mountain Bar
473 Gin Ling Way
(213) 625-7500
Pete’s Café & Bar is a harbinger of things to come. The Old Bank District eatery fills up for happy-hour cocktails and three-course bistro dinners. The late-night menu, including crab cakes and burgers, is available until 2 a.m. An oasis of high ceilings with exposed piping, mosaic floor tiles and polished mahogany tables, Pete’s also offers al fresco dining for those who like to keep it real. petescafe.com

Frequented by the pre- and post-gallery crowd, Chinatown’s Mountain Bar is a piece of art in itself with bright red walls and lighting sculptures created by owner/artist Jorge Pardo. DJ, bands and house music set an eclectic sound. Forewarning: a packed house will make it impossible to hear and service will slow to a crawl. Unfortunately, the Chinese wishing well out front doesn’t have a bowl labeled “Drink.” themountainbar.com

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