Delilah’s: the 'It' Place
There’s no denying that Delilah’s is the ‘it’ place to go in Los Angeles. Located on Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood, this exclusive restaurant slash nightlife venue has an unmatched A-list clientele. From both Kendal and Kylie Jenner’s 21st Birthdays to Drake’s New Year’s Eve bash to Justin Bieber’s 2020 Bday celebration, this high-end eatery has closed its doors to gen pop and admitted only the Hollywood elite for these exclusive buy-outs. Though it may look subtle and obscure from the outside, it’s the kind of place where paparazzi swarm the valet line and you can’t get a reservation after 7:30pm without knowing someone on the inside (or buying bottles). But if you can make it through the doors, the ambiance will instantly transport you to 1920s Hollywood, and from craft cocktails to the sophisticated crowd, Delilah’s is sure to delight.
The first time I went to Delilah’s was in 2019; I was in town from New York City visiting my best friend who had recently moved to the West Coast for a client (she’s a stylist and she’s fucking fantastic). She had an in and got a reservation for 9pm or so. Upon arrival, we passed through a velvet curtain and stood at the host stand. As I glanced around, I had a strange flashback of standing in the exact same spot 5 or 6 years earlier at a club called DBA. I had been sent there during my tenure as a nightlife reporter; similar to Delilah’s, the location was sprinkled with celebrities and I was assigned to get the tea. Nets made out of rope were draped a few feet from the ceiling and women, dressed only in bedazzled bikini bottoms, crawled along them, dangling their naked breasts above the crowd. One wall had a glass fixture creating what seemed to be a large, transparent cage; and inside, masked and mostly bare-skinned women wiggled their bodies to the electronic dance music that burst from the speakers. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the venue was created by the same owners that started The Box – a New York City staple known for its erotic and peculiar performances. Unlike The Box, however, DBA seemed to have run its course, and the former hot spot closed its doors not long after I fled Los Angeles for the granite island.
Shaking off the memory, I scanned the room to take in my current surroundings; I was instantly infatuated. Crystal chandeliers and glass sconces produced sexy mood lighting that was faint and dim – the type of dark that makes your make-up look absolutely perfect and erases the left-over wrinkles that can’t be zapped by Botox. Red velvet booths sat against red velvet walls all along the outer edge, and green channeled couches and wooden rimmed chairs adorned the interior. We made our way to a two-seater table between a group of six men and another large party which included @FatherKels. I remember being surprised by how tall the Instagram sensation was and how charming and adorable I found her turned-up nose. She wore a cropped vintage T with her naval exposed, and I watched her bounce between tables, saying her ‘hellos.’ We drank and ordered – my friend broke her usually pescatarian diet to share a Filet Mignon which, cooked Medium Rare, melted against my teeth and pleased my palate – and as the night lingered on, the table of men next to us who dished out dollars for expensive liquor bottles got up the nerve to hit on us and exchange numbers. At the end of our meal, we made our way to the bar where we stood and had a final drink, searching the crowd for somebody fine. Though we didn’t meet our matches that day, my most substantial memory was of the entire vibe: upscale, sultry, luxurious, and lively. This was the type of place I could frequent. I knew I’d return.
And recently, I did exactly that. On August 11, 2021, I made my way back through though those famous doors. It was 8:30pm and the day after Kylie Jenner’s 24th birthday. Though her followers were only teased by photos of brunch and a snapshot of a candle-lit dinner around her pool, it was safe to assume that the Hollywood crowd gathered in Calabasas for an event that escalated into the evening. Hence, it was no surprise that Delilah’s was a bit quiet on that warm summer Wednesday. My friend and I made our way to our six-person table and listened as a live male singer serenaded us to old Alicia Keys tracks. While his just-slightly-raspy voice rang in our ears, it was perplexing that, even on a light night, we could not figure out where he stood and sang. It felt like an odd choice to elect to have live music but not provide a view of the performance. Giving up the search, I opened the black cocktail menu and held it in front of me. At 33 with an astigmatism which isn’t corrected by the already-heavy contact lenses I wear daily, I have no shame in telling you that I could not read that damn menu without the flashlight from my cell phone. Still, let me be clear that this is no complaint, as I wouldn’t trade that wrinkle-erasing lighting for better visibility. Phone in hand, I found my way to the Spicy Siena – their version of a spicy margarita made with Cointreau and agave syrup. I asked the waitress if she could sub the El Tesoro Blanco for mezcal, which she agreed to with a serene smile. Now, I’m a mezcal drinker and I adore a margarita with a kick, so it is no soft statement when I say: this was arguably the best spicy margarita I’ve ever had. First of all, there is no reason for anyone to ever use simple syrup in a margarita when agave is an option (Have I mentioned that I used to be a bartender?) – if you can match the origin of the liquor and the sweetener (ie. cactus), that’s always the way to go. Additionally, what really set this off, was the level of spice – they did not hold back. In a single sip, I got to enjoy the smokey notes of mezcal, the sweetness of orange and agave, and the bite of Serrano finished with a salty, spicy rim. It was a drink so balanced it would have made Samin Nosrat happy. At one point, my entire esophagus felt like it was on fire, but in a good way – like when a guy you’re really into puts you in your place with a firm but compassionate tone. For flavor only, I could have had ten of these fuckers, but the liquor packed as much punch as the chili, and I switched to Mezcal on the rocks after only two.
Still unable to read the menu, my friend ordered for me, selecting dishes for us to share. The first thing that arrived was grilled cheese. And while I did love the food on my first visit, I don’t think it struck me with the type of umph that I experienced recently. If I could underscore one point about Delilah’s, it’s that the food may even outweigh the quality of the crowd. Again, big statement if you’re into Drake and Biebs. I should also note that the edible I’d eaten in the Uber ride over hit me just seconds before the waitress set our food down on the table, but – stoned or sober – the grilled cheese and tomato soup combination was absolutely out of this world. The soup was rich and creamy with a sharp tang from the tomatoes, a touch of spice, and the zest of onions – almost like drinking Carbonne’s spicy rigatoni sauce. The bread was fluffy and crisp, and a mix of fontina and white cheddar cheeses melted together in perfect harmony. Somehow, I felt like I was both 10-years-old, home from school because of a cold, with my mom fixing me comfort food and at the swankiest spot on the block dining with the divine. My friends ordered baby artichokes, which looked delicious, and while I’d hoped to try a taste, I didn’t glance up from my own appetizer in time. The presentation was beautiful though. Next, came a Caesar salad. If you’re thinking a salad is a hard thing to mess up, you’re wrong. I’m a Caesar connoisseur, and I crave this salad every few days. I can say with absolute confidence that the best Caesar salad in LA is at Jon & Vinny’s (it’s called “Gem Lettuce” on their menu), but Delilah’s came in a close second. Crisp lettuce, chunky croutons (which I dipped in my tomato soup), and parmesan cheese were all up to par, but the tipping point was an extra lemony dressing that coated each bite and filled my mouth with citrus. For me, this was the note of sour I’d been missing, and it made the salad feel light and fresh, when often a creamy Caesar can seem less like a light starter and more like a heavy meal.
Not long into our apps, the singer wrapped his session and what appeared to be a playlist filled the room. It took a minute for whoever was switching up the songs to find their stride, but after a few too many repeats, they dove into some good 2000s tracks that reminded us all that we are over 30 – not necessarily in a bad way (cue Ashanti). Now, I recognize that it was a pretty quiet Wednesday, but my one wish for the evening was that they had a DJ on the turntables rotating some new trap. Nonetheless, with the drinks flowing and the nostalgia bubbling, we found ourselves bobbing to the beats of our younger days.
For dinner, we ordered the Cedar Plank Salmon and the Mac N Cheese side with truffles added. As soon as the ceramic bowl hit the table the entire atmosphere smelled like truffles, and my mouth began to water at the scent alone. However, it was the salmon that stole the show. On the cedar board, alongside the perfectly medium-rare fish, was a grilled lemon. One easy squeeze transformed the meal, elevating the deep flavors of charcoal and smoke and rounding out the dish. Had I not been sharing, I would have cleared the cedar plank and maybe even licked the bottom. And, as I mentioned in my review of Cecconi’s, I can be picky when it comes to salmon – maybe I should disclaimer that this is because I make a fantastic rendition at home, so I tend to challenge restaurants to beat by own cooking. (Look, I am no high-end chef, I just know what I like, and I can season the fuck out of some raw meat).
While it may not have been as bustling as a Saturday night, the tables still seemed fairly full. A group of three black men sat at a booth near the bathroom, looking single and available – though I can’t attest to the truth of their relationship statuses. And, just a few steps away, two older white men in outdated sweaters and button-ups sipped whiskey neat. My guy friend, who I sat next to, and I played the make-up-their-back-story game (you know, when you see a random stranger and create a whole character plot for them). I guessed that these white men were keeping an eye on the bar for women for purchase (I apologize to anyone I offended with this assumption, but let me say that I mean this with no negative judgments – sometimes you gotta get in where you fit in). My friend, however, guessed that they were talking business over quality scotch and locating a lady would only be a bonus. He did, however, recommend that I let my eye contact linger just in case one of them should decide to pay my rent for a few months. (Look, I can pay my own damn rent and have been for years, but let’s not act like that shit is fun!). Well, we were both wrong – they neither hit on me or any woman there. For all we know, they could have been having their own first date or a night away from their wives.
My friends and I ordered a round of shots for dessert, skipping the selections on the menu, and when we’d polished off the last of our drinks, we made our way out – next stop, Crazy Girls. (Yes, I do mean the strip club, and yes, I can circle back to that in a later review if you’d like). The next morning, I woke up hurting and hungover. I hobbled to my fridge where I’d stored a bottle of Pedialyte for recuperation – I already told you I’m over 30, so yes, I’m prepared for the alcohol apocalypse. And, as soon as I felt somewhere near sober and capable of clear thoughts, a question came to mind – can I order that grilled cheese and tomato soup for breakfast? While the answer is definitely ‘no,’ the subliminal sentiment is clear: Delilah’s dishes have no rival. So whether you’re there for the fantastic feast, the celebrity sightings, or the scene itself, Delilah’s brings the best of the best to Hollywood West.