Last Call: Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Esoterica Empire

Alcohol and sharp objects just don’t seem to go together. But if the good folks at Esoterica Salon say that booze and blades can coexist peacefully, then who are we to suggest otherwise? Esoterica has been around for only three years, but it may be one of the most successful small businesses in town and easily the most successful entry in the exceedingly competitive — and fashion-backward — market of 817 couture. Seemed that Esoterica had just opened, on Forest Park Boulevard, when it opened a second location, in Grapevine. As the company was busy laying the foundation of what may one day become an empire, more than a handful of equally au courant establishments came and went. Beyond a doubt, Esoterica has consistently done one thing better than its competitors: market itself. Almost as soon as the first sheared lock hit the salon floor, the company commenced developing hipster cachet. Owner Ali Bonilla and his crew started doing what no one really ever did in earnest ’round here before: put on fashion shows. OK, I say “fashion shows,” but what I really mean is “parties,” held at assorted local clubs, where looking at coiffures and clothing was, for most attendees, a distant second to ogling the exceptional hotties beneath the ’dos and in the duds. As is true here and in every corner of the globe, nothing gets butts in the seats like real — and really hot — women (and, to a lesser extent, guys). Esoterica’s fashion shows brought the beauts, and the rabble brought their folding money. Buzz firmly established, Bonilla and company have recently moved from Forest Park to an arguably hipper part of town, the West Seventh Street area near the Cultural District, and they have proceeded to take the next logical step in their quest for world domination. A couple of weeks ago at the new location, after all of the hair had been swept up and all of the blow dryers silenced — and all of the sharp objects stowed away carefully — trés chic boom-siss-boom-siss-boom-siss music began to pulse and drinks began to flow. Esoterica is now a salon and, on weekends, a nightclub. The cool kids call it Esoterica Salounge. So hip. The place is 21 and up, and there’s no cover charge. Visit Hot Food Way before downtown became a mini-mini-L.A. — before Aqua Lounge and Bent and Bar 9 and Embargo, there was Mambo’s Tapas Cantina in the Park Central Hotel. I’m not talking about the patio, an ideal lunch spot, especially on a balmy spring day. Or the small dining room inside by the front desk. Also good for lunch or a fancy dinner. No, I mean the cantina itself, a lounge that has all of the requisite accoutrements — dim lighting, shining trim on the glowing bar counter and the furniture, cool music in the air — but is the only swanky joint in town where I can stuff my face and not feel like everybody in the room is watching me and thinking, “Ewww!” (Mambo’s grilled veggie soft tacos are killer.) Imagine: a place for the beautiful people but where a jabloney like me can be his jabloney self. Visit Contact Last Call at

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