Jolene goes to Beetle House LA
In addition to having a penchant for traveling, eating and exploring, I am also quite a fan of Tim Burton. These two affections of mine became blended at Beetle House LA, our own Southern California of the Tim Burton-themed restaurant that got its start in New York City. Tim Burton, the amazingly creative brains behind of some of my all-time favorite films (Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.), is not for everyone. He has a tendency to draw from darker story lines, mildly sorrowful, shadowy characters that can seem a little scary, and he caters to a less mainstream audience. That being said, Beetle House LA is a place for Tim Burton enthusiasts, not those who will shy away from the "strange and unusual" (I hope you all got that reference!!!).
I'd heard about Beetle House through social media, many months ago. Novelty pop-ups are all the rage right now, and this one definitely sparked my interest. Unfortunately due to its popularity, the earliest reservation I could make was months away! After such a long wait, you can imagine how excited I was that the day had come. Of course, being me, I just had to dress up for the occasion too. I even ordered a new shirt from Etsy, which was more than appropriate.
After almost an hour drive, I arrived at the bustling corner of Hollywood and Ivar. I was concerned about parking, but fear not, there is a parking structure down the street (On Ivar), which was a $10 flat rate. I met up with the Spazy Art team, and we set off on our adventure!
PRO TIP: LEAVE EARLY! BEETLE HOUSE ISN'T TOO FAR FROM PANTAGES THEATER, AND SOMETIMES TRAFFIC FROM THERE CAN REALLY CONGEST HOLLYWOOD BLVD.
Also, shameless plug: If you follow me on social media, you will see me in my "Jolene Goes" jacket while I am on my trips. Michele from Spazy Art is the artist who created that for me! She makes wonderful patches, so please contact her with custom orders and check out her Etsy shop!
Beetle House is 21+, so please do not plan on bringing your children. You will be carded at the door, and climb a (very dark) staircase up to the bar and restaurant. The purple light hit us hard and fast - it took my eyes a while to adjust to the darkness and the neon purple hue engulfing the space. The walls are decorated in locally-made fan art, depicting characters and scenes from Tim Burton's hits.
After adjusting, we were a little disoriented. I imagine this is how Alice felt after she fell down the rabbit hole! It took us a moment to find the check-in desk so we could check in for our reservation. We had to round a corner and not let ourselves get distracted by the art, the neon lights and the Beetlejuice behind the bar. We checked in and were escorted through a small hallway decorated as the mouth of a black and white creature that said Tim Burton all over it. If you visited the Tim Burton exhibit at LACMA when it was there, this had a similar entrance.
We were seated and took a better look around the dining room - the music was blaring, pink and purple spotlights were shining, and the shenanigans were only beginning. Scenes from Tim Burton movies were playing on a large screen, servers in fishnets and fascinators were running around, and Willy Wonka himself was going from table to table charming and startling the guests. I have to admit, I was a bit underwhelmed; I think I expected something more understated and darker. However, after some chatter with one of my dates, I realized that this restaurant was called Beetle House for a reason. There was a dynamic energy, a campiness that could be compared to the exact same energy in the film, Beetlejuice.
Another let down was the service. I had read many reviews complaining about slow service, so I wasn't under any preconceived notion that I would be waited on hand and foot. Even though my standards were already "low," I was surprised at the lack of enthusiasm of the staff. Our server seemed to be in a poor mood, and we were speculating it was due to his obligation to train one of the new servers. She was visibly nervous, and it didn't seem like he was helping those nerves. I don't want to dwell on this part of my experience, but I have to be honest in confessing that this put a damper on our experience.
One thing I do not have complaints about: the food! There are two 3-course options, one is $5 more expensive due to higher quality items such as steak and fish. Both options are not cheap, so make sure you come to Beetle House to spend a pretty penny. I knew about these prices ahead of time, so I did anticipate how much money I would be spending.
PRO TIP: TAKE A PEEK AT THE MENU AND PRICING BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO GO. THAT WAY, YOU WON'T HAVE ANY UNWANTED SURPRISES WHEN YOU RECEIVE YOUR BILL.
I opted for the peach salad, featuring refreshing frisee lettuce, peach vinaigrette, roasted peaches, shaved radish and fried prosciutto. The portion size was quite large - I was surprised to see such a hearty appetizer. I'm not usually a fan of frisee, but I thoroughly enjoyed the frisee in this salad, as it added another level of texture on top of the soft roasted peaches and the crispy fried prosciutto. I didn't even finish the whole thing! My friends ordered the shrimp and grits (which was delicious) and the garlic parmesan fries.
While we were enjoying our appetizers, some performers hit the stage to dazzle us, and probably make us a little uncomfortable. When I say performers, I don't mean singers or comedians. I mean freak show performers from FreakShow Deluxe, a troup in LA. But then again, Beetle House isn't for the faint of heart, is it?
We got to see a sword-swallower, a fire dancer, and a contortionist. Their performances were short, but I thought they gave the evening a great pace. Honorable mention goes to the fire dancer, who did a routine to a Nine Inch Nails song. The musical choices (including The Smiths and Blink 182) were very telling of the demographic Beetle House is trying to reach. Before we knew it, our main courses had arrived.
While I was snapping photos, Edward Scissorhands made a stop at our table! He was adorable, and I really appreciated how committed the performers are to their personas every night. My friend made a comment about Edward giving me a haircut, and he replied, ever so softly, "If you would let me." SO PRECIOUS. So accurate. I was so dead.
Here is my second-to-last complaint. I had seen pictures of the "Sweeney Beef" and deep down, my little black soul jumped at its grotesque appearance. I was looking forward to receiving my blood-splattered plate, complete with a chunk of meat and a straight razor. However, you can see from my photo above, my plate looked less Sweeney Todd and more Gordon Ramsey. While it was delicious, I was quite disappointed with its presentation. My cohorts opted for the Edward Burgerhands and The Big Fish.
Last complaint coming your way: dessert was just ice cream. For fun, I bake and create desserts, so it pains me even more than the average person when a dessert falls short. To me, it is easiest to create something themed and edible in the form of dessert. I expected blood splatters or maybe a cake with Jack Skellington's face on it. But alas, we got cookies and cream ice cream.
One of my favorite parts of the night was when one of the most famous scenes in Beetlejuice started playing on the big screen. Our resident Willy Wonka jumped on stage, starting to sing very loudly. The crowd cheered (myself included), and everyone started to dance and sing along. My sad ice cream suddenly didn't seem too bad - I remembered that I was surrounded by Tim Burton fans, and I mean come on. How can you not smile when Willy Wonka is on stage singing the Banana Boat Song???
We finished up our meal and explored a little more of the decor. We took some fun pictures and called it a night.
Overall, I'd recommend Beetle House LA for Tim Burton fans who don't mind spending a bit of money for a fun experience. I was fortunate enough to have gone with fun people, so I knew I'd have a good time regardless. This is definitely a novelty pop-up, and your experience will definitely lack if you don't understand the references or ridiculously enjoy Tim Burton films. Some might also find the decor "scary" or "spooky," so this is definitely a place for an acquired taste.
Until next time,