Although conventional wisdom says you can’t please everyone, that’s exactly what Hill Street Bar & Restaurant aims to do. The downtown Los Angeles restaurant and East West Bank client, which opened earlier in 2019 at the base of the Kawada Hotel, knew exactly what they wanted to do and who they wanted to attract.
Hill Street Bar is located down the street from Grand Central Market and not too far from other popular tourist attractions like The Broad museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, so the owners knew that they were going to get a variety of tourists and locals passing by.
“Originally, we were trying to come up with a concept that would incorporate all the different food groups because our target market was walking around,” explains Dan Trapp, general partner of Hill Street Bar & Restaurant. “We have a pasta, we have a burger, we have salads, we have beer, we have an outstanding wine collection—so, we have a little something for everybody.”
The first thing Trapp and his partners did was identify who lived and worked in the area—those people would make up their core business.
“We even did some basic studies, like standing outside during lunchtime, and we’d watch for an hour and a half and see where all the foot traffic was,” Trapp shares. Through that method, they realized that the majority of their clientele would likely work for or with the government in some way, since Hill Street Bar is just a few blocks from Los Angeles City Hall and other government buildings.
“We figured 60 percent maybe [are] government workers, maybe 20 percent are attorneys, and the rest would just be tourists and [other] people,” he adds.
They factored this knowledge into their menu pricing and even in naming their business Hill Street Bar & Restaurant. Trapp says they wanted to create an atmosphere that was comfortable and accessible to everyone, and a name that people could easily refer to.
“We have a pasta, we have a burger, we have salads, we have beer, we have an outstanding wine collection—so, we have a little something for everybody.”
“We came up with the name because we wanted something that people could remember,” Trapp says. “I think it’s really important that people easily identify with it. We’re located on the corner of 2nd and Hill Street, so if people wanted to say, ‘Hey, where are we going?’ ‘We’re going to Hill Street.’”
Although Trapp’s partner owned the Kawada Hotel, another East West Bank client, it was his commitment to understanding the restaurant’s target market that convinced Austin Clay, a vice president and relationship manager at the bank, of the restaurant’s future success. Through the partnership with East West Bank and the Kawada Hotel, Trapp and his partner were able to get the necessary help to finance Hill Street Bar.
“We saw that these individual business owners were very attuned to growing their business, and really understood their clientele, understood the market they were going to be going after,” Clay says. “That was something that really drew us as lenders and as bankers to really want to partner with them. We hope to continue to provide lending services, so that we can grow their business moving forward.”
Trapp adds, “We’ve gotten great service from the bank—they’re always there if you need something. If you have any kind of a problem, they’re always there to help address any problem you might have.”
Trapp comes from a real estate background, and he used his knowledge of that to ensure that Hill Street Bar would be a success.
“I think we’re well ahead of schedule, in terms of where we wanted to be right now,” he says. He attributes that to their unique location, which is surrounded by both tourist destinations and office buildings.
“I think just study the market that you’re trying to attract, and make sure you look at everything with a good real estate component, because that’s the baseline for most businesses,” Trapp advises. “If you have a passion for it, make sure it still makes good business sense and that it’s not just something that you want to do, it’s something you think a lot of other people are going to want and need.”
Hill Street Bar has been open and running for less than a year, but Trapp is already looking to see how else they can cater to their customers’ wants and needs.
Trapp says they have added more bar food items for football season. They also have a craft cocktail program that they are “constantly changing.”
"Study the market that you’re trying to attract, and make sure you look at everything with a good real estate component, because that’s the baseline for most businesses."
However, Trapp says he’s most excited to expand the events and catering program at Hill Street Bar. “We have a great catering program that we’re about ready to embark on,” he shares. “Our events are going to be really off the charts here because we have different areas for events, and we can accommodate all kinds of parties here—we’ve accommodated up to 275 people here at a time, so we have the kitchen capacity to be able to do that.”
“It’s very fun and exciting to see clients really grow their business and see what you’re able to provide them through lending services,” adds Clay. “You come back and see how they’ve grown the business, and watch that just come to fruition.”
If you go to Hill Street Bar, the miso-infused black cod is a must-try. Marinated in miso for three days and served over a bed of pumpkin puree and seasonal vegetables, executive chef Alejandro Galan describes it as the epitome of what Hill Street Bar represents—affordable but high-quality.
Trapp is a fan of the Hill Street burger, a decadent staple that’s topped with gruyere cheese, blue cheese, bacon and caramelized onion, and served on a rosemary parmesan bun. “It’s a piece of art,” Trapp declares. He also recommends their excellent pastas and salads—the miso salmon salad is another popular menu item for those looking for a lighter option.
For Clay, his go-to orders are either the buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich or the seven hour bolognese.
Down the line, there will be plenty more dishes to try out—Hill Street’s menu is constantly evolving, so there will always be something new for customers.
“What we tried to do was start off with a very basic menu and expand on out as we perfect each item for our clients,” says Trapp. “We’ve still got a lot to do—we’ve still got a lot of things we want to add to the menu.”