They’re promising nonstop fun at the new Vodvil in Los Angeles, where hosts reminiscent of 1970s game show emcees conduct games nightly while customers drink signature cocktails and down food conjured up by former Top Chef contestant Jamie Lauren. It’s $6 a head to play along plus food and drink charges—a small price to pay for inclusion in an instant party. Could your town be ready for something similar?
Vodvil bills itself as an entertainment venue that offers game night every night for grown-ups. The food’s pretty grown up, too, with executive chef Jamie Lauren, a 2008 RH Rising Star, in charge of the menu. Here’s how the concept works.
“Every half hour (more or less), a Vodvil host or two will come out and announce the next game. The hosts give everyone time to get ready, explain the rules and then the game will begin. Each game will last 5–10 minutes, and each table is playing against all other tables (so bring your smart friends). At the end of the game, the answers will be revealed and the winning table will get prizes. You’ll then have 15(-ish) minutes to eat, drink and schmooze with your friends until the next game begins.”
Trivia-type games have proven successful in bar settings, with sports bars being a particularly strong market. The games are fun and, better, help keep the crowd involved so they linger longer at the venue. Vodvil thinks that adding live hosts amps up the entertainment aspect and its games are aimed at a presumably hipper demographic that embraces the ironic retro feel. The menu devised by Lauren, known from her appearances on both Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars, helps get the customers in the door in the first place, and ensures they won’t get up and go elsewhere because they want something good to eat.
The bill of fare offers contemporary twists on old school comfort food. The dinner menu consists of five snacks (House Made Chips and Onion Dip; Pickled Deviled Eggs); five appetizers (My Mama’s Smoked Tuna Croquettes; Pigs in a Blanket) a four-salad “Cold and Crisp” section (Caesar and Chopped Salads; Smoked Trout with frisee, confit potatoes and pickled onions); a four-item slider section (Indian-inspired lamb, Kobe beef, Turkey Sloppy Joe; Falafel); a trio of Meat on a Stick items (Chicken Satay, Marinated Beef, Spicy Pork); and three “Classics” (mushroom and spinach pot pie, shake and bake chicken, turkey pot pie).
It’s just the right kind of food to eat while you’re concentrating on playing a game. And Vodvil has plenty of games.
“We have lots of games: word games, trivia games, memory games, matching games, list games, order games,” Vodvil’s website notes. “You’ll certainly recognize many of them; some you may be playing for the first time. All are fun, none are complicated and the Vodvil hosts are there to be sure you understand the rules before the game starts. We’re fairly certain you’ll pick it up quickly.”
Early reviews online conclude that it’s more fun than it sounds like it would be and that it’s great if you go with a group. People seem surprised about how the flavors pop in Lauren’s version of what seems like ordinary bar food, so we’re thinking this concept has legs. We’re guessing it would work elsewhere, at least one or two nights a week. Why not give it a try?