Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SaMo Pub Crawl Guide, from the experts

So for the longest time, poor Westsiders watched in envy as residents of other cities had their own pub crawl. You could easily do that in the South Bay, on Sunset Strip and in Old Town Pasadena but unfortunately, it was hard to do so in Santa Monica where bars seemed to be scattered across town. Thankfully in the last couple years, great restaurant/bars have been congregating around the Third Street Promenade. Cringe, I know. Third Street = shopping = crowds = tourists = babies in prams. But honestly, in the last couple years, I've come to discover that 3rd street isn't just for tourists anymore. It's also a great destination for restaurant and bar hoppers. Yes, there are still some cheesy touristy restaurants/bars which will go unnamed, but there are also some quality places to grub and drink at.

So in the past couple years, we've been doing many version of the SaMo pub crawl. Sometimes we keep it to 2-3 bars, sometimes more, sometime we hit it up on Saturdays, other times we do a Fri crawl if we happen to get out of work early. There are many things you'll need to know for a successful pub crawl and that's where I come in :) After doing a lot of menu research, compiling happy hour times and food/drink offerings on a spreadsheet, I have the tools to help you select some cool spots to hit up. You'll need to know when the happy hour specials run till, you'll have to know which bars have late night specials (just in case you can't get to it right after work), you'll have to know what the food specials are so that you don't gorge yourself at one place and miss out on the next (it's best to do sampling at all the bars). The best part about pub crawls is that it's casual and you can play-it-by-ear (which is father foreign for a type-A planner like myself). You just keep bar-hopping and your friends join you whenever they can. Some stay for a drink or two while others will be helping you into bed at the end of the night.

So this weekend, we decided to do a Saturday SaMo pub crawl. We initially planned on about 3-4 spots but ended up at 8-9. A sign of an AWESOME night :) Not all the food we got were on happy hour so those that were are denoted by a "HH". All the bars are located within walking distance and around the 3rd Street Promenade. It'll be fun, trust me, you'll never know where the night will take you. All you'll know is that it'll be a fun time.

1) Huckleberry (to whet your appetite)
No Happy hour
As responsible drinkers, we decided to leave our cars at home and walk to the bars. Also, it'd alleviate the guilt from consuming copious amounts of food and alcohol all night. On our walk from Brentwood to Santa Monica (that's over 3 miles baby!), we stopped at Huckleberry since I've never been, it's on my list and I was in need of some bubbly refueling.

Mimosa was served in a glass. Kind of tacky but at least the serving is larger than a champagne

I ordered a plain croissant. I asked for it to be warmed up because I've discovered that it would taste softer and more buttery when warmed, but they didn't have a microwave or any means to warm it up. Humph... that's no good especially if they pride themselves as a homemade fresh bakery but their croissants have been sitting around in the display for hours.

It was dry in the center and tasted almost like day-old pastry. Very disappointing.

2) Fraiche
Happy Hour: Fri-Tue 5-6.30pm, Wed & Thur 5pm-close
Well drinks and wine $6, Beer $5

We got there right at 5pm, 1st ones there baby! They had seats at the bar or on couches by the window. We decided on the latter. It's a great spot to people-watch and catch people walking outside.

Their HH food menu is pretty awesome. It's quite a selection so pick Fraiche for the stop on your pub crawl where you plan to get some food. If you recall, Fraiche used to be Riva, and Riva had tasty pizzas. I was glad to see pizza on the menu. I like the bar menu at the Santa Monica location over the original Culver City location because the former seems to offer more casual fare.

Two glasses of Prosecco and a Paulaner (HH for $6 and $5, respectively)

Sal's Burger of shredded short ribs, watercress, caramelized onions aioli (HH for $6)
The short ribs were well marinated and very flavorful. I liked that it was pulled meat instead of a thick chunk of meat. Truffle aioli was spread on the airy gougere buns. And the best part was the shoestring fries in the burger.

Prosciutto Pizza (HH for $10)
The pizza was thin crust which IMO is the best kind for bar food. You don't want to fill up on dough, you want to fill up on booze! The prosciutto was very fresh and not oily. The burrata was also very fresh. The pizza was topped with wild arugula and drizzled with EVO. I liked this pizza overall because it seemed light and fresh.

3) Lago (or Locanda del Lago)
Happy Hour: 4-7pm daily, Tue all night
Drinks $4-$8, Appetizers, pizzas & burgers $4-$8

We kind of just stumbled upon this. None of us had been here for happy hour before but we had heard that they had one, so we decided to take a chance and try something new.. which is something quite rare. We're creatures of habit.

Besides their daily happy hour, they also offer some specials during the week such as no-corkage on Mondays, all night happy hour on Tuesdays and 1/2 off wine on Wednesdays. Their happy hour food menu was actually quite long. Some of the food items on the menu were vitello tonnato (veal carpaccio), baked eggplant, tuna tartare, salads, soups, pizzas and burgers.

All their cocktails are available for happy hour so I selected the sangria. Their happy hour beers were Erdinger, Stella, Bittburger, Peroni, Moretti, Fat Tire, Sam Adams and the Buds.

Fritto misto with zucchini, tiger shrimp, calamari, fresh water smelts, fresh water shrimp, spicy arrabbiata and garlic aioli dips (HH half priced at $7.50)
We all inhaled this even though we had just had food at Fraiche. I really liked the fritto misto. It wasn't greasy and the breading wasn't too heavy. I don't believe I've had smelts before but they tasted just like sardines or mackerel - it was fishy, but good fishy. Of course I was given the shrimp head and I delicately scooped out all the brains and sucked it up while the boys watched.

Proseccos are also on happy hour (yay) and we also tried the margarita.

4) Ale House
Happy Hour: all night, daily
Draft Beer $4, wine $5, Bottled beer, Bud, Bud light $3

The Ale House (which used to be called 5th Amendment Alehouse) focuses on craft beers. I have always enjoyed their beer selection. They usually serve a selection of exotic artisan sausages but to our horror, they weren't serving food that day- apparently their grill broke. That's kind of lame if you asked me. To be honest with you, their existing grill wasn't anything fancy (I've seen it). The only thing they used it for was grilling up burgers and dogs. They could have easily bought a makeshift one from Target in the interim. Service was also very rude, which I was very disappointed at because I love coming here and it used to be friendly and welcoming. I think the bartender was having a bad day but based on experience (I've been here about 15 times), I've noticed that service has been erratic. But beers were reasonably priced and good, so if you're just there to drink and don't mind the attitude or lack of food, you should be fine.

5) Copa D'Oro
Happy Hour: 5.30-8pm daily
Cocktails $5

Copa has some pretty amazing cocktails and they make them strong. The Moscow Mule (Vodka, lime juice, homemade ginger beer) is always a delight. The Aviation (Gin, maraschino, lemon juice) was also good. Because happy hour ends at 8pm, this is usually a good end-point if you are having an early night-out.

Turkey panini with jack cheese, bacon and mayo
They don't have much food options on the menu, just some paninis and cheese plates.

5) Pourtal
Happy Hour: Mon all night, Tue-Fri 4-7pm
Drinks $5, food $4, 15% of tastings go to charity

We got to Pourtal after 7pm so we didn't partake of happy hour. We just ordered a bottle of moscato which was very sweet. Think this was when the headache started to slowly develop.
On their food menu, they have a wide selection of cheeses from Andrew's Cheese Shop. Some of their food items include rillettes, pork belly sandwich (very good) and fig & burrata flatbread. Pourtal has a wine tasting via the Enomatic system where you purchase amounts on a card and taste wine by the ounce. It can be fun but personally, I'd rather just be sitting on their patio drinking a full glass of wine.

7) Ye Olde Kings Head
Happy Hour: 4-7pm Mon-Fri
Pints $2.50, appetizer specials

We didn't get there in time for happy hour but the brewskies aren't overpriced so it's all good. It was pretty packed in the bar. I didn't realize it was such a happening spot. I usually just go there for brunch (fish and chips) or head to the store next door if I'm missing Brit stuff like their pies or biscuits. We got a pitcher of Boddingtons, my favorite beer :) p.s. the floor's kindda sticky.

8) Bar Pintxo
Happy Hour: 4-6.30pm daily, Late night Wed-Sat 10pm-close
Sangria $4, wine $4, Half pint of Stella $1.50, Sherry $6, 6 Pintxos for $6, select tapas $6

Pintxo has really become one of my favorite Santa Monica bars because I love their food and their duo happy hour. It's hard to get to the ocean in time for the 1st happy hour but the late one works perfectly. While some of the other bars are great for just drinking at, save your stomach for Pintxo. You'll want to get both drinks and food here.

1/2 pint of Stella for $1.50? That could become dangerous.

Happy Hour 6 for $6, you can mix and match or simply choose the ones you like and double up.
Cremini mushroom, mushroom mousse and Manchego
Heuvos Rellenos con Vinagreta Vasca
I've tried all 6 countless times and my favorites are the mushroom (above) and the serrano on grilled bread.

Marinated mushrooms with fresh herbs and 25 year sherry vinegar (HH for $6)
I don't like marinated mushrooms, cold nonetheless, so I didn't care for this.

Salad (not on happy hour menu but still affordable). I really enjoyed this because the dressing was light and the wilted greens were fresh. After all the booze we had consumed, it felt good to feed the body something healthy.

Pork Belly sandwich sandwich (HH for $6) with aioli greens and brioche bun
Love this, I always have to get it. The pork belly was fatty and juicy, and the brioche bun was nicely toasted and buttery.

Steamed Mussels with tomato, saffron, garlic, shallots, white wine (HH for $6)
Pretty good serving for $6. The mussels were cooked well and the sauce was tasty. This is a great late night snack because it's not heavy and is low-carb.

Grilled octopus, chorizo, potatoes, saffron aioli
This wasn't on the happy hour menu but is also one of those items that I have to get because I don't see it enough at restaurants. It's simply prepared but very yummy.

Arroz negro (this was on their specials menu) is absolutely mouth-watering. It's just amazing how much flavor the rice was.

9) The Yard (our last stop)
Happy Hour: 5-7pm daily
Drinks $3-$5, Appetizers $6

I've been here many times for happy hour and have enjoyed their sliders and mini pulled pork sandwiches. I've also tried a couple of their entree items (beef cheeks) and enjoyed them.

Obviously my photo-taking ability deteriorated as the night wears on. In this photo, a Weihenstefan served in the appropriate glassware and my finger.

Sweet potato fries are always a great capper to the night.

Poutine is french fries topped with cheese curd and gravy. Perfect hangover food!

Santa Monica Promenade houses tons of good restaurant/bars offering good prices. I love how we were able to stumble from one place to the next. Yes, we live in LA but we don't need a car all the time. I love how despite it being a Saturday, we didn't have to get too dressed up (I was of course in my flip flops). I love how we didn't have to wait in line and always found a seat. I love how although this was a pub crawl, we got to taste some delicious food. There are so many other bars in the area, we really only hit the tip of the iceberg on this outing. Next time, I'm adding Brit pub Brittania (HH Mon-Fri 4-7pm), Border Grill (HH Mon-Fri 4-7pm, Fri-Sat 10pm-close), Bar Chloe (HH Mon-Fri 4-7pm) and Robata Bar (HH Mon-Fri 5-6.30pm) to the list.

# of Restaurant/Bars total = 9
# of Happy hours hit = 5
drink tally = don't try counting...
memory = hazy
time = GREAT!

1014 Wilshire Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-2311

312 Wilshire Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-7482

Locanda del Lago
231 Arizona Ave.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-3525

Ale House
129 Broadway,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-6351

Copa D'Oro
217 Broadway,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 576-3030

104 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-7693

Ye Ole Kings Head
116 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-1402

Bar Pintxo
109 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 458-2012

The Yard
119 Broadway,
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-6037


Anonymous said...

HOLY CRAP! just spinning the scroll wheel on my mouse made me tired. That was 1 huge post. Now.. I want to know about Fig, The Yard, Copa D'oro, the Viceroy and uhmm.. coupla others. you better get crackalackin'!

stuffycheaks said...

LoL, sorry for the long post but that was ALOT of alcohol and food consumed so I had to do it justice. I'll definitely have to check out Fig and report back. Love Viceroy, think they still have all night HH on thurs..

Diana said...

Fries on the short rib gourgere sandwich???? Umm yes, yes PLEASE! Totally used to put fries on my burger when I was growing up. Love it!

BTW... next time you go to Huckleberry, please for the love of me, get the salted caramel. It's glorious.

stuffycheaks said...

Diana - thanks for the tip! I'll have to head back to Huckleberry for a breakfast/brunch proper and be sure to get the salted caramel