If you want good food and good drink in L.A., you either have to learn how to cook or go to a proper gastropub. There’s a problem, though — with dozens of places calling themselves “gastropubs” nowadays, it’s tough to separate the true greats from the rest of the pack. These five, however, are worthy standouts. For a night out with friends, you won’t do better.
Among the sea of popular places along West L.A.’s Sawtelle strip, Plan Check still manages to be noteworthy. When you and your supercool crew strut inside this bustling eatery, with its unfinished wood and metal decor, you might think you’re in a garage – but that just makes it a conduit of conversation. Better yet, the burgers and sandwiches achieve a level of artistic creation unseen in burger- and sandwich-dom. The “chef’s favorite” burger – juicy beef topped with bacon, cheese, hot sauce, and a sunny fried egg – will make your eyes bulge. The double-smoked pastrami nosh with kimchi mustard and pickles will inspire you. Pair these with a chocolatey Great Divide Yeti stout or the light Purgatory hefeweizen, and you’ll have enough flavor to last for weeks.
Ask friends about the race for best burger in L.A., and you’ll hear lots of raves about Umami Burger or Father’s Office. However, coming around the bend and gaining speed is Stout. You’ll need to open wide to bite into their “new-style” burgers – they’re huge – and the combinations of flavors are seriously awesome. Try the six weeker with brie, fig jam, and caramelized onions; or order the goombah with crispy prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, and lemon basil aioli. For newbies who don’t know the difference between a light style lager and a malty IPA, the menu offers smart pairings (if you’re thinking about the goombah, go for a hoppier IPA, like the Independence Day from Ommegang). Plus, the laid-back service and prime Hollywood location make it ideal for meeting before or after you hit the clubs – and it’s one of the rare spots open super-late (until 4 a.m. daily).
The 3rd Stop
On West Third, just a stone’s throw from the Grove, is 3rd Stop. This is no fancy, chichi gastropub, but what it lacks in décor it makes up for in food. Jump on one of their worn-in green leather stools, or into a comfy booth, or snag a table on the patio with your crew for happy hour prices between 4 and 7 p.m. AND from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. This place is never too loud or crowded, so you can relax while sipping one of their 36 beers on tap. Starting with housemade pretzel puffs with fontina fondue dip is a no-brainer, and their brick oven pizza is great for sharing. Just make sure to save some room for the Nutella pizza with strawberries and mascarpone.
After punching out from a long day at work downtown, skip the freeway traffic and look for the Little Bear shield and bright red double doors. Congregate with your coworkers, and settle in for sips of Belgian-style drafts and bites of Belgian-style food. The stark modern dining room with high ceilings and metal chairs makes the place feel like an industrial cafeteria, which is fitting, since it’s located on Industrial Street. This makes it easy to focus on the company, not the scene. You can’t go wrong with any of the food, but it’s best to order lots of little bites to share, like the crispy Brussels sprouts with Parmesan, rosemary, and toasted hazelnuts – a fan favorite – or the jidori chicken wings with sweet Thai chili glaze.
On the Thirty
Opened just over a year ago, this upscale cafe-bar hybrid has quickly become the go-to spot for discerning Valley residents. While some places focus on doing one thing right – burgers, pizza, salads, beer – On the Thirty knocks everything out of the park. Grab a bunch of coworkers, forget your worries, and gather into a tall booth by one of their flatscreen TVs. Sip some brews and watch the game alongside the cheerful Ventura Boulevard cognoscenti while sharing delicious appetizers, like the panko-crusted amazeballs with gruyère, cream cheese, bacon, and prosciutto. Delectable pizza choices come with fascinating combinations like fiery fig jam and goat cheese, garlic bourbon-marinated filet mignon and caramelized onion, and smoked Canadian pastrami and pickles. So many choices, you’ll have to plan a return trip. Oh well…