• October 25th, 2008mr meanerblue palms brewhouse, LA restaurants, venues

    My three favorite things in the world are Music, Beer and Vegan Food – in pretty much that order. Now, if you take one of LA’s top music venues, the Fonda Theater, add in LA’s top ale house and a damn good vegan entreé, you have me SOLD. I will go there as often as I can, sometimes several times a week.

    The Fonda Theater in Hollywood, as any music nut knows, hosts The Music Box, an eclectic live music venue for reasonably popular acts. Recent appearances include MGMT, Rancid, Tegan and Sara, The Arctic Monkeys and Conor Oberst…. I’ll be there in a couple of weeks to see the Kaiser Chiefs from my homeland.

    Some bright spark had the idea of converting the awful Blue Palms Lounge, which I had frequented on occasion to consume over-priced martinis and bottled Heineken, into an absolute mecca for beer lovers in LA. Blue Palms has undoubtedly the best beer selection south of San Francisco, including several rapidly rotating taps and a single cask ale pump. In addition, you’ll find knowledgeable staff and even a video/audio feed from the stage so you can continue to enjoy your favorite act while you pop into the bar for a quick one.

    On the food front, they have only one vegan selection, but it stands head and shoulders above what you’d typically get in a brewhouse: Blackened Tofu. This dish is perfectly prepared firm tofu, blackened in a pan and served with steamed spinach and a selection of delicious grilled vegetables. It’s absolutely vegan, as the chef knows what vegan means, and even prepares it separately from non-vegan dishes. That’s really cool, if you ask me.

    But, for me, the best part is the beer selection — especially the cask ale which reminds me so much of rainy England.

    Here’s a sneaky pic I took recently when the bar staff (and owner/leaseholder) were huffing and puffing to change a cask. You can clearly see the zillions of beer taps, along with the cask beer engine in the middle:

    I think, on that visit, I was drinking a Porter from Craftsman, perfectly pulled into an English-style glass. Oh boy, it was quite a night. In fact, I absolutely refuse to drive when visiting Blue Palms, except on the odd occasion that I find myself wandering on Hollywood Blvd. after some event where I’ve drank a bottle or two of way-too-cold-American-Beer and absolutely, without a doubt need to wash my mouth out with something like this:

    Alternatively, if you’re not completely sold on the whole cask ale thing (and it’s not for everybody, I can admit), the other two dozen or so beers on tap will, without a doubt, whet your whistle.

    For those rare beer lovers who are also vegans, the blackened tofu is really a treat. Here’s a close-up so you can get excited about it:

    So, if you’re looking for good music, great beer and above-average vegan food (for a bar, goddamit!), please visit the Blue Palms. You will get a warm welcome, a cold beer and a very soothing environment to imbibe. Highly recommended!

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  • September 9th, 2008mr meanerLA restaurants

    I live in LA. A 40+ mile round trip involving a canyon road, three freeways and multiple surface streets in a very high crime area of town REALLY needs some justification. To make that journey pretty much every weekend must mean there’s something very special at the destination, and I’m pleased to announce that there is. The York on York in Highland Park.

    Anybody who has ever travelled out of LA and is into a bar scene will recall those large, open industrial bars with lots of beers on tap, a full cocktail compliment, friendly staff (who actually act like they are pleased to serve you) and extensive menu. Sadly, LA is NOT a bar town by any means so I’m set to drive the equivalent of half way to San Diego every weekend to enjoy a few drinks at what I can confidently call the best bar in LA.

    The York on York, bathed in afternoon sun

    The York on York, bathed in afternoon sunlight and cask ale....

    Seriously, the York is an amazing place. It really does remind me of large brew houses in Seattle, Portland, the Bay Area etc. Although the York doesn’t actually brew anything, it seems to be in bed with some leading local breweries (Craftsman in particular) and has the very best of their products available.

    In some ways, a well stocked bar can be better than a brew-pub as they can change out the beers at will, and not have to serve a bad batch of their own product from time to time. The beer list rotates slowly, so there’s usually something new to try. The bar seating area is HUGE, and there are booths at the back if you want to sit down and dine while you drink.

    The Bar: well stocked, and even a beer engine for cask ale!

    The Bar: well stocked, and even a beer engine for cask ale!

    For me, The York is one of the very few places in LA that serve cask conditioned ale – something that reminds me of my native UK and is an increasingly welcome addition states-side. The stronger, slightly warmer and less gassy beer is just how we Europeans like it. America: stop drinking Budweiser!

    Tasty Craftsman brews: 1903 and Cask Ale

    Tasty Craftsman brews: Cask Ale and 1903 lager

    Now, around the same time I discovered The York, a new bar opened in Hollywood at the Henry Fonda Theater. Some bright spark took the ageing Blue Palms Lounge and converted it awkwardly into the Blue Palms Brewhouse. Although I’ll be writing about this bar soon, suffice to say I’ve only had a 50% success rate in getting into the place when I’ve showed up. First, the opening hours were posted incorrectly on their website, and second the new owner had some kind of smug party where we felt as welcome as bacon butties at a bar mitzvah – so we left immediately.

    The sign. So classy. Looks like it used to be a Denny's!

    The sign. So classy. Looks like it used to be a Denny's!

    Enough of that… there are several things I like about The York, principally:

    • AWESOME Beer selection
    • CASK ALE!
    • Easy street parking, often right outside
    • Always somewhere to sit during the day (although I hear the place goes nuts in the late evening, especially when a DJ plays)
    • CASK ALE!
    • Very friendly and knowledgeable staff – they remember my order! That’s very rare in LA.
    • Light and airy, music isn’t too loud and is usually pretty cool
    • Clientele are pleasant (meaning probably educated, clean and smiley)
    • CASK ALE!

    There’s really nothing to hate, other than its out of the way location for most Los Angelinos. I’ll probably try and go there every week, even though the Blue Palms has similar beer offerings and is right on my doorstep.

    Oh, and the only vegan option other than a green salad on the menu is french fries and some olive thing that doesn’t sound to appetizing. Don’t worry about that, though as Cinnamon is only a few blocks away — possibly even walkable with a buzz 🙂

    The York on York. It SO WOULD have a scooter outside!

    The York on York. It SO WOULD have a scooter outside!

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  • May 29th, 2008mr meanermore restaurants (not LA), seattle

    Since the early 70s, the Pike Brewery has been serving ales in Seattle, moving to its present location in Pike Place Market during the early 90s. If you can deal with the nightmare that is parking in downtown Seattle (or better still, get a taxi: you probably won’t want to drive after a visit to the Pike!), you are in for a beer TREAT with several vegan options on the menu, including my favorite, Hummus and Pita, which is lovingly prepared, saladated with cucumber, lettuce, and the all important kalamata olives:

    Having said all that, I forget my veganism when I show up at The Pike, because the thing that gets me every time is the cask ale, served at just the right temperature from traditional British-made hand pumps. If the stars are aligned, you can get a porter, stout or (if you’re really lucky) the perfectly hopped IPA, which I was lucky enough to find on cask suring my last visit.

    The vibe is similar to a large English pub, but with a very Pacific Northwest feel: comfortable pleather couches, large plastic covered menus and the stench of fried food everywhere.

    Visiting at peak times usually means a wait unless you’re lucky enough to get a seat at the bar, or you have to line up at the bar and order if you’re sitting in the “pub” — just like in England! If you visit off-peak, though, you can get a comfortable bar seat and chat away to one of the knowledgeable bartenders while enjoying one too many cask beers 🙂

    The Pike is one of Seattle’s best breweries, arguably the best location, probably the best vegan food offerings and, albeit at certain times, the best atmosphere. If you enjoy good vegan food and great beer in a hassle-free environment the Pike is certainly for you.

    Check it out on your next trip Up North.

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