A lot has changed since the culinary revolution was waged in the United States. The American gastronomic vocabulary has gone from limited to flowery. Restaurants of all kinds have flourished across the country, even in the most rural settings. Chefs have become TV stars. But for all the change that has occurred in restaurant and home kitchens across the country, one thing has remained the same: most adults long for a comfortable neighborhood bar.
And why shouldn’t we long to have a local bar to call our own? The human desire for a community “watering hole” has been around for thousands of years. So why, if our culinary culture has advanced so much, would it be so difficult to find a nice, comfortable bar to enjoy a pint or two?
Granted, in the teeming metropolis of Los Angeles there are plenty of bars (read: scenester hangouts, dive bars, pick up joints, sports clubs and music venues), but there are few great neighborhood pubs that welcome the 25-55 crowd in all their under-dressed and over-dressed incarnations. What’s worse, with a city as large as LA, the only way to find a great locals’ bar is to either stumble upon it or find out through the neighborhood grapevine.
It doesn’t have to be so difficult
Though Brentwood is not my neighborhood, I was recently introduced to Bar*Food, a gem of a neighborhood bar, by its owner Jason Killalee*. An Irish actor (Fun Loving Criminals, In America) turned restaurateur, Killalee came up with his pub’s simple, fresh and under $10 bar food menu in a dream.
“I was trying to think of what kind of restaurant I wanted to run,” Killalee told me on a recent visit. “Then I saw it so clear. Why can’t you have a beautiful bar that has beer by the pint, no fancy-named wine by the glass, and simple bar food?”
A restaurateur is born
With twelve beers on tap and a handful of wines listed on the menu by varietal, Bar*Food intends to give people what they want. Not what culinary sophisticates want. “No one asks for a specific wine makers’ wine at a bar. They ask for a glass of Chardonnay or a glass of Cab, for f*s sake.”
Bar*Food’s menu is simple and straight forward. Not trying to be anything beyond what it name implies, Bar*Food offers simple dishes that appeal to the hungry beer drinker. Broken down by flavor and temperature (salty, hot, cold and sweet), there is plenty to nibble on between pints. With salty snacks like olives ($4), edamame ($5) and frites ($5), customers can be sure to keep their wits about them as they drink pints of Fat Tire, Blue Moon and Mirror Pond.
“Hot food” offers a bit more than a nibble with larger portions and interesting takes on bar entrees. There’s a chicken pesto sandwich ($9.50), Mussels ($9.50) and Mac and Cheese ($8).
I was thoroughly impressed with the bright flavors of the Thai bangers and mash ($9.50), a flavorful entrée sized dish inspired by his Irish roots and Thai girlfriend’s culinary background. Killalee sautees the Thai sausage and serves it on a bed of cilantro mashed potatoes. Other go-to dishes include the bar burger ($8.50) served with caramelized onions and bacon, and the elegantly simple Arugula salad ($7).
Though I have visited twice, I have yet to try the sweet section of the menu. I do look forward to trying the bread pudding ($6) and ice cream cones ($5)!
12217 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Open every day but Monday
5pm – 12 pm
Jason Killalee in “Fun Loving Criminals“
*Jason is a friend of mine.