Angelenos’ appetite for comfort food has sparked a spate of new gastropubs. But these are more than just bars with food—they’re the new wave of fine dining. George Abou-Daoud, the man behind a gaggle of restaurants including what many credit as LA’s first gastropub, the Bowery, opened a new one on Fairfax called Rosewood Tavern and suggests this deliciously low-key trend is economics-driven. “People have limited resources, and when they go out, they want accessible, comfortable food,” says Abou-Daoud. “They don’t want to be disappointed on a big-budget meal.”
Dave Northrup, partner at City Tavern in Culver City, agrees. “The recession has changed the dining scene across the country by allowing chefs to use fine-dining techniques in approachable settings and at price points people can enjoy as habitual customers, not just on special occasions,” he says.
Abou-Daoud also sees gastropubs “as an outlet for a beautiful, local craft product: California beers,” which more and more Angelenos seem interested in learning about. Founder and CEO of the MOD restaurant group Max Schlutz says 1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro’s beer program was specifically designed to educate guests about American craft beers.
Gastropubs themselves are evolving too: Rather than focusing solely on brews, they now include boutique wines and handcrafted cocktails on their menus as well. Says Northrup, “With gastropubs, we’re seeing great mixology, wine and beer programs that help reach and satisfy a broader customer base.”
“The [gastropub] trend is also very much socially driven,” says Abou-Daoud. “People want to go out and meet their friends at these great social-gathering spaces.” And perhaps that encapsulates the true nature of our gastropub boom. “People come to get great food and service in a comfortable and convivial atmosphere,” says Schlutz. What’s more quintessentially LA than that?
Gastropubs: Where to Go 1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro: This laid-back eatery brings casual fine dining to Torrance with specials every night of the week, including “Beer N Bacon” Fridays. 1321 Sartori Ave., Torrance
BrÃ¼ Haus: The duck and foie gras sausages and mugs of Duvel Green lure us to West LA. 11831 Wilshire Blvd., LA
Black Market Liquor Bar: Top Chef All-Stars competitor Antonia Lofaso’s menu, cocktails by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix, and a Cicerone -chosen beer list distinguish this Studio City spot. 11915 Ventura Blvd., Studio City
The Tripel: The “Fine Food and Libations” promised by this Playa del Rey newcomer include a lamb burger with honey-yogurt harissa sauce, cucumber salad and shaved red onion. 333 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey
Rosewood Tavern: George Abou- Daoud’s congenially cavernous new chophouse pours more than 60 whiskeys. 448 N. Fairfax Ave., LA
City Tavern: This hophead hangout has three booths equipped with high-tech TableTender tap systems that let DIY drinkers pull their own pints. 9739 Culver Blvd., Culver City
The Fat Dog: You’ll find fare such as jalapeño mac ’n’ cheese at this Fairfax fixture. 801 N. Fairfax Ave., Hollywood