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Restaurants & Bars 2

REVIEW: The Griffin, Atwater Village

Das Ubergeek | Sep 24, 200911:41 AM

(Originally posted at http://mangelorange.wordpress.com/200...)

There comes a time in the life of every close-knit group of co-workers when the usual drinking haunts start to get repetitive and boring, and it's time to throw a new place into the mix. We had some folks in from out of town so we decided to hit up the Griffin in Atwater Village.

There were a dozen-plus of us and some hadn't had lunch, and so we went to town on the bar food menu (served until 0100 Sunday through Thursday and 2300 Friday and Saturday).

The wings were wings. I'm not a wing connoisseur -- I would really much rather eat just about any other bar food than wings -- so I can't offer any insight into where in the pantheon of Los Angeles wings this falls. They were not the best wings in the world, but they were much better than the wings at a certain owl-related sports bar in which I have had the displeasure to have spent lots of time.

Hummus came with nice warm pita points and cucumber slices (a nice nod to people who might not want to eat bread). The hummus was good, not great. It isn't going to replace Skaf's, Alcazar or Sunnin's hummus for me, but then again, Skaf's, Alcazar and Sunnin are not lounges with alcohol on the way home from the Burbank office so it's probably OK.

We ordered a couple of baskets of sliders (three for $10). These were OK but not stunning. The beef needed more flavour (a hit of salt in the meat might have got it there, though using a more flavourful cut of beef would also work), though I liked that they used Hawaiian bread rolls, which lent a little hint of sweetness. If I were hungry and wanted some substantial food I might order these, but I wouldn't recommend them as a snack (too messy).

I really liked the sweet potato fries. Some come with the sliders, but we ordered a basket by themselves so that the vegetarians in our group could have some that hadn't been exposed to dead cow juices. I say this as a devoted hater of sweet potato fries -- these were great sweet potato fries. Cut into ridged coins and battered a little tiny bit, served with normal ketchup. Sweet, yes, but not cloying. If other sweet potato fries tasted like this I might actually order them instead of white potato fries.

We ordered potato skins with no bacon. The skins themselves were OK -- not wonderful, not bad -- but every right-thinking person knows that potato skins come with ranch dip. These came with ranch dip that had been buzzed with bleu cheese. Totally overwhelmed the skins and provided an unnecessarily acrid tang. Nobody liked these. Bleu cheese has its place; potato skins are not that place. Either ignore the dip or order the skins with plain ranch.

The best food we had, though, were the homemade potato chips. Cooked to order, too, so they arrived nice and hot. Cut thickly with a nice crunch and not too greasy. There was a lot of competition for the basket of chips (your $5 gets you a pretty big basket of chips -- probably a foot by six inches and piled up four or five inches high). There were a couple of "misfires" in the bottom of each basket, where a few had clumped together and produced a soft potato pancake rather than a crunchy chip.

That they had Hoegaarden, Old Speckled Hen, Lost Coast Downtown Brown, and Stone IPA on tap (amongst others) was a big help. Good beer, but not catering-to-the-beer-snobs good, which is a plus. A couple of the beers had nitrogen taps (for those new to this concept, nitrogen causes higher pressure and thus less carbonation and a better head on the beer than carbon dioxide, because it rises more quickly out of the beer than CO2), so the heads were nice and long-lasting.

And then there were the martinis. They have Hendrick's gin, which I noticed AFTER I'd ordered an Old Speckled Hen, and which caused me to violate the "beer before hard" rule and. Quite possibly the most perfect Hendrick's martini I have ever had and definitely the best gin martini I've had in a bar in SoCal. See, I think that all the people who make ha-ha-how-sophisticated-I-am jokes about reverently passing a closed bottle of vermouth over the cocktail shaker have enough bars dedicated to them. They've completely ruined the martini in favour of cocktail glasses of extremely cold, watery gin. They might as well drink it in shots. I like gin, and I like herbal gin, I like it warm enough to taste it, I like it with vermouth and olives, and I like it stirred. The woman tending bar actually poured the vermouth into the glass so I could judge whether it was enough (it was) and then she stirred it. Very, very good -- and a manageable size, so you can have two. (Seriously, what is it with the ten-ounce cocktail glasses? A martini is four ounces once you've put the olive in it.)

I am, incidentally, already aware of the hypocrisy of whining about places that cater to beer snobs and then going on a lengthy disquisition about what's wrong with martinidom today. You don't need to tell me about it. I'm comfortable with my hypocrisy.

Decor is sort of King Arthur-fantasy-castle swaggy-curtains... comfortable, with well-set up seating so you can have a large party take over a corner or have a bunch of small parties around tables. There are two freestanding gas fireplaces with seating around them, a long bar and a private room with its own bar (and the same beers on tap) as well as some overflow seating upstairs. I hear tell, however -- lots of tell-- that it gets immensely, immensely overcrowded at the weekend, probably because Atwater is one of the few places left in LA where you can have a proper pub crawl (start at the Tam O' Shanter so you don't frighten the old ladies with your drunken loutishness, then head to the Griffin and the Bigfoot Lodge, and hit up the not-ironically-70s Roost).

So, let's recap: go for happy hour, order potato chips and sweet potato fries, and order a gin martini or some interesting beer. Definitely a nice place to sit and talk to people, as long as you go when it isn't insanely crowded. And if you're concerned about overindulging, well, the Glendale Metrolink station is just a few blocks away.

The Griffin
3000 Los Feliz Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 644-0444

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