Waiting for a table in a crowded restaurant is rarely the highlight of a night out. If there's a bar to pass the time and get things rolling, better. If not, a smartly designed overflow space is always appreciated. Gingergrass in Silver Lake has given its clientele the latter in the new Bia Hoi annex next door on Glendale Boulevard, with more plans to come for the compact space.
The narrow room "functions as two places for us," explains Gingergrass owner John Himelstein. "At night, it's snacks and our lounge and waiting area." Come January, it will serve as a bakery, café and convenient grab-and-go deli during daytime hours.
Appointed with geometrically patterned cement tile floors, sparse lighting, a few unfinished wood surface treatments (but not another reclaimed wood-clad room, thankfully), low tables with stools and a rectangle opening in the upper portion of the shared wall with the Gingergrass mothership, some food details will be a work in progress.
The essential concept of Bia Hoi was inspired by Gingergrass manager Robert Lee's recent trip to Vietnam. The lounge was already under construction (in collaboration with architectural firm Project M Plus) when Lee suggested they serve light beer and savory snacks within a casual hang-out spot in the style of the bia hoi tradition, literally meaning "fresh beer."
This particular Bia Hoi craft beer with 3.8% alcohol is custom brewed by Eagle Rock Brewery ($8 per liter), while Cháu Tiên pale ale and Coronado Islander IPA are also available -- for now, since beer and food will continually change.
Blackboard menu items are priced in the $3 to $8 range and currently include steamed mussels with lemongrass chili and garlic, sautéed seasonal baby squash, peanuts seasoned with ginger and garlic, conch salad with shrimp chips, open-face bahn bao topped with bacon-braised pork shoulder, and elegant chicken liver crostini with bacon, egg and vinegar gelée.
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Come January, Himelstein plans to offer a soup of the day with sandwiches and a roster of Vietnamese sweets, the specifics of which will be developed over the next couple of months. The clever rolling counter units will help this daily switch-out from deli/bakery to the evening bar/lounge program when the hour comes.
Bia Hoi is currently open from 6 to 11 p.m., but could be extended later if Gingergrass customers want to linger over craft beers and more bites, and possibly even an evening dessert or two on the menu.
Jessica Ritz also writes about eating out with kids and other family-related food news at Taster Tots L.A. Follow her @TasterTotsLA.