In most cities, when scripted well, grabbing a bite before a show makes for a satisfying, full evening, and if all goes well, by the final curtain call, you're ready for round two: dessert. In L.A., that pre-theater dinner agenda comes with a stressful, time-pinched commute. On a particularly bad traffic day, you miss out on that fresh sea urchin at The Hungry Cat entirely, damn it -- and that glass of wine, which you could really use as you settle into those pricey Book of Mormon orchestra seats (after the intermission). Enjoy the show.
These are the moments when neighborhood bars with tightly edited beer menus, like The Faculty, and their inexpensive theater companions like the Sacred Fools Theater Company, remind us of the casual, and quirky, pre-theater drinks that this city does so well.
The Faculty, just across from the sprawling L.A. City College Hollywood campus, is cozy and unpretentious, a tiny freestanding building with black paneled walls speckled with memorabilia giving it a 1950s London gastropub sort of vibe -- only without the corporate underpinnings of so many gastropub reincarnations today. And as this is not England, two flat screens tucked in the corners tuned to (American) football.
The menu is in the piled-high sandwich and mac-n-cheese realm, meaning satisfying and affordable (most are less than $10), if not always quite the seasonal inspiration you were craving. But you didn't come to The Faculty for a sandwich. You came for a really good pre-theater beer, like that Black Market Rye IPA and Epic 825 Stout on tap one week, a Stone vertical tasting the next. "We didn't have any good hangouts near the theater," says bartender Joe Fria, handing over a rye IPA (and highly recommending the cheese plate). "I had my faced pressed to the window, waiting for the bar to open." (Fria will be performing in Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini at Sacred Fools this summer.)
The reason he is there is the reason we are there: The Faculty is within walking distance of the Sacred Fools Theater Company, which happens to have a (stress-free) parking lot and zero traffic guilt if you're running late (tickets are typically in the $15 range for any seat in the house).
Sure, occasionally the slamming of car doors in that adjacent parking lot masks the actors' dialogue. And at times, intermissions here can take on a collegiate thespian club sort of vibe as actors and theater-goers alike peddle their next big roles and upcoming stand-up performances. It's the sort of place where the evening conversation might very well end (without a hint of sarcasm) about that fatal mistake an acting colleague made ("He really started to 'go' when he moved to the Westside").
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None of that matters. You came to Sacred Fools to see a really good dark comedy, like The Christmas Present that ended its run last week, or perhaps to take part in the Serial Killers audience-chosen storyline when it returns to the stage. Besides, you can always stop by The Faculty afterwards for a beer.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Find more from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com