Tom Bergin's Tavern Reboot: The Song Remains (Almost) the Same
Tom Bergin's, 2014
We've only seen Tom Bergin's pass through three phases.
First, there was the Bergin's with the Irish coffee, the highly competent, sociable bartenders in formal attire, and the garlicky cheese toast for a couple of bucks. Then there was the Bergin's with the Irish coffee, the highly competent, sociable bartenders in formal attire, and the oysters and grass-fed steaks. This Bergin's came about when the previous owners bought the property to save it from becoming a parking lot. It reopened, after renovations, in 2012. Sales didn't stack up and the bar folded, only to be purchased again by a regular customer.
Now, as of early 2014, there is the Bergin's with the Irish coffee, the highly competent, sociable bartenders wearing plaid and striped collared shirts, and the pickle chips. The big change is that there hasn't been much of a change.
At Bergin's, the food has always been good. This is still the case. We'll never order the burrata ($10), but the shoestring fries with thousand island ($4), pretzel and mustard ($5), and the fish and chips ($14) are good bets. On our last visit, we dug the pork chop, a salty, juicy behemoth with braised cabbage, shaved raw apples and a rich brandy butter ($20). In general, things seem pricier than 2010 Bergin's, but less so than 2012 Bergin's. With pesto on the chicken sandwich and that burrata, the menu is also a little more eclectic in conception. Still, no ceviche or soup dumplings, for which we are grateful.
Our gripes? The striped and plaid shirts from the J. Crew catalog don't make sense. There is less Sinatra on the stereo, a bit of an unwelcome departure. But it must be the first bullet point on any new Bergin's owner's game plan to change little about the bar's core vibe.
The long-simmered versatility of Tom Bergin's is part of its charm. The bar is half-dive, what with the dusty, shamrock-plastered ceiling and the fact that legends and local idiots have been getting kippered there for 77 years. Then again, the drinks aren't cheap. And you can sit in a booth and wipe your mouth with a clean, white, cloth napkin.
That spirit is very much intact - shamrocks, Irish coffee, corned beef, good times. It's as fine a place as any to watch a game, guzzle a few well-made drinks, and get cornered by a fast-talking loon with a loopy life story he's just dying to share with you.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Los Angeles dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.