Apparently, Richard DiSisto is trying to revitalize downtown Sherman Oaks all by himself. After opening Tipple & Brine last month, he debuts a new watering hole upstairs from the oyster bar on Thursday, May 22. It's the second of four planned venues on the same block of Ventura Boulevard, the remainder of which will open later this year.
To get to Tunnel Bar, walk to the rear of the building that houses Tipple & Brine and look for a blue light. Head upstairs into a relatively small space, which definitely feels underground, with the Edison bulb - studded brick archway over the bar and dim lighting. That arch is also the source of the bar's name: It was inspired by the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, near which DiSisto grew up.
You might be thinking speakeasy, but the drinks list couldn't be farther from it: No place with an Alabama Slammer and a Hurricane featured prominently on the menu can claim any mustache-and-arm-garters fussiness. The bartending team includes veterans of Honeycut, the Varnish and Caña Rum Bar, though, so even those guilty pleasures are made with fresh juices and high-quality spirits.
The cocktail list is actually surprisingly varied, stretching from old-timey classics such as the French 75 to original creations including the Sister Ray, a Manhattan-like tipple with rye whiskey, rum and sherry. There will even be punches intended for two to six people, served over a large ice block.
Opposite the bar, there's a seating area with red leather banquettes and photos of New York rock legends. The Patti Smith and Iggy Pop portraits certainly remind you of the legendary CBGB's, but DiSisto says the place actually was inspired by Max's Kansas City, another Manhattan cradle of the punk and glam scenes he grew up in.
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There's also the prospect of a nice outdoor lounge. Tunnel Bar's back door opens onto Tipple & Brine's (currently empty) roof, and DiSisto says he eventually plans to install seating and open the area up to customers. If the place does well, it'll be a valuable way to thin out the crowds in the fairly small main room.
So next time you feel like a trip back to New York in the '70s, head for the Valley. No, really.
Jason Horn has been obsessed with food since he learned the secret ingredient in his dad's chicken soup (he'll never tell) and obsessed with writing since he followed a high-school crush to a literary magazine meeting (it didn't work out). Follow him online at The Messy Epicure and on Twitter at @MessyEpicure. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.