Valley of the Swills
Too cool to drink in the Valley, bub? Bars and classic lounges on the other side of the hill may have what you are looking for, with none of the attitude of Hollywood’s watering holes. 1. Oyster House. At the Oyster House, on Moorpark near Whitsett in Studio City, you can wash down your fried clam strips and grilled oysters with a Bloody Mary, served in a sundae-sized glass. Lacking is rye whiskey, the summer drink of yesteryear that nobody is talking about but should be. As a consolation there’s some homemade peach-flavored hooch that’ll cleanse the palate. They even have their own wine: Newman’s own — that’s Herbert Newman, the owner. And like many Valley joints, the lovely server aims to please. 12446 Moorpark Rd., Studio City. (818) 761-8686. 2. Caribou Lounge. Gone are the days when movie stars supposedly sat by the pool of the Sportsmen’s Lodge on Ventura Boulevard and used empty cans for target practice. Hello, Christian singles night and rock ’n’ roll in the Caribou Lounge, with a lush green garden visible through the picture window behind the Flintstones-esque bar. Widmer Hefeweissen on tap in a long heavy beer glass is just the ticket for eavesdropping on good girls describing how their church dance instructor felt them up while teaching the Hustle. 12833 Ventura Blvd. (818) 755-8000. 3. The Sherman Room. This neighborhood will eventually make hipsters forget all about Echo Park. We’re talking Lake Balboa, pal, near the city of Van Nuys. The Sherman Room to be exact, on Sherman Way. Parking is out back. Olive-green booths face a tinfoil fire in the fake hearth. The expert server remembers to ask if you want Bombay or Bombay Sapphire in your martini. As a bonus, a decent steak can be had for under $15. As for wine, it’s Corbett Canyon across the board. Good enough for Joe Walsh, good enough for you. 16916 Sherman Way, Van Nuys. (818) 881-9363. 4. The Springbok Bar & Grill. For the Valley’s sporting crowd, the Springbok fits the bill: shoot pool, play darts, watch rugby and even take in some local rock bands. Many beers are on tap at this roadhouse-style bar with a patio on Victory Boulevard at Valjean Avenue. Not to mention an impressive display of DeKuyper-flavored liqueurs and crucial hooks under the bar where you can hang your coat or purse. (It’s the little things that count.) South African expats and scary-looking white dudes suggest that people of color might feel out of place here. Hot chicks though. 16153 Victory Blvd. (818) 988-9786. 5. Lucerna Cocktails. Don’t let the grim mini-mall, the empty parking lot or the strip-club façade of Lucerna Cocktails fool you. The Lucerna is an old-school lounge with new vinyl booths, a well-stocked jukebox and a lively crowd. Al, the self-appointed welcome agent will shake your hand, take your drink order and pass it on to the server, who insists on asking “Is there anything else?” — even after she has just answered your every prayer with a fresh round of Scotch and sodas. Hmm. A hint of danger is in the air as gangster-looking guys start arriving through the rear entrance toward the shank of the evening. Don’t be surprised if one barges into the bathroom and starts taking a leak . . . in a trash can next to the urinal you are using. Just remember to back away slowly and make no sudden movements; the Valley may be the friendliest part of town to imbibe in, but it’s still Los Angeles, where nothing good happens after midnight. 15238 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys. (818) 997-1241.
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