What's With All the Beer Pubs?
the invisible restaurant critic
Dear Mr. Gold:
What's with all these beer pubs? It's very 1991 Denver.
--Eric Beteille, via Facebook
Dear Mr. Beteille:
In a way you're right. Pubs are perhaps overrepresented in the current crop of restaurants, and while I am as happy to stare down a bottle of Unibroue or a double IPA as the next dude, I often find myself yearning for a nice bottle of wine -- especially at places like the bar I visited the other night where the bartender corrected my pronunciation of Pliny the Elder before deciding that he wasn't going to serve it to me after all. It's funny, the way the specialized connoisseurship rituals that used to attach themselves to Bordeaux have largely attached themselves to former commodity foods like coffee, beer, ice cream and Taiwanese beef noodle soup. We all destroy brain cells in our own private ways, I guess.
That being said, it is nice to see the convergence of pubs with cantinas and anju bars and izakaya in Los Angeles -- much nicer than it was to see the convergence of pubs with college-town snack food 20 years ago. The L.A. drunkards I like to hang out with tend to be as conversant in Koreatown cheese corn as they are in Westside burgers and the better sorts of yakitori, and know that while french fries can be decent in even cookie-cutter beer gardens, the ones at Beer Belly, sizzled in duck fat and tossed with handfuls of crumbled duck confit, are even better. Do we admire the chef at Orange County's Playground who told a critical Yelper to burn in Hell (as seen in the O.C. Weekly)? We kind of do, even if being asked to churn our own butter by shaking little jars of cream is something we thought we'd seen the last of on Pioneer Day in fourth grade. If there were beer pubs approaching Lazy Ox, Night + Market, Gorbals, M.B. Post or Waterloo & City in Denver in 1991, you probably wouldn't be living in Los Angeles.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter