Dear Mr. Gold:

I've got eight to 10 people that I need to put somewhere central, near the Grove area for a combination of drinking and eating: Some will eat, some will drink and some will do both. What I need is a flexible hang.

—Tricia, Venice


Dear Tricia:

The flexi-hang is a grand institution that should be encouraged by all means. And the area around the Grove is probably richer in flexi-hangs than anywhere else in town — while I often, if not usually, end up at the wine bar Lou, the upstairs room at Street or possibly the Amaro Bar at Mozza, there are a lot of closer options.

At BLD, the bar is usually pretty open even when the restaurant is packed, and the smoky pork shanks or linguine with clams are pretty fine; Golden State curates its beers as carefully as the guys down the street at LACMA curate their shows, and puts magnificent Fiscalini cheddar on its burgers. Animal is awfully popular at the moment, but is an easy place to segue from casual snackage to full-on loco moco action with foie gras. AOC, kind of the O.G. of the flexi-hang concept around here, tends to be a bit too booked for big, amorphous parties these days, but you might get lucky. You might find the vibe at Village Idiot a bit too post-collegiate and loud, but the fish 'n' chips are formidable. You didn't mention a screen in the corner showing the Lakers, but that can be important too, especially during the playoffs — 8 Oz. Burger Bar and 3rd Stop work for that. But are we winding up at Comme Ça? We are. The bar side of the brasserie has superb cocktails; the crowd oozes and expands and breaks off into little budlets like the amoebas in documentaries you may remember from fifth-grade science class, and the cheese list, the oysters and bistro classics like tarte flambée, cheesy onion soup and moule frites are superb. You'll have to shout, of course — Comme Ça is not the place for an intimate tête-à-tête — but at times, that's kind of the point.

COMME ÇA: 8749 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd. (323) 782-1104.

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