The Place: The Mandrake Bar, 2692 S. La Cienega Boulevard., Los Angeles; 310-837-3297.

The Hours: Tue.-Thu. 5:00 p.m.-Midnight, Fri.-Sat. 5:00 p.m.-1 a.m., Sun. 6 p.m.-Midnight

The Digs: The Mandrake is not in Hollywood. The Mandrake is not filled with Ed Hardy shirts straining to conceal ballooning biceps. The Mandrake has art. This means, of course, by some standards, that the Mandrake is edgy, a hipster hangout. About as edgy as a butter knife, we think, jauntily tipping back our whiskey glass. Like mounds of driftwood, low-slung tables line the small room where the bar sits, directly opposite the door through which you enter. That bunker spills into a dance floor space with white walls and high ceilings, where two wooden picnic tables tip and heave beneath the weight of leaning, liquored customers and a projection of a cozy fire crackles on the screen behind the tables, and still further back, outside, where a patio fills up with smokers.

The Verdict: The Mandrake wants people to dance, but there is a problem. The music is too loud for talking and yet not good enough to draw out the kind of dedicated, deliberate, focused dancing that aunties do at weddings, the only dancing, we believe, that one should ever do. It doesn't help that the sound system is comparable to the speakers in a mid-90s Corolla, the bass fuzzy and the high ends piercing. If talking is your aim, you will scream until you sound like Gilbert Gottfried. Despite the dearth of dancing aunties or conversation though, this a nice place to drink. It's also staffed by friendly folk, we think.

How do we know? Within ten minutes of arriving, while appraising our surroundings, we jauntily tipped back a glass of whiskey and promptly spilled it down the bar. The bartender mopped it up before we could finish apologizing. And before we could reach for our wallet, another glass of whiskey sat before us, the cubes of ice tinkling like chimes. We opened our mouth to apologize again and an it's-cool-no-one-died-as-an-effect-of-the-spilling-of-your-whiskey-i-have-done-it-before-myself-as-a-matter-of-fact nod zipped across the bar and, three seconds later, our evening was back on, and we sat, sipping once more.

Overall Grade: B

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