The Place: The Barrel Sports Bar, 4547 Van Nuys Blvd. Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2095.
The Hours: Every day from 10am to 2am.
The Digs: Close your eyes and imagine a Sherman Oaks dive bar at 2 o'clock on a Monday afternoon. Was it dark inside with black and red pleather chairs, fake wood paneling and old, crusty regulars sipping beers and watching ESPN News? Welcome to The Barrel. It's a sports bar, which mixes well with a dive bar when there are 3 HD TVs, a pool table, shuffleboard table, electronic darts and video hold 'em. They mix strong well drinks for $4.25 and a nicely poured Jameson for just $6, while also standing as one of the few spots in the city where you can still find a cigarette machine.
The Verdict: Our bartender was half kind and half indifferent, striking the perfect balance for a place like this. The last thing you want is some high pitched and excessively bubbly former beauty queen making you feel like a degenerate for drinking whiskey on a weekday afternoon (or alone on a weeknight). At The Barrel, they ply you, act like you belong, then leave you to your poison. It's the sort of place you could easily spend the whole day (all 16 hours of it) without anyone looking at you sideways. The only question is what they were doing playing Cartoon Network on the big screen all afternoon. We aren't complaining, we just thought that channel was for children and stoners, rather than grizzled Bourbon drinkers.
Overall Grade: A-