The place: The Yard, 119 Broadway, Santa Monica; (310) 395-6037.
The hours: Daily, 5-7 p.m.
The deals: $6 bar bites, $3 beers, and $5 wine and drinks.
What did we think? Turn the page to find out…
The digs: From the outside, The Yard doesn't look like much. The green awning and basic outdoor seating could be the exterior of any touristy Santa Monica bar/cafe, especially considering its location directly in between 3rd street and the park that runs along Ocean Avenue. Inside, however, The Yard is a nicely decorated small-ish space. It is simple but feels classy, cozy without inducing claustrophobia, dimly lit without being dark. The bar itself is on the small side, but is of a nice dark wood and provides ample view of the tap list and the fresh ingredients that go into the drinks.
When we were there (5:30 p.m. on a weekday), it was almost empty. We chatted with the bartender and watched as he made one of the new drink specials for the waiters to taste. As time went on people trickled in, but when happy hour ended at 7 p.m. the bar was still pretty quiet. Perhaps we caught the place on a slow day, but it was a very enjoyable, low-key atmosphere.
The verdict: The Yard seems to place a lot of emphasis on fresh, local produce even in their drinks, and they pride themselves on their well-curated beer and wine list. It was a minor disappointment, then, that the margarita came out of a bottle. It was plenty strong and tasted fine, but totally generic. Even more frustratingly, the only beers with happy hour prices are Corona and Miller Lite. When you have good beers from places like Alesmith and The Bruery and interesting cocktails with ingredients like honey and basil, why does your happy hour only cover flavorless swill and mediocre spirits? The chalkboard bearing the tap list and specialty drinks sits high above the bar, taunting us tight-fisted bargain barons from its lofty perch.
Really, though, this is a diner's happy hour. The fish tacos were fresh and nicely done, and accompanied by a solid salsa verde. The sliders were fairly standard, but the arugula and aioli were nice (if normal, at this point) touches. Miniature pulled pork sandwiches were a surprising favorite, with a good tangy zip and thin onion rings providing some interesting contrast. The portions are not huge, but one order does make a sizable snack, and three could probably satisfy two people looking for a cheap early dinner. On the whole, The Yard is a nice place to wait out rush hour and enjoy some bar bites, but looking here for deals on high quality drinks will only lead to disappointment.
Overall grade: B