If the crowds at The Greyhound on opening night were any indication, Highland Park was ready for a neighborhood bar like this. On Thursday night, owners James Bygrave (an original partner in Father's Office), Matt Glassman and Ryan Julio opened the doors to their new “bar and grill” on Figueroa Street, and by 9 p.m. it was standing-room only in the large space that used to house a pupusaria.
There's absolutely no remnant of that pupusaria now. The room, which encompasses a long bar running down one side, a number of clubby booths taking up the bulk of the space, and a shuffleboard in back, feels like a big-city college bar. It reminded me of drinking spots in Boston, circa 1999. There are big screen TVs playing sports above the bar, and they even have those faux-Tiffany stained glass light fixtures that speak to a certain era of college bar drinking.
Despite the vintage-inspired, Fernet Branca-branded bicycle perched above the doorway for decorative effect, The Greyhound is aiming for a low level of pretension. It's a beer and burger bar with cocktails. The owners have claimed a Midwestern influence on the food menu, with items such as Italian beef sandwiches, but for the most part it's bar food you'd see almost anywhere in the country: fish and chips, Caesar salad, patty melt, chili dog, steak and fries, etc.
Press leading up to the opening promised some creative cocktails from owner Julio, but as of now the cocktail list is fairly pared down. We tried a classic Manhattan, which veered a little to the sweet side, and an odd “Greyhound martini” that has both dry vermouth and Lilet blanc, making it sweet – too sweet to be pairing with olives and onions. There's also an old fashioned variation and appropriately, a greyhound variation. The beer list, however, is already quite broad and fun to explore.
The bar has a funny setup, in which you order and pay at the end at fast-food-style cashier stands. This works for both food and drinks; as of now there's no table service. It's both kind of brilliant – no more leaning through crowds trying to get a bartender's attention – and kind of disconcerting, like you're lining up to buy movie tickets rather than the familiar convivial bustle of ordering at a bar.
It would be ignoring the elephant in the room to fail to acknowledge The Greyhound's symbolism in regards to the changing nature of the neighborhood. First come punk rock doughnuts, then upscale beer bars, then before you know it all the pupusarias are gone and York and Figueroa battle it out to see where will be the next Sunset Junction. But The Greyhound's focus on eschewing pretension is smart, and gives them some neighborhood credibility, no matter how good the beer list.
The Greyhound opens daily at 4 p.m.