Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (coming out Oct. 3), we'll be bringing you periodic lists of some of the best things we've found to eat and drink around town. Ice cream sandwiches and bowls of tsukemen, fish tacos and dan dan mian, cups of boba and glasses of booze. Read on.
Beverly Hills makes it easy to spend money: Very little about this neighborhood is cheap, from the shopping (Cartier) to the car dealers (hello, Bentley) to the spendy steakhouses and see-and-be-seen restaurants. Heck, even valet around here can cost 10 bucks! But happy hour, the great financial equalizer of the restaurant world, is alive and well in these Hills.
If you want to gaze at the beautiful people while grazing on appetizers and sipping something fah-bulous, these three places will treat you right. You can sample their superior cooking without diving in wallet first -- and they have the perfect fame-to-price ratio to impress out-of-town guests. There's even some outdoor seating to take advantage of the early evening sun. Throw on your best cubic zirconium earrings and pull up a stool.
Chef Bernhard Mairinger is the second Austrian chef to open up shop in Beverly Hills (the first being Wolfgang Puck, natürlich) and his ode to sausage, schnitzel and spätzle is one of the more celebrated restaurants in the neighborhood. But if you're not in the mood to fork over $30 for an entrée, stop by between 4 and 6 p.m. on weekdays (note: They're closed on Wednesdays).
Every beer on their list is $7 (currently, no deals on wine or liquor), and every sausage they serve also is available for $7. The most popular is the bratwurst, served as two long links next to a mound of sauerkraut -- that stuff you'd get in a jar as a kid is a very distant relative of BierBeisl's homemade version -- and a dollop of spicy brown mustard. But the real stunner on the sausage list is the Käsekrainer, a fat link similar to a Polish sausage, infused with Swiss cheese. It's served with tarragon mustard and fresh horseradish, the perfect combination of crackling skin and juicy interior. Call it a late lunch, call it an early supper -- just call it awesome. 9669 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 271-7274.
2. Bar Bouchon
If French Laundry and Per Se are out of your budget, you can experience Thomas Keller's influence at Bar Bouchon for 1/20th of the price. The vibe is parfaitment French, with outdoor café tables overlooking a precious little courtyard, and a nickel-plated bar inside facing mirrored shelves of liquor. On weekdays between 4 and 7 p.m. they offer deals on drinks -- $4 beer, house red or white wine for $5, generously poured well drinks from $7 -- and several food options under 10 bucks.
It's a great opportunity to dive into chef de cuisine David Hands' steak tartare for just $9, a perfectly seasoned mound of filet mignon chopped with capers and served with olives and toast. Three pork-shoulder sliders are $8, highly addictive truffle popcorn is $5, and oysters are $2 apiece. As the casual cousin of Bouchon Bistro upstairs, the regular bar menu also is one of the better deals in town -- with $8 pâté, $14 mussels and salmon rillettes for $18. Tip: Stop in the bakery next door when you're done and pick up some dessert for the ride home. 235 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 271-9910.
Tucked inside the Montage Hotel, Scarpetta can be easy to miss -- but you shouldn't. Its patio seats overlook the same peaceful courtyard as Bar Bouchon, and its Happy Hour menu has just undergone an overhaul, with new drinks, new food and extended hours. From 4 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday (score!), executive chef Freddy Vargas offers eight plates for $8, in portions large enough to make a meal.
Marscapone ravioli, soft and salty with a hit of umami from the mushroom broth, prove this Italian kitchen's skill; porchetta sliders, topped with pickled shallots and salsa verde, are the ultimate crowd-pleaser. There's burrata crostini, lobster croquettes, a hefty jar of chicken liver pâté and, for light eaters/vegetarians, a sunny peach salad with ricotta salata and a skillet of grilled cauliflower. At the bar, beer is $4 and wine options are $6, but the star of the menu is the list of $8 cocktails -- conceptualized by owner Scott Conant and mixologist Rob Floyd, formerly of the Bazaar. There are eight great drinks to try, but take advantage of two summery ones before the season's over: the Portofino (a cooling mix of gin, lime, Maldon salt, cucumber and mint) and the Amalfi (whiskey, bitters, lime and ginger ale). You can practically imagine the pool. 225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 860-7970.
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