The Place: The Proud Bird, 11022 Aviation Blvd.; 310-670-3093.
The Hours: Mon.Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
The Digs: With all the Mustangs and Spitfires scattered outside, from the exterior, the Proud Bird resembles a swollen bed-and-breakfast that has sprouted up in the middle of a World War II battlefield. We get why there's an aviation theme. It's on Aviation Blvd., next to LAX, so close in fact to an approach runway that dining room denizens can see the whites of passengers' eyes as they descend, lodged in their silvery tubes, bracing for the wheels' collision with the bumpy ground.
While the name brings to mind a chicken joint or even a strip club (or both under the same roof), the Proud Bird takes the whole flying vibe to another level. Splattered with memorabilia, the banquet halls and dining room are vast, but the lounge area is small -- a bar, a landing strip of tables and an outdoor patio.
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The Verdict: Maybe it's the servers -- handling tabs separate from the bar, ignoring customers -- or maybe it's the nondescript clientele. Maybe it's the random, flirty conversations between strangers saddled up to the bar or the fact that no one seems, at least one recent visit, to stay and drink for very long before heading on to some more pressing destination. Patio aside, we're reminded of actual airport bars -- albeit with cheaper drinks, no television screens, and about as much atmosphere as an Applebee's.
Even if it is an Applebee's, a real airport bar has a touch of intrigue. A thousand strange stories-in-transit pass through each night. Solitary drinkers smile to themselves as they rattle off text messages to recipients unknown. Anxious flyers start conversations other anxious flyers wish to avoid. Sometimes there is a fistfight over a college basketball game. We have seen this happen.
The Proud Bird doesn't have intrigue, but it does have free snacks: an open toaster oven heaped with semi-circles of once-frozen personal-sized pizza and mystery-meat taquitos, multi-colored corn chips with salsa and cheese sauce, cubes of cheese (try them on the side, with the cheese sauce), and crudités. On our visit, a drinking companion noticed the snacks and dashed up, returning seconds later with a heaped plate. "It's like a 7-11 up there, man," he said. That could be a good or bad thing -- depending on where you stand on 7-11s.
Final Grade: B