When you consider making a certain neighborhood your new home, the quality of the local restaurants is usually a check box. Are there places you can walk to? Are they decent? In a city as massive and congested as L.A., having a couple of options nearby where you can grab a drink and a casual meal are essential. Crossing town in the car just isn't always in the cards.
For Miracle Milers, a lack of good neighborhood restaurants has been a major ding. It's an otherwise great place to live — centrally located, safe, reasonable rents — but a truly great neighborhood joint has eluded it. There's Rascal, which is neighborhoody, but they have maybe six beers on tap; pickins are slim for real drinkers. There's Luna Park and République, but they're less casual and the prices are on the higher side. There are also a few places in the Grove, but they're, well, in the Grove.
A few weeks ago, however, a true miracle appeared on the Mile in the form of Spare Tire, a new gastropub owned by the Busby's folks that opened in their old El Toro space on Wilshire. To the delight of those who live nearby, Spare Tire has filled the neighborhood restaurant void, offering up everything the other nearby spots have failed to provide — at least all in one place.
Where does Spare Tire score points? For starters, it has a long beer list: 20 on tap, 14 bottles and six cans. Craft and local brews dominate, and they're smart enough to offer flights for those looking to experiment alongside Miller Lite for those who aren't. The wine list is heavy with reasonably priced bottles, and you need more than your hands and feet to count all the cocktails.
And we haven't even gotten to the whiskey yet, of which Spare Tire offers plenty, from Jack Daniel's to the coveted Pappy Van Winkle.
Of course, some people like food with their booze, and Spare Tire's menu delivers with trendy fare that's easy on the wallet. They offer a handful of entrees, but mix-and-match charcuterie and shared plates are where it's at. Nibbles can be had “From the Ground,” “From the Land” or “From the Sea” with ricotta gnocchi, wood roasted bone marrow and house-cured gravlax all clocking in under $15. Fresh oysters are $3 a pop all day.
And to gild the lily, there's happy hour daily from 4 to 7 p.m. Draft beer, a couple of wines and well drinks are just five bucks, as are their classic pizzas, beet salad, chicken and waffles and a handful of other dishes. A meal for you and a buddy can be easily made with about $20.
Spare Tire loses half a point, however, for not filling at least some of their rocks cocktails to the brim of the glass — a practice we sincerely hope they reconsider. Or they could just buy smaller glasses — whatever it takes to not make their customers feel cheated out of 20 percent of their buzz.
Still, it's forgivable when looking at of Spare Tire's big picture: shared plates, plenty of drinks, decent prices, great happy hour — all of which invite you to sit and stay, drink, eat something and drink some more. Plenty of places in L.A. do this. The concept is nothing new. But it's new to Miracle Mile.
Spare Tire, 5370 Wilshire Blvd.; (323) 525-2618.