Ten years or so before farmers' market-driven cuisine became the default hallmark of a certain caliber of urban sophisticated restaurant, there was the "bar and grill." Many of these have fallen by the wayside, or exist in chain form, but some individual outposts have managed to maintain their unique qualities and decades-proof charm.
Hal's Bar and Grill in Venice is one of the latter. It has one of the more diverse social scenes in town, and the muted interior with exposed trusses and interesting art don't feel dated. The expansive dining room remains down-to-earth, comfortable and relaxed, and the food, while not ambitious, is surprisingly well-priced and tasty. It's one of those spaces that's very appealing both when flooded with natural daylight and moodily lit after dark. I was glad MOP picked it as a Sunday brunch spot for us to rendezvous in his 'hood. I rather liked the veggie egg white scramble (with a side of bacon to make up for the healthiness of it all), H was happy with Manuel's scramble. Most dishes are ten bucks, give or take a couple dollars. Not bad at all.
When I find myself on the Westside I always wind up lingering in order to make the most of the schlep. Translation: I try to be a social slut for the sake of convenience. So, we met up with other friends for an afternoon caffeine boost. Located off the Boardwalk in a storefront the fabulous white glazed brick-clad Waldorf Hotel, Groundworks is one of those coffee companies that seems to be sincere and fairly hard core about what they do. Even if the barista at this location didn't have his foaming technique totally down, he made a good effort with pulling the espresso and made one of the better cups you'll find around town.
The Boardwalk hasn't changed much, but I'm still shocked at what Abbot Kinney's become. Jin Patisserie has received a lot of well-deserved attention since it opened in the turn-of-the-last-century bungalow that compactly houses this confection shop and its enclosed front patio. Everything is perfect -- yet not uptight -- from the color scheme to the paper bags to the delicate sweets themselves.
We had to wait for a while to get a box of mixed macarons made in a dizzying array of flavors, but that's because each one was freshly assembled. The poppy seed and lavender varieties were standouts; the shell portion is squishier and not quite as subtle as Boule's, but the fillings richer and unique without being too crazy. Maybe they're a tad pretentious. Somewhat like the direction Venice is headed in these days.