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I'LL EAT AT THE BAR

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As a frequent single diner, I'd appreciate hearing CH-ers thoughts on restaurants with the best bar service. It's got to be a decent bar scene, not too crowded but lively. Maybe a flat screen or two to watch a game. Also, a place where you aren't a pariah if you're a single and you're not pissing off the bartender because you're the only one eating at the bar. Food needs to be good and from the same menu used in the dining room. Cost with wine/drinks in the $50-$60 range. Ideally in the area of downtown out to and including Pasadena.

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  1. The bar at Houston's fits the bill perfectly (Pasadena), as does Smitty's (also Pasadena). I've never tried eating at the bar at La Grande Orange (Pasadena again), but it seems like a place that would work as well.

    Downtown, plenty of people eat at the bar at Daily Grill. I know you can get food at the bar at Chaya Downtown. They do have a bar menu not available in the dining room, but I believe you can get the full restaurant menu at the bar (just not vice-versa; the bar menu is quite affordable). Also downtown, the bar at Roy's is a nice place to both eat & drink.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Jack Flash

      Thanks JF. I totally agree that Houston's is a great example of what I'm looking for. I've been there and to Smitty's. But I'm taking your suggestion about La Grande Orange. From their website, it looks great.

      1. re: trimtab

        The website, I'm sure, does not supply a realistic sound track. I may just be too old for places like this, but while I can deal with the din in the dining room, the wall of sound coming from the bar when we've eaten at LGO has been enough to make me never want to go there. Too many 20/30-somethings who were never taught about Indoor Voices...

        Taylor's in La CaƱada is oldfashioned and quiet. Can't speak for Houston's here, but I used to love the bar at the now-defunct original in Nashville; I do need to give the one in Pasadena a try.

        I would also recommend the Redwood downtown, on 2nd just off Hill. I don't remember how spacious the bar itself is, but there's ample seating for parties of one or two in the bar room.

        1. re: Will Owen

          Interesting Will. At the risk of sounding like an old fogie, I've never been a fan of deliberately designed, acoustically alive (loud) restaurant environments. I don't mind the sound of lively chatter, but I really hate the idea of raising my voice to have a somewhat intimate conversation with a companion. Too much glass. tile, marble and other shiny surfaces and not enough carpet, drapes and leather. Oh well. But thanks for the heads up on LGO.

          1. re: trimtab

            The fact that many restaurants nowadays are designed deliberately to be acoustically aggressive makes me angry. This is not my model for a food-friendly space. My favorite example among the places I've visited over the last few years is Maison Akira, where Baroque chamber music is piped in just loudly enough to be heard, but not so loud as to displace normal conversation. My alltime favorite was a place in Chicago that had a live string quartet at brunch, unamplified. Perfect.

            1. re: Will Owen

              I just vote with my wallet. It doesn't make me angry if I don't have to listen to it.

              Mandarin Deli on Reseda sure is nice and peaceful. ;)

          2. re: Will Owen

            Why do you think that so many restaurants which attract a young crowd have such loud music? Unfortunately, and I'll acknowledge that perhaps I'm living in the past, but I truly believe that it's because many, and perhaps sadly, most young people today are really not looking for a setting that is conducive to meaningful conversation. When I go out for dinner with friends, I want to talk, and share ideas about everything from good theatre, good movies, good books, and even politics with the interesting people I choose to dine with. I know that I sound elitist, and maybe I am...or perhaps it's my generation, but I truly find it sad that so many restaurants are so noisy that real conversation is impossible. Unfortunately, I really think that this is intentional on the part of restaurants and it's because it's the way that the younger people of today want it. Am I wrong?

            1. re: josephnl

              As a young person, I think younger people want it that way, not because they (we) don't want to have conversations, but because of the vibe it gives off as a restaurant. If the music is louder, people will feel free to speak louder and the atmosphere of the place will be a little more casual. As opposed to a restaurant that is quiet to the point where people feel like they should keep their voices down to a whisper. That's just the opposite extreme, and there's probably a happy medium in there somewhere.

              1. re: josephnl

                I'll chime in as a young person (I guess. Is 31 still young?) who really dislikes loud restaurants. I know that many of my friends feel the same and hate having to speak loudly in order to have a conversation. Designing restaurants to be deliberately noisy is a really unfortunate trend.

          3. re: Jack Flash

            Any of the Houston's ownership places are good - Gulfstream, Bandera, R&D? (there is one in fashion island).

            Also, the Mozza's should be ok too..

          4. I love eating at the bar. I do it solo, or with another person. A few I love:

            WESTSIDE TAVERN: this newer place has terrific food, reasonably priced, and very good drinks. All the bartenders are helpful and enjoyable. And the bar is a mile long, just beautiful. Note: one weird design flaw.. the edge of the bar is tapered, which is pretty but I have seen more than one drink go sliding off.

            LUCQUES; Great place to eat at the bar, particularly if you can get at the short end of the bar. The bartenders seem to love to have people there. And the food, of course, is wonderful.

            TAYLOR'S STEAKS: The Koreatown location. If you love this kind of place, it is terrific for eating at the bar. Dark wood, long bar, I love the food.

            FIRELY: On Ventura. I love their bar area, part of which is done up like a library. I've had a number of good meals at their bar. And am addicted to their fried olives.

            MIXVILLE BAR AT EDENDALE GRILL: Maybe the most beautiful bar in town. They installed a LONG bar in an old firehouse, in the long garage where the fire truck would be parked. They used to have the best onion rings in town until they annoyingly took them off the menu. But I've had many a nice meal here, and again, the bartenders seem to love people dining at the bar. Not the best food in town but it is often good.

            JAR: Great bar, great bartenders, their potato chips are to die for (the bar snack, save on Mondays when it is Mozzarella Mondays), the drinks are good and the food terrific. Mozzarella Mondays also is outstanding.

            At each of these places I have been taken well care of as a single diner.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Tom P

              Westside Tavern sounds very cool. A bit out of my zone though. But I'm definitely trying Taylors and Edendale Grill. Sound like winners. Thanks Tom P!

              1. re: trimtab

                just want to mention that the taylor's in la canada also has a nice bar situation and is quite close to pasadena.

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                Taylor's Steakhouse
                901 Foothill Blvd, La Canada, CA 91011

            2. Drago Centro, great Italian, large screen in the bar.

              1. Houston's is the quintessential Bar/dinner spot. Low key, consistenly great food, and service will be top notch.

                5 Replies
                1. re: High Maintenance

                  I like Houstons, but "consistently great" and "top notch" is a bit of an overstatement.

                  1. re: cls

                    Agree completely. I am fortunate to live in an area where I have nearby access to all four Houston "brands" (Houston's, Bandera, Gulfstream and R & D), and I am fans of all four. They all serve consistently good food and have very good service. But...I agree that they are not great restaurants, nor do they offer particularly good value. With a drink and perhaps a glass of wine, it's rare to get out for less than $50 pp, and for this kind of a restaurant, they are not cheap.

                    1. re: josephnl

                      All of their restaurants have a NO corkage policy. Bring your own wine and eat consistently good food for very little.

                      1. re: josephnl

                        OK. I shouldn't have used "great" or "top notch." Their food is always very good, and every bit worth the value for a sit down restaurant or at a bar. I'll pay for consistency any day, and I believe it's managed impeccably. Their prime rib or french dip sandwich--you'de be hard pressed to find that beef or sandwich as good as their's, and served every day as good as their's. Value needs to be part and parcel with consitency, as I will always know that I will absolutely love my sandwich--every bit the 20 bucks I spend on it. Their corkage policy (free) will make it a steal for any meal, but I don't abuse it at the bar. Plus, their off the menu items are fantastic!!!!!

                        1. re: High Maintenance

                          plus, they serve one of the best veggie burgers in town.
                          this is not a phoney meat burger; it is a homemade patty made out of vegetables, legumes, and grains that is really good.

                  2. Highly recommend canele in Atwater and Barbrix in Silverlake. Both have excellent food and are extremely single-friendly. No TV's in either, though.

                    You might also want to check out 410 Boyd downtown. I haven't been there in a while, but they have sports on TV's above the bar and very good burgers & sandwiches.

                    1. The lounge and bar area of Rivera has a few televisions and good food.

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                      Rivera Restaurant
                      1050 S. Flower Street, #102, Los Angeles, CA 90015

                      1. I am the same - I eat alone frequently at the bar due to lots of business travel.

                        Have you tried Pizzeria Mozza? Eating at the bar is the perfect place! Getting a seat is also not too difficult as a single either.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: woojink

                          Love PM. Haven't had a chance to do a singleton at the bar. Good to hear it's not a tough ticket.

                        2. Here's an old, broader thread on solo dining that extended beyond your parameters, but which should offer several good options within them as well:
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/441595

                          And there's a google map that plots most of the places mentioned in it here:
                          http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: wutzizname

                            That's really nice wutzizname. I'ts all fodder for the mill.

                          2. Barbrix has a nice bar wine and beer only no t.v. but great food.
                            I see solo diners all the time.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: johnnyshungry

                              2nd Barbrix! It's always a nice scene at the bar and the bartenders are friendly. Great Small plates and excellent wines.

                            2. A really high-end place where we love the bar is Marche Moderne in South Coast Plaza. This place is almost always fully booked on weekends, but if you arrive at opening time, you can almost always get a seat at the bar where the congenial bartender will take great care of you. This is a terrific French restaurant and single diners are welcomed...but without a res, the bar is perfect.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: josephnl

                                The OP requested LA downtown out to Pasadena areas; don't think Costa Mesa fits with that request.

                                1. re: Philly

                                  Sorry...I didn't read the whole post!

                                2. re: josephnl

                                  And Marche Moderne has a wonderful Prix Fixe lunch for $20 . Just walk in an sit at the bar its Great and the Bartender does a better service than at the tables on most days.

                                  1. re: Foodandwine

                                    It is great, but I don't think it's fair to say that the service at the bar is better than at the tables. I've always had really great service at the tables there.

                                    1. re: woojink

                                      I agree with you that service is usually excellent at MM, both at the bar and at the tables. We particularly like the bar because we can pop in at the last minute without reservations, even on a Saturday night.

                                3. I almost always sit at the bar when i go to Rivera
                                  You can order off the full menu at the bar which blows houstons away. All but one of the bartenders are cool, unpretentious and can make you some amazing cocktails. There's not too many seats though and it can get busy on the weekends. They took out the TV recently.
                                  Drago centro is also great especially for happy hour. Bartenders are not as cool here, but not bad. Cocktails are better than average, nothing mind blowing. Lots of great wines by the glass or carafe. They have a TV, but in an awkward position. Also it's a bitch to find the little driveway down to the underground parking lot. But once you know, you'll be fine and they validate.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: peppermonkey

                                    and next door is chaya you can run back and forth and agreed that driveway is a mother.
                                    Although I feel like I'm entering the bat cave. I also like entering through the main building lobby it is so clockwork orange.
                                    Chaya has a good happy hour

                                  2. if you head to Long Beach/Naples area try Michael's on 2nd, supurb all around!

                                    1. Out in Hollywood, but I like eating at the bar at Hungry Cat. Great drinks also. No TV though.

                                      1. I'll second The Hungry Cat, and add Ruth's Chris in Beverly Hills. Tons of other single diners at the bar nearly every time I've eaten there, and great service though they're almost always really busy. There's also a TV at the end of the bar!