Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gastropubs and Highland Park

The other night i went to the reasonably new "gastropub" in the formerly rundown-- now thriving -- area of los angeles called highland park. an english friend, who i sometimes go pub-hopping with near his home off the hampstead heath, grumbles these days when his beloved victorian watering holes "go gastro," in his words.

but i'm in favor of the trend, partly because english pub food, and most american bar grub, is so ghastly. especially when you outgrow buffalo wings or "crisps" as the brits call them.

the place in highland park, The York, reminded me why the trend is so heartening. it's not as ambitious as the great british gastropubs like the Anchor & Hope on london's south bank (where i had a memorable meal after an '07 tate modern visit). but it not only serves one of the best burgers i know (with harissa and pickled onions no less), hand cut fries, etc, but a very fine shrimp bruschetta, an excellent mixed greens with beets and goat cheese, tasty grilled vegetable sandwich, etc.

of course, a pub is largely about drinks, and here the place comes through quite well. the york is primarily a beer place, but their wines go way beyond the usual unholy trinity of over-oaked chard, flaccid melot and overpriced cab here. there's usually, for instance, a very fine white rhone on the list -- when's the last time you've seen that on a pub menu? -- and that still-underrated red, cabernet franc, by the glass as well.

beer-wise there is too much to get into here... i'll say only that along with delights like stone pale ale and fat tire on draft (and rogue and allagash in bottles) they serve my current favorite: craftsman brewing company's old-school ale, which is cask-poured and the kind of thing you usually have to go to britain to get.

the place also also an excellent historical-reuse design that makes good use of old brick and a vaulted ceiling that was not exposed in the place's former life, with very modern lighting.

from my limited visits, i'd say the york offers the best of several worlds: well-rendered contemporary cuisine that a skinny woman can eat without guilt, decent wine list, wide range of traditional ales, and a warm, friendly neighborhood spirit -- very different than the forced booziness of a sports bar -- that can be very hard to find in this most private of cities. great jukebox too.

(By the way, this picture is not of the york but a place basically under london bridge called Market Porter. it is not, for what it's worth, really a gastropub, but it's across from a great farmers market that has been going, i think, since roman times, and right next to a grilled sausage place that i'll wager is of much more recent vintage.)

Photo credit: SRT


CFMunster said...

"... their wines go way beyond the usual unholy trinity of over-oaked chard, flaccid melot and overpriced cab here."

Classic Timberg style, I love it!

Scott Timberg said...

ha, this is coming from someone who has been reading me since high school -- he ought to get combat pay to read this...