Sometimes you just have to get out of the house, despite all the comforts of home. Maybe you want to have a crowd around you. Maybe you don’t get the NFL Network or the Sunday Ticket. Maybe you unwisely painted your house over the Thanksgiving break, and between the fumes and the giant pile of stuff that you have to move back into place and OMG STARTERBOYFRIEND YOU SUGGESTED THIS MESS NOW GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE BEFORE I BEAT YOU WITH THE PAINT ROLLER AND NO I DO NOT THINK THAT GREEN FOR THE LIVING ROOM IS TOO MINTY AND NO YOU CANNOT HIRE DAY LABORERS AT HOME DEPOT, I DON’T CARE HOW FUNNY THAT EPISODE OF SOUTH PARK WAS.
Ahem. Yes, we went Happy Endings twice last weekend to escape and watch sports.
Sunday afternoon we better prepared to do a Foodie review, and invited Signal2Noise to join us in food and football, the greatest combination in the world.
So what happens when a former chain location goes frat house? Mostly better than you expect, with a few drawbacks.
TSB - FIRST IMPRESSION: From the hallowed-out shell of a former Mexican chain restaurant appeared a bar, directly on Sunset Boulevard with ample parking (A valet?! At a bar??!) and a roomy interior that looks like a slightly autistic frat boy designed it using the original faux-brick façade from the previous tenant and slapped a couple cans of Glidden semi-gloss for ease of clean-up. Big bar. Booths. Decently crummy classic rock tunes blasting under the buzz of drunken boozery. A large, laminated menu with items like “rings of fire” and “Hottie DOGgie” misspelled and purposely printed in different fonts as to make you believe the whole thing was conceived while the chef consumed a bottle of Wild Turkey? Yep! I like this place.
TSW – Already better than the other closest sports bar in our ‘hood, Big Wangs, because it is clean. (I have a love-hate relationship with BW’s. The food is good and cheap, and they have more big screens than anyone else in the area. It is also just a few blocks from my office, so parking is always free. Downside? Rats. Does not look like it has been cleaned since it was opened. ) I’ll keep coming here on the clean factor alone, despite the lack of large screens.
TSB – DRINKS! Aside of a rather slim on-tap beer selection (Ooo! Hefeweizen. How original.), H.E. provided one of the single best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever had. One sip of this concoction nearly erased the horrific memory of the ESPNZone cocktail of the same name I had several years ago (which obviously was made out of liquidated manila envelopes and Red Dye #5) and from time-to-time invades my taste buds to the point where I have to curl into a tiny ball and suck on a bottle of isopropyl alcohol to rid myself of it. Nonetheless, upon reviewing H.E.’s menu, I was pleased and surprised to discover that they “create our own Bloody Mary mix from fresh tomato juice and spices”. And does it show! It was spicy, but not overwhelming so. Two olives were stuffed into the bottom of the glass, rather than floating on the top. (You have to ask TSW how those were, as I haven’t been able to eat an alcohol-soaked olive since I met her.) And the vodka didn’t overwhelm, even if it wasn’t top-shelf. Certainly halted my expectations for mixed beverages at what supposes itself to be a “dive/sports/neighborhood” bar.
TSW – A decently made Lemon Drop, even if it is served in a plastic glass. TSB’s Bloody Mary is probably one of the best blended (Are those garlic bits I see floating around in the glass?) drinks I’ve ever tasted.
TSB is exaggerating. I only had one of the olives out of his drink.
TSW - Even though it is not really a good deal to get one of the beer towers (a pitcher is cheaper and you get almost the same amount of beer) I am still fascinated with this invention. I really need to go to more frat bars if this is where technology is taking is.
TSW – This guy was nice and having a decent conversation with myself and a guy in a cowboy hat until he started to do the “What do you do and where do you work and are you someone for a connection” dance that goes on in ever single watering hole in the Los Angeles. A reminder of why I do prefer my couch and my own Sunday Ticket.
TSB - FRIES!! Again, another burst of reality-bending surprise. While it arrived in what appeared to be a sundae ice cream dish (see photo), these were true “bar fries” through-and-through. Crisp, slightly over-fried and well salted. We also went with the “garlic parmesan” option—which I realize in a normal “dive bar” setting would, a) NEVER be offered, and b) if it was on the menu and you did get the balls to order it, would most likely get you pined to the dart board and used for a prolonged game of cricket. More surprising was that despite L.A.’s love for the garlic clove and it’s tendency to over indulge, these were well done. Even mix of the cheese aspect and hint of garlic. Between the three of us, we cleaned out the thing in under a minute.
Signal2Noise – The garlic parmesan fries didn’t have enough garlic for my taste, but that didn’t mean they weren’t good. I loved them. Crispy on the outside, smooth on the inside, damn near perfect for my taste.
TSW – Perfect. I would have stabbed either TSB or S2N if they would have tried to take some from my side of the plate.
TSB - BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN SKEWERS…! Well, the slightly-larger-than-a-chicken-nugget-sized bites weren’t bad. Beyond the interesting dipping sauces accompanying this dish (Rosemary Syrup and “not yo mamma’s Ranch Dressing”), nothing spectacular here… beyond the price. Which is equivalent to three late-night orders of 20-piece McNuggets.
Signal2Noise – The Thai-style chicken skewers were quality chicken, and I liked the sauces, but it lacked flavor — no seasoning, just oil and dipped in the fryer. Even the blandest of chicken strips/fingers at most sports bars have at least some salt or pepper to them.
TSW – I think the bland came from the strong buttermilk taste in the batter, and I am sure the breast meat and been soaking in it too. They were very big pieces, and for someone like me, a perfect portion. Guys just eat more.
Also the awkward issue when you have three diners, but four pieces. “You take the last one.” “No, no, I insist you have the last one.”
TSB - FILET MIGNON SLIDERS? All right. What the hell? I can take fried chicken with foo-foo dipping sauce. I will admit to asking for “garlic parmesan” seasoning on fries. But when someone does this to what should ostensibly be miniature hamburgers—“slivers of medium-cooked filet on pretzel rolls, topped with St. Agar blue cheese, chipotle cream and caramelized onion”—I have to question my existence as a bar patron. We’ve moved beyond Pabst Cans for $4 and the lighted Wheel of Drink Specials on the wall. As good as these things are, I expect to be eating them in an environment that includes cloth napkins, a sit-down booth and an attentive waiter refilling my water glass. Not while watching a table of Seahawk fans bemoaning the absence of an offensive line with their middle fingers and choice single-syllable words and a having to practically trip the bar girl with my entire leg to get her to stop and refill my beer. A great idea misplaced in a very wrong environment.
Signal2Noise – I was actually expecting the mini-burgers to be spicier when you told me they would be spicy. They had a nice kick to them, though, and I have to applaud the use of pretzel buns. That’s a first. Quality meat for the burgers, too (and the price on the menu damn sure reflected it…)
TSW – These were hotter when TSB and I had them on our previous visit, but that was probably due to far less cayenne pepper on this plating.
TSW – See? A cayenne pepper. Out of all the dishes at Happy Endings, this is the one I will probably try to recreate at home. Good quality beef, blue cheese, carmalized onions, and chipotle sauce on a soft – buttery soft pretzel – is just amazing.
TSW – We didn’t order this, but our neighbors did and I kinda wished we had tried it. Around the world nachos with quac, queso dip, hummus, some other stuff, served with chips and pita bread.
TSW – The bar ended up being next to the staging area for the Hollywood Christmas parade. As the Bears-Broncos game wore on, I was more interested in the bands than OMG WHY WOULD YOU KICK TO HESTER!
TSB – TOMATO BASIL PIZZA PIE… <sigh> Of all the auspices of H.E., I would have assumed this would be their crowning jewel. Some paragon of Pizza Amazingness that topped a day of beer pitchers and plethora of decent, if not slightly over-priced appetizers. Sadly, this was all but a mundane affair of melty cheese, smattering of basil and nary a tomato to be found. Though, after three-to-four hours of drinking, this was easily consumed and quickly forgotten.
Signal2Noise – The tomato basil pizza was pretty good, liked the size of the slices and the tomato was fresh. My objection is the same one I have with a lot of pizza. I’m not a grease snob at all when it comes to pizza, because the sauce offsets it more often than not. However, this pizza was lacking in sauce, and what was there wasn’t that great. I wish more restaurants would focus on the pizza sauce for once.
TSW – All of the tomatoes must have been on my side of the pie, because I felt like my pizza was too tomato-y. And while a basil sauce is nice, it seemed a little salty and heavy. Fresh basil would have matched up with the thin crust, thin sauce, and cheese much better.
TSW – I am now obsessed with watching the warm ups.
TSW – Lobster tank? You mean I can put $2 in a slot and maybe grab a live lobster? And they cook it anyway I want? I don’t even like lobster, but I am fascinated by the couple of people who managed to get a cut-rate live lobster with their claw skills.
TSB – OVERALL? Strange. Given that L.A.’s “best” bars tend to be Trendy Zones filled with hipsters, B-list celebrities and people throwing down $100 for a round of drinks—and usually don’t have parking within a 10-square block radius, H.E. is refreshing. A large, relatively empty parking lot and convenient location make it a bonus for bringing in those drunken relatives in town who want to experience something uniquely L.A., or feel like they’re cool. Also, in a tremendously strange twist, H.E. has installed a “Lobster Zone” where for a mere $2, any lay person has the chance to use a “grabber” machine to snag a REAL LIVE LOBSTER, which the kitchen will cook for you any way you please. Like many things in H.E., this stands in sharp contrast to your surroundings, giving you the uneasy feeling that you’ve either under dressed for something far cooler than you’re used to, or that this place still has a long ways to figure out what it wants to be.
Signal2Noise – I like what they’re going for, though — upscale sports bar fare, which I wasn’t expecting when I walked in. Next time I’ll have to try the full size Kobe burger.
TSW – Did I mention it was cleaner than Big Wangs? And twice as expensive? But still cleaner? Yes. We will be going back here soon, even if I do find the big drink special wheel a bit cheesy. (Then again, I’m in my thirties now. I should find that cheesy.) Probably this weekend for the Steelers Sunday night game, as we have to finish painting the house the rest of the weekend.
Maybe there will be another parade for us.