Westwood’s bars, or lack thereof, can easily grow old for thirsty college students in search of a taproom suited to their tastes. Daily Bruin senior staffers Erin Nyren and William Thorne embark on a bar-sampling journey to uncover the best watering holes in Los Angeles. Over the next 10 weeks, they explain which have the bar necessities, those simple bar necessities.
We stepped into Bigfoot West and it felt like we had returned to a time in which my hacking cough – a telltale sign of consumption – would send me via horse and wagon to the country doctor.
After the relaxed atmosphere of last week’s dive bar, we should have done something more exciting this week, perhaps a club. But I’ve been sick and I didn’t have the energy for any crushing masses or oscillating lights. I begged Will to visit a cozy bar instead and thankfully he agreed. We chose Bigfoot West on Venice Boulevard, partly to keep the Uber ride inexpensive.
[Last week: Bar Necessities: The Daily Pint]
A dusty display case full of stuffed owls greeted us. Now if that doesn’t set the tone for an evening, I don’t know what will.
Will: “Does it seem like there are a lot of dead animals in here to you?”
Erin: “Yes, there are a bit more than you’d expect from a bar.”
Will: “I’m really not much of a fan of taxidermy.”
We got over the slight jar of mounted deer heads on the walls – I found them somewhat comforting, actually. Dimly lit, the bar imitated a log cabin with dark walls that looked like stacked tree trunks.
We took seats at the wooden bar counter to the sounds of a classic rock cover duo playing in the corner. I appreciated their cover of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” after my first drink — a Sazerac made of rye whiskey and Peychaud’s bitters, with an absinthe rinse. I downed it in two, before the bartender had the chance to add a lemon twist.
Erin (sings): “Oh, Maggie, I couldn’t have tried any mo-ore.”
Will: “Big Rod Stewart fan, are we?”
[Read more: Bar necessities: High Rooftop Lounge]
An old-fashioned cash register facade delightfully hid a touch screen. Lights dangled above our heads ensconced in mason jars, and a large raft made of tree trunks hung over the bar, angled so that the rings of the trees were visible.
It was odd to be sitting in what felt like a colonial fort in the middle of urban Los Angeles. Will asked if this is what bars look like in the American South, and I can’t blame him – deer antlers hung from the ceiling.
However, I found the theme refreshing. Escapism was at work, highlighting the desire to retreat from our fast-paced Los Angeles lives.
Will ordered a Rye & Crisp, which consisted of a shot of Rittenhouse rye whiskey –Will’s first-ever shot of whiskey – and a Scrimshaw beer.
Will: “This is quite American, isn’t it?”
Erin: “What, they don’t drink whiskey much in England?”
Will: “Well, Irish, they do. Anyway, this’ll put some hair on my chest as I’ve only got about three as it is.”
Our friend Sarah, who had tagged along, ordered a Kentucky Mule, a variation on the traditional Moscow Mule that uses Evan Williams bourbon instead of vodka, along with housemade ginger beer. I considered this somewhat tame – mules bore me – but it did taste light and fizzy.
I finished my first drink so quickly that I drew remarks from the bartender, and ordered a pint of Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale. The beer was light but just strong enough to keep me interested.
Will later ordered a second beer-and-spirits pairing, a Dark & Bitter with a shot of fernet, a liqueur made from a startling variety of herbs like myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom and saffron. It was coupled with a Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout, a strong 9.5 percent beer.
Sarah, Will and I were appalled by the fernet’s potent flavor. It reminded me of Listerine, except you’re actually supposed to swallow.
The duo playing in the corner took a break, and began speaking with an accent similar to Will’s. I thwacked him several times in the chest and told him to go make some friends.
Suddenly, I felt a whoosh next to my arm and, a bit disoriented – thank you, Sazerac – I found a woman next to me trying to stand up. She seemed to have imbibed too much and forgot there was a step down from the booth to the floor. Clearly this was a place where regulars came to get hammered.
The novelty of the surroundings didn’t come across as tacky or underwhelming, and our drinks were well-made with mid-range prices, at $12 for a cocktail and about $13 for a beer-and-shot combo.
While the bar itself was not what I’d call a rollicking good time – in fact, it was definitely on the empty side on a Thursday night – it was a much-needed change from the pretentiousness of most LA bars.