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.
A solitary red and blue barber pole, glowing faintly, protruded from the side of a beige wall on an otherwise inconspicuous Culver City street.
We hopped out of our Lyft and stared through a floor-to-ceiling glass door at a tall, solitary man standing inside a deserted barbershop.
Although no one would guess it, we’d actually arrived at a bar.
The Blind Barber tavern is designed to function exactly the way 1920s speakeasies did – by operating behind a respectable facade. From the street, patrons enter a fully operational barbershop lined with distressed mirrors, where during the day, they can also get a haircut. After presenting IDs to a bouncer, they pass through a door in the back of the small shop to find the bar.
I was immediately confronted by how loud and unexpected the bar’s music was, which was somewhat inconsistent with the vibe of the rest of the bar.
Will: “Let’s go sit at the end over there.”
Erin: “Sorry, what?”
Vintage black-and-white photos hung in frames on the wooden walls next to candlesticks with flickering white candles. Tea lights also rested on the bar and small tables lined the outer wall, furnished with separate metal chairs or overstuffed vinyl booths.
[Last Week: Bar necessities: Bodega Wine Bar]
Glancing over the cocktail menu, I was amused to find a cocktail called a Sweeney Ted, made from Larceny bourbon, lemon, honey, egg whites and Peychaud’s bitters. The play on the name of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and the fact that the bar was located behind a barbershop was too much for me. Being the sucker for gimmicks that I am, I had to get it.
Perhaps my palate is still not particularly developed despite the amount of whiskey I’ve consumed throughout this column, but the Sweeney Ted tasted mostly like a regular Old Fashioned to me. The only noticeable difference was the foamy top from the egg whites that made it a bit more of a novelty to sip.
Will started off with a Rosemary’s Baby – Old Forester bourbon, rosemary, maple syrup and lemon juice that was rather bland for $14. Despite the maple syrup and rosemary, Will said the drink was wishy-washy with no strong flavor. He couldn’t detect either the syrup or the herb.
While we sipped our drinks, we took in the general atmosphere. The mirror behind the bar was adorned with cobwebs, which Will believed were real.
Will: “Wow, those cobwebs look like they’ve been there for like 30 years.”
Erin: “This place definitely hasn’t been here for 30 years.”
The bar was relatively empty, though I continue to suspect bars are usually empty on Thursdays.
Eventually the DJ realized no one was dancing to his pop selections and switched to “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen.
Our friend Sarah tagged along again, but was more in the mood for food than drink. Sadly for her, the kitchen had already closed although it was only around 11 p.m., so she had to settle for some truffle popcorn.
I asked the bartender if he had any Tennessee Honey – the sweet whiskey is my go-to when poured over ice. To my surprise, he said they didn’t have any but he would mix me some honey with Larceny, for the price of Jack Daniel’s.
Later on, I inquired about their draft beer choices. Again I was disappointed they didn’t have any draft beer. Perhaps I’m more of a dive bar kind of gal, but draft beer and Tennessee Honey seem like bar staples, though the bartender considered them specific requests.
[Related: Bar necessities: Bigfoot West]
Will told me to choose his next drink, and knowing his fondness for gin, I chose a Major Pear, comprised of Fords gin, pear, lemon juice, thyme, egg whites, cinnamon and agave.
Will: “Wow, this is really good. The bitterness of the gin and the sweetness of the pear and cinnamon is delicious.”
Erin: “Told you.”
Blind Barber was confusingly contradictory. The appealing decor and general speakeasy gimmick seemed mismatched with the musical stylings and smaller details, like the fact that they served truffle popcorn and that my makeshift Tennessee Honey was poured in a trendy cosmopolitan glass rather than a more traditional old-fashioned one.
For me, if a bar is going for the speakeasy gangster vibe, it has to go the whole way or it seems unfinished. I’m sure the gangsters of the ’20s were not eating truffle popcorn.
If Blind Barber could make its theme more cohesive, include more drink options and perhaps replace the pop with some jazz, maybe it would be able to call itself a true speakeasy.