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.
Our last bar column night did not end the way I thought it would.
Will was unable to make the night because of a busy schedule, so I asked two of my friends to accompany me to a sports bar. Since our evening coincided with the USC versus UCLA game, we expected to get the full sports-bar experience. I chose The Nickel Mine on Santa Monica Boulevard near Sawtelle since it had great reviews on Yelp, and the drink menu and photos looked appealing.
As our Lyft pulled up outside The Nickel Mine around 8 p.m., my friend Daisy groaned.
Daisy: “Oh God, there’s a line.”
Erin: “Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever been to a bar with a line that wasn’t in West Hollywood.”
[Read more: Bar Necessities: Blind Barber]
We hopped out just as the Bruins made their first touchdown. Peeking through the windows at the TV screens, we started to feel more and more dejected as it became clear that the bar was packed. With the game only just beginning, it was unlikely anyone would be leaving soon.
My friend Maddy joked that we should sneak in with another group farther up in line, but I knew there was nothing for it and started browsing my Yelp mobile app for a different sports bar nearby.
After chasing down our second Lyft of the evening, we arrived at Butcher’s Dog in Sawtelle, and I suddenly realized why the name had sounded familiar. I had been to the bar before, with Daily Bruin friends no less, after last year’s end-of-the-year banquet. I had good memories of the place, and it was actually where the idea for the Bar Necessities column was born.
We got a small table on the edge of the bar, and I was pleased to see the bar was fairly well populated, with many couples and groups of friends. A mid-sized USC-UCLA rivalry party took up part of the bar, with blue UCLA and cardinal USC balloons floating around.
The bar embodied a medieval-meets-modern theme. Candles glowed from simple rustic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, something straight out of “Game of Thrones.” The bar counter looked like it was made from grey marble, and parchment-colored wallpaper sketched with castles adorned the walls. Although Butcher’s Dog is listed as a sports bar on Yelp, it’s really more of a pub and restaurant that shows sports games, so the theme wasn’t jarring.
[Read more: Bar necessities: Bodega Wine Bar]
I ordered a cocktail to start, a Kentucky Colonel made from bourbon, a herbal liqueur called benedictine and aromatic bitters. Daisy went for a Strawberry Shake composed of rye whiskey, strawberry, lime and Peychaud’s bitters.
I liked my drink, though I didn’t notice a huge difference from a regular Old Fashioned. My drink was pleasingly served in a perfectly sized Old Fashioned glass, my favorite kind and befitting to the theme. Daisy’s drink, on the other hand, was served in a coupe glass, which she highly objected to due to the small serving size.
Daisy: “Who is this drink supposed to be for? Children?”
I was quite appalled at the taste of hers. The rye whiskey combined with lime or strawberry likely did it in, but then again I’m no mixologist. We were both very pleased with the prices, at only $10 per cocktail – fairly cheap for Los Angeles.
Maddy started with a beer, a Left Coast Brewing Company Voo Doo Stout, which I had also been eyeing. Stouts are differentiated from other dark beers because they’re brewed with barley and often a flavor like oatmeal or coffee in addition to the hops. At $8 a pint with a fairly strong coffee and chocolate flavor, I thought it was good deal and ordered one myself after I’d finished my bourbon.
Medium-sized flat-screen TVs lined each side of the bar, with one perched on either side of the column behind the bar to allow for uninterrupted viewing. I appreciated the tasteful positioning, but Butcher’s Dog is no Barney’s Beanery, which has so many televisions that the whole place feels like a blue screen.
We ordered a Tradizional flatbread, made with arugula, red onion, lemon vinaigrette, prosciutto and parmesan cheese. At $12, it was large enough for three to share and didn’t skimp on any of the ingredients, living up to the delicious-looking pictures on Yelp.
[Read more: Bar Necessities: Mom’s Bar]
As the evening wore on, UCLA’s prospects for the game became bleaker and bleaker. My friends attempted to explain to me how football worked, and the bar lost quite a few patrons at halftime.
I found comfort in Butcher’s Dog’s ability to make customers feel at home. Not once did I feel out of place, which can happen at trendier bars.
Butcher’s Dog is the kind of place to go if you want to watch a game without witnessing any fights break out among the rivalrous patrons.
I was at the bar where the whole column idea began, and though the circumstances were different – watching a football game as opposed to unwinding after an awards presentation – the vibe was similar: homey and comfortable.
I thought more of the bars Will and I sampled would rub me the wrong way. Maybe I’m just easy to please, but the worst that happened was a couple unpleasant drinks. Los Angeles’ bar scene is pretty satisfying on the whole, and with so many great bars only a short Uber ride away, the time is ripe to expand beyond Westwood.