Thursday, March 16, 2006

Air Conditioned:Where Downing Happy Hour Wine Specials Is A Breeze

The other night, I grabbed a drink at Air Conditioned, the refreshingly unpretentious wine bar along the no-man’s-land strip of Pico just west of the 10 underpass. From the outside—with a windowless facade and dingy, neon 'Air Conditioned' sign lit next a 99 cent store—you could easily mistake the nightspot for an actual store selling air-cooling units.

Inside though, the interior’s 60’s mod touches done in gentleman's club dark leathers gave the bar an understated divey-yet-swanky look more often found in bars further east (The Bar, Daddy’s etc) . I dug the leather-padded walls, dark-wood, wine wall behind the bar and row of highbacked, red leather bar stools.

I got there five minutes early and with the help of the knowledgeable bartender, I was taste-testing glasses of spicy, Argentinian Malbec, Aussie Syrah and Sonoma Zinfandel from their international boutique wine list before my friend, C.K. even showed up.

Either by the glass (approx $9-15) or bottle ($20-$40's range), the wines are neither overpriced nor a bargain. However, with Air Conditioned's generous happy hour deals ($2 off each glass and a whopping 25% off bottles!) the clear option was to share a bottle. In addition to price-slashed wines, you can also order discounted beers and half-priced soju martinis. Happy hour starts at 5pm and considerately lasts for 3hrs until 8pm—giving you plenty of time to take advantage of the marked-down drinks several times over).

Not fussy about our choice, we opted to stick with the Sonoma Zinfandel that our bartender suggested...which also happened to be one of the more expensive picks...but far from wallet-busting at the $32 happy hour price. We stuck to the complimentary rice-cracker snacks, but a $12 cheese plate for two is also available for nibbling.

A couple other groups drifted in and out but C.K. & I outlasted everyone. At one point, we were the only two in the bar—granted, it was a Tuesday night but I'm not sure if it's because the spot's still relatively undiscovered or if it speaks more to us being midweek lushes. Although the bar is located along a block which gives no real reason to stop and explore (unless you're looking for 99 cent bargains or shopping at Trader Joe's across the road), I was still surprised at why more locals haven't laid claim to the stylish spot.

Chit-chatting with Cole (our bartender who became first-name basis with us due to lack of anyone else he could talk to), we were told the 7-month new bar gets crowded in the weekends and they're set to open a second, bigger location in Venice.

Air-Conditioned is a cool little spot with a highly recommended happy hour. We didn’t spy enough people to comment on the type of bar-goers frequenting the spot, but I could see this being added to the ‘Brig, Other Room, Beechwood, Arsenal’ night-life circuit by the Venice set as word gets out.

Air Conditioned
2819 Pico Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90405
310. 829.3700

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