Monday, April 24, 2006

Saints & Sinners & Local 72/Pussycat Beach Lounge: Denying Drinks at 'Sybil'esque Bars

For our monthly ‘catch up over drinks’ night last Friday, Carrie and I wanted a)BUDGET (her 5hr after-work drink-a-thon in Studio City the night before ended with an $80 cab ride back to Venice—damn the far off Valley!) and b)RELATIVELY MELLOW (my 5hr after-work stint up to Santa Barbara for a concert and back the night before ended with only 4hrs sleep so I could get to work on time in the Valley the next day—damn the far off Valley!)

We found two split-personalitied bars that (sort of) fit our criteria. We also inadvertently found a third underlaying theme to the night, c)A NIGHT OF TRYING TO DENY FREE DRINKS

We started at Saints & Sinners in Culver City. The kitschy ‘heaven’n’hell’ themed bar is pretty slick for the nondescript, no-man’s-land strip along Venice Blvd but also has a little bit of the Eastside Silverlake grit to balance it out. It was only 7:30pm but the bar was already pretty happening with a random mix of locals, party-hardy happy hour dudes and stylishly grungy Venice crowd. Perhaps the layout is an indication of how well the bar knows it’s crowd; save for the tiny, silvery-white, semi-private back room (Heaven), the Hell’ish area of the bar—with it’s brimstone-evoking indoor firepit and curvy, black vinyl seating—takes up the main lounge area, and is appropriately filled with the more rowdy hell-raisin’ patrons.

Happy Hour was still going on ($1 off drinks) but I had recently profiled the bar for and awesome owner/bartender Chip took care of our first round...even better! He does a good pour—filling glasses with plenty more of the sinful stuff than the tonic. Drinks are reasonably-priced; vodka tonics around $6, signature drinks around $9…you pay a couple more dollars for their witty names (Evil Dewars, Holy Water, Hellfire). The bar takes drinking way too seriously to serve food but they do carry a few take-out menus. We were handed a Thai Express menu--not in the mood to mix green curry with vodka, we regretfully declined partaking in another free round to appease our growling bellies.

Saints and Sinners is Sybil in a good way: kitschy yet edgy, casual yet sexy, mellow yet loud, neighborhoody yet trendy, a scene without being sceney.

Next up, Carrie suggested the new bar Nick’s Local 72 Market (you can detect the Sybil-ness of the bar even by the mouthful of a name it has). It’s located right near the beach in Venice in the former space of the Globe. They’ve revamped the space and knocked down some walls to add video murals of palm trees whispering in the wind and other beachy vibes yet has kept Globe’s industrial feel with lofty ceilings, exposed beams and minimalist clean lines. Above the bar area, 3 huge flat screens were airing a baseball game. With the clashing sportsbar/casual beach bar/trendy Hollywood’ish club elements going on simultaneously—it’s hard to tell what exactly Nick’s Local 72 Market wants to be.

But we were too hungry to be concerned with the confused aesthetics of the bar. We grabbed a window seat and immediately ooh’ed and aah’ed over the tasty and cheap food menu. We decided to share waffle fries with a trio of sauces (the bleu cheese suckered us in but the spicy ketchup was also good), spicy buffalo wings (again, the yummy bleu cheese sauce) and a refreshing seafood ceviche with a really good lime dressing. Each item was only $7 or under.

Totally focused on our conversation and rotation of fries/wings/ceviche, we were totally caught off guard when our waitress hesitantly comes over to us offering a bucket of champagne and strawberries “uh, this guy over there wanted to buy you a drink…” Silence as Carrie and I both weighed out in our minds if the free champagne was worth having to talk to a sketchy, cheesy dude. “um…thanks we guess….is he weird?”. Her raised eyebrow and slight shrug indicated that yes, he was. But she assured us that he was as harmless as he was weird. That was good enough for us! Besides Carrie was done with her white wine and my strawberry lemonade vodka concoction was too sweet so we needed new drinks anyway. We endured a 2 minute weird but harmless conversation with the weird but harmless dude before he shuffled away (without either of our phone numbers if anyone's wondering!)

When the manager came over to uncork out bottle, he mentioned that the newly opened lounge (April 1st) was originally going to be called Pussycat Beach but they ended up with 72 Market (the address), added the Local (presumably to keep some street cred with the Venice peeps) and then also Nick’s (coincidently Nick is the name of the main investor).

We proceeded to people-watch as the crowd got less Local 72 and more Pussycat Beach as the night wore on; it’s the only place in Venice I’ve been too with stilettos with short shorts combos, stilettos with booby halter dresses and stilettos and sequiny tube tops. It was amazing enough just seeing stilettos instead of flipflops but at the stroke of 11pm, we had somehow transported ourselves from mellow sportsbar/beachy bar/mellow Hollywoody lounge to Avalon on a Saturday night.

Simulated lapdancing (halter dress & stiletto girl) and drugged-out, trance-dancing (hippy’ish curly head guy) were both happening within 5 ft of our table.

Somehow though, the fantastically ridiculous Sybil’ness of it all—confused atmosphere, confusing name and cheesy yet entertaining clientele such as hoochie mamas in laidback Venice and clientele who actually send buckets of champagne and strawberries—all came together and it worked. Maybe just for that night, but we had a great time. And for the drinks that we did pay for, along with the food, our total bill was only $40.

When you add the extra 2hrs of people-watching entertainment, we definitely got a bargain, if not entirely mellow, night for only for $20 each!

Saints & Sinners: 10899 Venice Blvd. 310.842.8066
Nick’s Local 72 Market: 72 Market St, Venice

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