Happy Hour: Vinoteca Farfalla in Los Feliz
The Place: Vinoteca Farfalla, 1968 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 661-8070.
The Hours: 4-7 p.m. every day.
The Deals: Wines for $5 and $6, beers for $3 and $4, discounts on the entire menu.
The Digs: You might expect Vinoteca Farfalla, a wine bar about equidistant from hot spots The Alcove and Little Dom's on trendy Hillhurst Avenue, to be a destination for the neighborhood's cool kids, but then you may not have heard of the affiliated Farfalla Trattoria. The trattoria and, probably not coincidentally, the Vinoteca both serve a slightly older, more subdued crowd. You're more likely to find the parents of the skinny-jean'd kids than the kids themselves.
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The interior reflects that grown-up clientele, with a long bar of dark wood and a scattering of tall tables. There's also a full seating area if you'd like to go for the restaurant experience, and one or two tables outside. The bar is beautiful and elegant, but if the day is nice your best bet might be a table on the sidewalk outside. It doesn't get much more Continental than a glass of red wine a foot from foot traffic and 5 feet from the street. It may be insulting to say of a wine bar of Italian and Brazilian ownership, but if you close your eyes you could almost be in the Left Bank.
The Verdict: The chalkboard above the bar displays a pretty wide selection of wines representing all sorts of regions and price points, from South America to Italy and from $7 to $17. The happy hour menu narrows your choices to a handful of red and white and some bubbles here and there, and drops the prices to $5 or $6, or $9 for the premium stuff. Each wine we chose (none of them premium) was excellent, and more than worth its price. We didn't request help from our bartender, but if we had, she seemed more than capable of providing a hand.
Once again running against expectations, there are no cheese fries on this menu, nor are there hot wings or nachos. In fact, the happy hour just gets you a pretty sizable discount on everything on the hybrid Italian/Brazilian regular menu. Instead of the traditional tomato, garlic and olive oil, the bruschetta is a pico de gallo-esque chopped salsa, the burger comes with a Brazilian sauce, and your best fried bet is the empanadas. To be fair, the empanadas do bear a striking resemblance to cheese sticks, albeit cheese sticks with guacamole and chopped artichoke hearts inside. The idea is that the plates are small and almost tapas-style, but for happy hour they're in fact pretty large. Two plates for three people is about right for a filling late-afternoon snack; any more than that and it becomes an early dinner.
B. Mesirow The bruschetta and empanadas at Vinoteca Farfalla
This certainly isn't a traditional happy hour destination, but for a relaxing rush hour interlude, or a quiet (and cheap) start to a date, it's hard to beat Vinoteca Farfalla. And if things go well, when happy hour ends at 7 and you are buzzed and full, you can walk a couple blocks south to Gelato Bar for a different kind of buzz (either sugar or caffeine), or cross the street to join the hipness at Big Bar.
The Grade: A nontraditional A