Happy Hour: The Churchill
The Place: The Churchill: 8384 W. Third St., Los Angeles; (323) 655-8384.
A. Simmons Cucumber Julep
The Hours: 3-7 p.m., daily; 10 p.m.-close, Sunday and Monday.
The Deals: $4 for selected beers, wines and well drinks; $8 "bar bites" (only from 3-7 p.m.).
The Digs: Like designated hitters in the '90s, gastropubs are getting big. The Churchill sprawls across two floors, in much the same way that Winston, its presumed namesake, in the form of his empire sprawled across Africa and Asia in the '30s and '40s. With its fireplace, exposed-bulb lamps, sumptuous wood tables and long, room-wrapping leather lounge couches, the bar is meant to evoke, we imagine, an English manor house where a Ralph Steadman cartoon of a mustachioed country gentleman might get cross-eyed on gin, albeit to a DJ soundtrack.
For partiers looking to preserve memories, there's a "vintage" photo booth upstairs. For most of the day, though, the action is on the patio or downstairs, by the bar, where televisions boxed into golden frames peer down on the well-scrubbed, well-dressed bartenders toiling over their tinctures, infusions, fruit slices and leafy things. They do good work. A few hours after the Kentucky Derby a few weeks back, we celebrated with a tasty, not wretchedly sweet cucumber julep shot through with ice-cold cucumber bits and plenty of mint ($12). Had we needed to have another, we'd have gone with an Aviation ($12): Nolets gin, St. Germain, lemon juice, frothy egg white and Peychauds bitters.
The Verdict: At its best, a happy hour is a primer, something to get you going. This can be either a cocktail before a nice dinner or six hastily chugged Pabst cans before a show. Even if you opt for the non-fancy cocktails, the Churchill is not quite enough of a bargain to be the latter, and it wouldn't want to be anyway. This bar is the former, although it probably would prefer to be the main event, the eventual destination, not the perfunctory warm-up. In fact, with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack-friendly options, the bar could be a one-stop shop for an entire day of consumption needs. You can enjoy Intelligentsia coffee in the a.m. with brioche French toast ($11); a Churchill Club ($13) at noon; braised beef cheeks ($19) in the evening; and some unexceptional Parmesan-encrusted mac-and-cheese to go with that bad dance you're doing whenever you choose to do that. Cheers.