Barfly - The Den of Hollywood
Let's face it: Most of the dive bars you go to are either trying too hard to be dive bars, or trying too hard not to be. If they are, the experience is usually overtly contrived, and feels more fake and uncomfortable than being on the set of a dive bar used to film low-budget porn. If they're trying hard not to be, you had to pay to get in. Good dive bars – the ones you want to be a regular at – are always accidentally cooler than they're trying to be. For the very best example of completely accidental awesomeness, spend some study time at The Den of Hollywood.
Like you, my reflexive assumption about any establishment that adds "of Hollywood" is that it's pretentious and noisy and probably packed with celebrity hopefuls who have spent the better half of the day blowing their hard-earned waiter tips shopping at places meant for actual celebrities in a desperate attempt to emulate that "of Hollywood" look. But The Den of Hollywood is a far cry from manufactured (read: douchey) ambiance.
Bar Manager Scott-E (like Wall-E) Anderson says, "The original concept was to make a neighborhood bar that felt like hanging out in your father's den." Whether or not it looks like home, they certainly nailed the feel. The Den's stone walls and wood framing subtly provide a rustic pub feel that's so comfortable that visiting this Sunset Strip bar feels like anything but visiting Sunset Strip. The outdoor dining area is spacious and plush, and surrounds a full-length, natural gas fire pit, while inside there are two full bars, a splendidly luxurious-without-being-ostentatious lounge area (replete with board games and big screen TV's!), and another large dining area. That's right – two dining areas. So is it a bar with a full menu? Or a restaurant with a full bar?
"We're a special bar. This area of town gets a lot of rotation, but we want to make The Den a staple," said Anderson, and after surviving its initial year this September, The Den aims to maintain its residency by supplementing incredible drink specials with an ever-changing menu. Wings and hot dogs? Think bacon wrapped dates, pork belly tacos, and the noticeably popular "Angry Mac."
"We're a scratch kitchen," said Executive Chef Danny Murray. "We make everything here. We bake our own bread, we grind our own meat – even the sauces we serve are all made in house." Murray's southwestern-style creations are the result of an extensive education gleaned from years of schooling and working in high-end kitchens around LA. Unfortunately for the upper crust, Murray found his gifts were better suited for people with skinny wallets and fat girlfriends (instead of the other way around).
"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel," he said. "We just wanted to make good honest food. It's bar food with fine art techniques...and it's fucking delicious." Murray and his minimal chef staff provide a complete menu all week, serving daily specials on weekdays, and a full weekend brunch menu that includes omelets, red velvet pancakes, and bacon and cheese donut holes.
The bar also hosts the best jukebox selection I've ever seen, live DJs on Friday and Saturday, and karaoke on Wednesdays, which Anderson says "isn't for people trying to get discovered, but for people that probably shouldn't be singing anyway who are just having a good time."
People like local actress and self-assessed "sweet-potato-fry-aholic" Bernadette Tyra, who called The Den "a cute, nice little place – not too much like a bar bar, but not really a restaurant either. With the fireplace it's so comfy – like a den!"
With daily happy hours and specials like Mystery Mondays ($1 mystery beers, $2 mystery shots!) The Den provides exactly the kind of experience you'd expect to find hanging out with friends in your father's den, and nothing like the experience you'd expect to find hanging out in place named "of Hollywood," making it very accidentally the best bar Barfly's been to yet.