Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Public School 612

Since my LA neighborhood beer guide was such a hit, I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell you about one of the newest pub houses that's hitting the LA beer scene.

Last month, I was invited with a few food bloggers to The Daily Grill at the Westin in Westchester.  The goal of the meeting was two fold: they wanted to tell us about some new burgers they're making and to tell us about a new beer bar they're opening.

Normally, I wouldn't take time to talk about food in such depth on a beer blog, and if you've just tuned in for the beer talk, then perhaps you'll be happier skimming down the page to where I start talking about beer.  But chances are, if you like beer, then you like burgers, and even if you've only read my blog once or twice, you probably know that I LOVE burgers.

Under the creative guidance of Chef Phil Kastel, the Daily Grill has decided to put the daily grind in their ground beef.  At all their locations, they're now grinding their own ground beef for burgers, the plank steak, and their meatloaf.  They're using a 100% chuck and grinding fresh everyday, twice a day.  I'm not a food blogger, so I don't know how common a practice this is, but I certainly haven't heard about it much if it is.  But I love the concept, which basically boils down to fresher meat.  In a world where we're increasingly trying to get closer to the production of our food, this struck me as a fantastic endeavor.

We were offered three new menu choices for our burgers: mushroom havarti, pepper bacon, and the classic.  The Classic was sort of a California style burger with your standard toppings; think gourmet version of Fatburger.  Tough call here, but I went with the pepper bacon.  The way that Phil described how he prepares the bacon and peppers was just too appetizing.  And I didn't choose incorrectly, the burger was really amazing.  Here's a pic, feast your eyes:

First, the meat was a nice big 1" thick patty and it was extremely flavorful; you could really taste the in house quality too: a lovely mixture of fat and red meat while still tasting just lean enough that you don't have grease all over your face.  These days in LA though, what you put on your burger is a big deal.  Personally, with the flavors they had going I didn't need the pickles.  Don't get me wrong, I love pickles, but they just didn't need them.  Why?  Because they had an amazing pepper and cheese mixture that took its place.  Phil buries crumbled bacon and pasilla pepper pieces in a gracious amount of cheddar cheese and places that on top of the burger.  The ultimate result: yes...

We were also treated to a few of their other specialties that feature their ground beef, namely their meatloaf....

and plank steak...

These were both also good, but the highlight of the night for me was really the burger.  I will also add that for those that are a fan of coleslaw,  Phil has a very understated coleslaw that comes with the burgers that features a bit of vinegar, peanuts, and maybe a tad bit of mayonnaise. Not excited? Well, I like coleslaw, and I liked it.  Now, on to the beer...

Those who have been to the Daily Grill before know, it's no beer bar.  So after listening to their list of bud and miller variants, I begrudgingly settled on a Sierra pale to go with my burger.  Yes, yes, I know, not too exotic, or even really even all that interesting.  But Sierra still keeps it going strong and Bob Spivak, the owner of Daily Grill, managed to whet my beer appetite with information rather than beer itself.

That information was this: today (yes, today, March 8th), Daily Grill is officially soft launching a brand new venture.  The idea is a gastropub, and it graces the relative beer oasis that is Downtown LA.  Based in their downtown Daily Grill location, they are converting a portion of the restaurant to be a separate pub house called Public School 612.  The goal is to create a communal bar experience with beer savvy bartenders who help to educate you about beer choices and pairings, hence the name: Public School.  Under the guidance of Hallie Beaune, one half of the Beer Chicks, they've selected 22 taps and 12 bottles/cans to serve you in a bar like atmosphere.

Taking a look at their concept menu in a peachy folder, a few items jumped off the page.  First it was the large variety of beers that they'll be serving.  From sour Krieks to the bitterest of IPAs, they've got a fairly diverse range of regionals and styles for 22 taps.  Some highlights were Allagash Curieux, Orval, Oskar Blues, Eagle Rock Brewery, Port Wipeout, Taps Irish Red, and Bruery White. In addition to some of the small food fare, they have a Pub Burger and a Colorado Lamb Burger.  Every beer place has to have their own burger and the lamb burger is an intriguing take on that, can't wait to try it.  There are also a few other items that set them apart: Dragoons Irish Stout Short Ribs, Horseradish Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onion Au jus,  and in the continued throwback of public school days, Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies with Milk.

So why is this new place significant?  Looking over the beer landscape of downtown LA, there are a few places like Villains, the Lazy Ox, Library Bar, and Corkbar that have started incorporating four to six selections of craft beer and good food on their menu.  But the scene is still in its infancy.  The only places that have succeeded in maintaining more than eight taps are The Lab and Wurstkutche, but for Angelinos living downtown, The Lab is pretty far south and Wurstkutche pretty far east; not to mention, going to Wurstkutche these days requires quite a wait to get in.  PS612 is modeling themselves after places like Father's Office and Congregation Alehouse with no servers and an emphasis on lots of taps, craft beer, and high quality food.  The emphasis on beer education combined with the Daily Grill's broad appeal, should lead to bringing in a number of non-craft beer drinkers and introducing them to new craft beer choices.  With a fully functional kitchen it also opens up the possibility of creating interesting beer and food pairings.

As a Westsider that lives and works in Santa Monica, I don't often have many an occasion to leave the Westside.  However, the one thing that does get me out of the house is a new beer bar, so I'll definitely be making the trip Downtown to check out this new place.

Public School 612 opens today and is located at 612 South Flower Street, Downtown Los Angeles.

No comments: