Not too far from where the sun meets the salt water sits the ideal restaurant and bar. The beer drinker, craft cocktail connoisseur, foodie, sunbather, dog walker, tourist, and local will all find something to love about Laurel Tavern in Hermosa Beach. Steps from the sand, Laurel Tavern boasts a large dining room and bar that opens out to a bustling Hermosa Avenue. Outdoor dining, especially for large groups, is hard to find near the ocean but here you have the best of both worlds. You can grab some shade with a bunch of your friends without feeling like you're cooped up indoors on a beautiful day. And in the South Bay, every day is beautiful. There are long, community-style tables and stools to accommodate your groups, and even a room that can be partitioned off for a private party. Locals with pooches will be especially appreciative of the canine hydration station on the dog-friendly patio. Now, your afternoon walk with Fido can include a break for beer!
Last week, Jocelyn and I stopped in on a Wednesday evening, eager to sample a few of the drinks featured on their cocktail menu and very hungry for some good food. Jocelyn lives right around the corner and is always on the lookout for good spots to meet up with friends for a drink, or to enjoy a good meal with her family. Neither of us were prepared for how outstanding this place actually was going to be.
But before I get to the menu though, we have to address the staff. We all know that the vibe of a restaurant's employees can dramatically affect the energy of an establishment and ultimately make or break it, regardless of how good the grub is. And vice versa. We've all returned to a restaurant or bar for an entertaining bartender or a witty waitress, even if the food and drink will never appear on one of Jonathan Gold's lists. At Laurel Tavern, you're in for a great experience all around the moment you arrive. From the hostess to the bartenders to the owners, we were greeted with such enthusiasm that it was contagious.
Most of our time was spent with Lee Farrell, who is one of the owners and also the general manager. Originally from Canada and a long line of restauranteurs, Farrell approaches the business in a way that makes you want to open a restaurant too. He's clearly a perfectionist when it comes to ingredients, taste, and presentation (heck - even the build took three years because they wanted it to be just right), but it's also evident that he's still having fun in a line of work that can suck the life out of you with the demanding, twenty-hour days, and an unrelenting focus on the bottom line. Farrell might very well be putting in those hours with that exact focus but as guests at the bar, we'd never know it. While you're speaking with him you kinda forget that he's also the dude in charge. It's refreshing.
Now for the drinks and food which are AMAZING! For dinner we shared the fried chicken salad and the jalapeño burger. You guys. If you are anywhere within a twenty-mile radius of this place you should get there tonight to eat. These are two of the best dishes we've had in a long time and that statement comes on the heels of recent trips to New York City and Chicago. To drink we tried Dr.'s Orders, The Best Old-Fashioned, Wake Up Call (brunch cocktail), and Spicy Pineapple Margarita. Each drink was so well-balanced and flavorful that it was hard to choose a favorite. If you're there for brunch on a Sunday you must order Wake Up Call. For our next visit, Jocelyn would start with The Best Old-Fashioned and I'd choose a Spicy Pineapple Margarita. However, based on what we tried, I suspect that you really cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.
We also want to be sure to mention that all the beers, except one from Japan, are locally brewed at small breweries. At any given time Laurel Tavern has homemade sangria's and punches to offer, and when it's available, a signature, barreled-aged cocktail.
Laurel Tavern is a fantastic addition to the Hermosa Avenue business district, destined to become a popular spot year round. We considered encouraging you to put a claim on a bar stool as a regular sooner than later, but luckily there are plenty of seats to go around.
Want to stalk them on social first? Go for it! Find them on Instagram and Twitter @LaurelTavern.