Playa del Rey is that little sliver of LA that everyone always forgets about. It’s hard to get to (what with one main artery leading in). It’s not home to much of anything besides a pharmacy you’d have no reason to go to, a few restaurants that aren’t destination worthy and bars the likes of which you can find on almost any street corner in LA proper. In fact, many denizens of LA could go there whole lives without either knowing anyone from Playa Del Rey nor ever visiting. Instead, PDR is that beach community past the Ballona Wetlands (whatever in fact they are).
Well, perhaps now comes reason to change that. With Brooke Williamson (ex Beechwood, current Hudson House along with husband Rick ) at the helm of The Tripel (in the former space of subpar tapas restaurant Minotaure) this gastropub is dolling out good eats, suds and vino for a crowd willing to brave the tiny space and horrendous parking.
After circling the area for what seemed liked forever (five minutes) The Monster almost gives up and heads back to civilization. That’s when the appeal of having a small car comes into play. There is almost a spot and if one is willing to risk a ticket and their vehicle being treated like a bumper car than it’ll do. Given The Monster believes he’ll be in and out in half an hour the risk is worth it.
Upon entering you notice there are a few tables (communal as well) along with seats along the bar. As a solo diner on this day the bar it is. The space itself is hip without being pretentious, a mix of woods and slogans carved into them (Social Lubrication being the space’s motto) makes it the sort of place that is perfect on a Sunday afternoon when the crowds are thinner but the desire for a drink and nosh hits.
The menu has bar snacks with a twist (bacalao toasted naan, rock shrimp deviled eggs, tomato eggplant ciabatta) along with salads and sandwiches (the Tripel burger, pretzel burger, turkey pastrami melt). As for the drinks, settle in with one of the many beers on tap, try one of the interesting wines on offer or take down one of the cocktails they prepare with Cava.
While grooving to the Doors and Hendrix pumping through the speakers, The Monster decides to start with the white corn and heirloom tomato salad with black river blue cheese, herbed sherry-shallot vinaigrette, and celery salted popcorn. Always a sucker for a po’ boy, the calamari version on offer is the choice with spicy tartar sauce, bitter greens, and cider vinegar tomatoes.
The Monster wants to find the salad whimsical, what with it featuring popcorn. Instead, he finds it to be a perfectly fine and fresh introduction to the meal with the popcorn being a bit of a nuisance. What has been added for its textural differences doesn’t find a place between the corn and tomatoes and instead is an appurtenance The Monster picks out individually. Texture aside, it doesn’t play either between the corn’s sweetness and the acidity of the tomatoes. It’s not a miss as much as an odd pairing. Salad and popcorn for the movie!
All is forgiven when the calamari po’ boy arrives. A large portion, it’s the perfect sandwich to linger over while sipping beer and watching the game on the TV in the corner. This is a tangy, tart sandwich with big, bold flavor. Toasted bread is the perfect launching pad for the ingredients which play off each other deftly. While no one would confuse it with its New Orleans brethren, it doesn’t have to be authentic to be tasty.
Satisfied, The Monster settles out the bill with the friendly bartender and ambles back to the car to find it’s neither been ticketed nor towed.
Why go? Like the birds that call the wetlands home, you too need a spot to stop and regroup and have a drink.
Monster rating: 3½/5 Monsters
333 Culver Boulevard
Playa Del Rey, CA 90293