Kid Hit Menu Items: Why, the Hungry Cat’s terrific French fries, for starters. But turns out the toddler sucked every bit out of a few sweet Kumamotos recently, so one TRULY never knows, no matter how well you think you know your kid. Duly noted! For weekend brunch there’s a changing fritatta, Tweety’s herb scramble, crab cake, and excellent gooey sweet breakfast items. The intense Pug burger ($16) and lobster roll are served at all meals; the lobster roll ain’t a bargain ($23), so make sure others in your party are interested so that it doesn’t go to waste. “Virgin Cat” fruit-based drinks are delicious and fresh as can possibly be. Good luck not filling up on oyster crackers.
Adult Perks: The Hungry Cat is a seafood lover’s dream. Especially for one who loves booze, thanks to dazzling fresh-fruit cocktails by the talented Danielle and team of experts behind the friendly bar. A lot of the drinks are of the muddle-fruit-in-a-glass-and-combine-with-booze approach, but always with attention to flavor balance and harmony. Which isn’t to say refined and strained classic cocktails aren’t available. (But I’m still confused why the cucumber martini isn’t always on the permanent “Classic Cats” cocktail list. Are cucumbers really THAT highly seasonal?) When we’re at the Hungry Cat without kids, we definitely prefer to sit in front of the kitchen and bar action, where every inch of those tight quarters is used well.
Pros: Friendly service. ArcLight-adjacent location. The courtyard is a perfect run-around spot, and there’s the projected faces art piece at night. The hard surfaces and high ceilings make it tolerably loud. There’s outdoor seating, too.
Cons: No booths or cushy seating options. Most tables are tightly spaced, yet some areas of the restaurant can accommodate strollers. Too bad the parking validation is only one hour.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Other Tidbits: When the Hungry Cat opened with chef/owner David Lentz at the helm in partnership with his wife Suzanne Goin, it was what we’d been waiting years for, and then some. Hollywood finally got the casual but stylish and high quality neighborhood place it deserved. Its clean décor, cocktail/beverage program, and raw bar filled a few vacant niches and made it an insta-classic. (As for the building’s façade-ectomy and the ill-fated simulacrum Schwab’s revival next door…well, we choose to overlook those things.) So back before we had kids and did fun carefree stuff like go to the ArcLight and eat out on a whim, we’d warm those bar stools and linger over platters of oysters and market-oriented seafood dishes. And after our first kid was born we’d still go. (He seemed to sleep quite well in the din of that restaurant.) Now we hit up the Hungry Cat less frequently, although it is a very kid-friendly place, since the Goin-Lentz brood consists of three young kids (two of whom are twins). Hungry Cat is perfect for post-farmers’ market brunch or early dinner. And never underestimate the power of photos with a cat posing with shellfish to amuse. (H.C. also has a Santa Barbara location.) But because our most successful meals as a foursome are eaten fast thanks to the Hungry Cat’s efficient service, they tend to be some of the most expensive when broken down to a cost per-minute basis. Hmm, time to start going during weekday happy hour from noon until 6 p.m.
1535 N. Vine Street, Hollywood; plus Santa Monica & Santa Barbara
Cuisine: Seafood/Market Driven
Hours: Monday – Wednesday, noon – 11 p.m.; Thursday – Saturday, noon to midnight; Sunday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.