Kid Hit Menu Items: Even though some special dishes scrawled on The York’s chalkboard menus change, fries, burgers, and other self-described “gastropub” items are a mainstay. Not necessarily in the British sense, but think more along the lines of upscale American city slicker bar food. We played it safe and ordered a bowl of truffle mac n’ cheese mixed with cherry tomatoes and sliced basil topped with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs, which comes SCALDING hot and looks like about a pound and a half of pasta ($14). Small shells swim in a pool of gooey creamy sauce; a drier style mac n’ cheese this is decidedly not. If the truffle part is off-putting, don’t fret, because that flavor isn’t terribly pronounced. It’s not as if there’s tartufo d’alba shaving happening tableside. We didn’t hear any comments either way about the truffled grilled cheese sandwich ($10) served with sliced tomatoes and simple arugula salad being too or not mushroom-y enough. If you all make it that far, a couple of hearty sweets can reward good behavior.
Adult Perks: The York is a happening local spot with a full liquor license. That bar and imposing room with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, open trusses and lots of unpainted lumber and metals look good with lots of shiny bottles on display and drinks sitting on surfaces. Requisite circa 2008-10 dangling Edison bulbs and DYI light fixtures help set the scene. I like how a counter and bar stools are installed in the front windows to face the sidewalk and engage with the street.
Pros: The room is essentially partitioned in half: the main bar and high tables on one side, and more conventional seating and more restaurant-ish atmosphere on the other. You can guess where kids should sit. One wall is lined with big semicircular fixed banquettes, which is always the seating type of choice for families. The many hard surfaces mean it’s fairly loud, which can be useful, and dark corners help keep a low profile while you attempt to enjoy a meal with kids (operative word being “attempt”) in what feels like a very grown-up kind of joint. All ordering and related transactions are done at the bar, and you’re given a number to take back to the table and wait for the food to quickly arrive.
Cons: Full table service isn’t top priority at the York. A minimal wait staff brings you food and other stuff (napkins, extra plates, to-go boxes), but you’ve got to keep a sharp eye out and be aggressive if you need something. We also found a few hairs in the roasted chicken plate; not a dangerous health hazard, just off-putting for obvious reasons. No small cheaper portions for kids, but at least serving sizes are big enough to split.
Changing Station: No. Nor would I expect them to have one.
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Easy metered street parking on York and on side streets. Also city-operated lots in the vicinity.
Other Tidbits: On a Sunday evening, the York feels like the kind of neighborhood place that the gentrification-associated public in this part of Northeast L.A. wanted for years. Well, they got their watering hole. That said, it’s not just the small hat, unflatteringly retro 80s clothed, skinny jeans and scrappy goatee crowd. Seats at the bar are full with a healthy demographic mix. A game might be on the big projection screen at the back (with the volume turned off, thankfully) before the DJ starts up. All the while, customers are craning their necks towards the wall-mounted drink menus to get a look at which wine by the glass or craft beer they should order next, or deciding if a serving of thick French fries or bowl of spicy fried garbanzo beans is a wise move. Now that the York opens at 10:30 a.m. daily, this switch to becoming a stop-in-anytime place feels extra convenient and neighborly. Maybe some day at the York or down the block at Cafe de Leche we’ll spot our favorite Highland Park/York Valley celeb.
5018 York Blvd., Highland Park
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 2 a.m., Daily