Kid Hit Menu Items: While Westside Tavern seems like an indie-type Houston’s concept that caters to families, this large, efficient restaurant in the Westside Pavilion addition by the movie theaters doesn’t seem have a kids’ menu. Except it actually does. I’ve heard of various secret menus, but not in this genre. How subversive. Ask your server to find out about the burger with fries, grilled cheddar cheese, and mac n’ cheese $8 portions for kids. Which is useful, since this isn’t the cheapest place for a pre-movie casual hearty American fare. If your meal is timed right and get good behavior, then the group deserves to dig into some sticky toffee pudding. That was definitely not us last week.
Adult Perks: Any place that has a kid’s burger AND a Corpse Reviver No. 2 under one roof with a lot of reclaimed wood and flattering lighting is alright by me. Portland-based cocktail consultant/and Portland-based gin maker Ryan Magarian put the cocktail list together, which includes a solid selection of classics and seasonal specialties ($11). The white peach and basil gimlet, which thankfully has a fragrant herb base and isn’t overly dominated by sweet fruit, helped manage the fact that my sister and I were totally outnumbered by four exhausted, hungry, cranky kids facing us across the table. I doubt the staff ever wants to see us in there again. As for the food, I’m a fan of the crispy Brussels sprouts ($9 with or without bacon), and we had big fresh salads (Caesar $10 and Cobb $16) while stealing bites of the kids’ gooey mac n’ cheese without onions. Westside Tavern’s version of the latter isn’t totally up my alley — I prefer a dryer crisper casserole — but it helped make dinner feel appropriately family-style.
Pros: Large booths that easily fit six are a nice plus. We had to wait for a table, but our food came fast and was brought to the right people at the right seats. They’re also fully equipped with plastic cups, crayons and coloring pages (Smurfs was a good score, since the kids saw the movie together). The private dining room with the decorative wall of cedar trunks is fun to go peek at if it’s empty.
Cons: I foolishly thought that because my first dinner experience at Westside Tavern was in a half-full dining room on a weeknight, showing up at 6:30 on a Monday night would mean breeze on in and get a table for six. WRONG. This place has really caught on. We had to wait about 20 minutes and were given one of those light up buzzing pager thingies, which the kids fought over. It has all the charm of an airport terminal, but the mall setting means plenty of overflow space to wait in and escalators to ride.
Changing Station: Yes
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Free parking for three hours in the mall lot.
Other Tidbits: An impromptu early evening visit to the Annenberg Beach House meant we were all extra hungry and tired, and I figured Westside Tavern would safely meet everyone’s demands and appetites. I feared the worse of eastbound traffic so wanted to get some of the voyage out of the way. Traffic moved smoothly along the 10, and we made it to Westwood and Pico in shockingly good time. Yes, Westside Tavern is in a mall — that in part helps distinguish it from other similarly named L.A. restaurants — but you don’t have to avoid passing by a Claire’s or a Lego Store. Chef/Managing Partner Warren Schwartz spent time in enough L.A. restaurant kitchens (Patina, Saddle Peak Lodge, Whist at the Viceroy) to know this particular market, which in this context seems to love a well-managed operation that’s familiar but not cookie cutter. It works across generational lines, from our kiddos to the alta kakers, who were out in full force, along with social Westsiders of all ages.
10850 Pico Blvd.
West Los Angeles
Cuisine: American, Market-Driven, dare I add Gastropub
Hours: Sunday – Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. –10 p.m. (bar until 11 p.m.); Thursday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. (bar midnight).