Laurel Hardware Bar & Grill has proven once again that West Hollywood locals are starving and thirsty, as if they have nowhere else to eat along Santa Monica Boulevard. But what's not to love? The front dining room boasts windows that open to the sidewalk, while the huge airy back bar area offers views into a charming tree-lined outside courtyard. Tables are made of metal stools, the wallpaper is cool and so far the staff is both attractive and helpful, which still seems hard to come by in this town. The food is by a chef that's worked at Lazy Ox and Freddy Smalls - so expect a lot of small plates, fresh ingredients and bold flavors used in unique ways. And a lot of pork, of course.
If you're thinking of checking out the space, here are five things you need to know, and a bonus first-look slideshow.
1. The sign. Yes, it's the original hardware store sign, and no, it's no longer a hardware store.
2. Where to sit - try and get to the back area. If you go early, before 7 PM, this isn't difficult. Crowds start to gather around 7:30 PM, and the place is packed by 8 PM. The front dining area is nice, with it's open kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows, but you'll probably get hot. And possibly leave smelling like pork belly.
3. The back bar is big, there are booths in one corner and lounge tables and chairs by those big windows. You want to sit there. Be careful: That one window to the right that's open is NOT a door to the courtyard. One guy decided to take it, and it worked; we begged he guy with crutches not to try. The door to the courtyard is to the right of the windows. You can sit out there with drinks, but you can't eat there and they will not serve you. It has to do with some kind of code. Still, it's a lovely courtyard.
4. The food is better than it should be for such a brand new hot spot. Highlights from our sampling: Sugar snap salad with black barley; pizza with anchovies, Hatch chilies and goat cheese; and soft shell crab with sweet corn pudding. We stayed with wine - accessible list and prices, some bottles you'll recognize from Silverlake Wine or DomaineLA - but the cocktails sure looked tasty. We're thinking about The Reserve #3 next time (Woodford Reserve bourbon, barrel-aged bitters, hibiscus water, lemon).
5. Parking. There was some controversy over the restaurant taking six parking meters out front for valet, mostly because parking is already a bitch on this stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard. It's not too expensive, however (only $6), and still easier than finding parking. But know that it's tricky getting in and out of your car, especially when they take or bring it back right under the light at Laurel Avenue (we got stuck when it was red on SMB, but cars were turning off of Laurel...confusing).