Three times? Maybe.
I hardly, if ever, leave the Westside, let alone go as far as downtown Los Angeles that many times in such a short period of time unless I have jury duty. Or, as it seems, unless there is a guy involved. Let’s just call it my Downtown Fling.
He mentions Weiland’s every once in a while in our conversations because it is a frequent after-work destination for him and his colleagues. No one who works downtown actually lives downtown, so oftimes, they call it a day, but rather than spending the following two-and-a-half hours in a slow crawl to road-ragoues insanity, they wait out the traffic for an hour or two at various Happy Hours around the downtown area. Whether they leave at 5 pm or 7 pm, they will arrive at home just in time to watch 8 o’clock primetime into the night with you. I have to wait a little longer to see him, but it gives me time to round out my day, too – upload a few photos, finish writing a post, and of course, take a shower.
When it's "busy season" for him, though, it’s a different story. Happy Hour is a very necessary, albeit brief, respite during 18 hours days, seven days a week. I don't see him much during busy season. I am a Busy Season Widow, sort of like an NFL Widow, who never sees her boy on the weekends because Saturday he’s scoping out the talent for next year’s draft, Sunday he’s watching the games with the boys, and Monday is, well, Monday Night Football. I feel bad for the NFL Widows when they add another weekday.
Yes, during busy season, he works until hours that would have HR’s Quality-of-Life Committee’s collective heads spinning. I wait up for him, just so I can see his face, but I’m already half-asleep. So is he. I don’t ever hear the alarm because it never actually goes off. He instinctively wakes up just minutes before it’s scheduled. I don’t wake up to “morning sounds” like tripping in the dark over shoes, rustling through a closet full of clothes, drawers squeaking open and slamming shut. He lays everything out the night before in the living room. He doesn’t want to disturb my beauty sleep. Just before he leaves, though, he puts a hand on my back, maybe pulls the covers up around me, and whispers something different each time in my ear. With my face buried in the pillow, I don’t always register the words, but I grunt something of acknowledgment, I’m sure. When I finally wake up at 8, two-and-half hours after he’s quietly zipped across the I-10 to his downtown office, I jump online and IM “good morning.”
Busy season makes the heart grow fonder.
On any other occasion, his “Come down and meet me at Weiland’s” would have been met with “Are you insane?!?! I am not sitting in that rush-hour traffic. If I spend 90 minutes on the freeway, I expect to end up on the other side of the Inland Empire. Hell no.”
But it was Busy Season.
When I finally got there, they had already put back at least two rounds of beer. I squeezed past a few people standing around the already full table and wedged myself into the only empty seat. He had reserved it for me, next to him. As he introduced me and re-introduced me to his co-workers up and down the table, all of the stress, anger, impatience, rage and frustration that had built up in the previous rush hour-and-a-half melted away. The last of it I washed down with my first sip of a Citron/soda.
Weiland’s calls itself an “American Bistro,” but the atmosphere definitely feels like a brew/pub. The ceilings are high like a warehouse, which makes it feel less crowded than it truly is; but because of acoustics in lofty spaces, Weiland’s sounds noisier than it needs to be. The actual bar is in the front area, but our Happy Hour group had commandeered several of tables in the center of the back dining area. A jukebox in the opening between the two spaces reflects the taste of the cientele. At some point, I recall hearing U Shook Me All Night Long, followed by the B-52s. There might have been a little Thriller-era MJ, too.
The menu is typical for a brewery type restaurant. There are a few entrees that includes an entire section dedicated to burgers, but there is heavy emphasis on easy-to-eat appetizers and bar snacks. I wasn’t sure who of our group was in charge of ordering. In fact, I wasn’t sure if there was someone in charge at all. Based on what arrived at the table, and how it arrived in a continual procession, it was clear that the order was simply “Yes.” With the exception of the Smoked Salmon Stack, we got at least one of every appetizer.
I didn’t touch the Shrimp Cocktail for fear of bursting into a fit of hives and embarrassing him in front of his co-workers with such *raise eyebrows* high-maintenance, but even if I had brought along with me an entire battalion of anti-histamines, I would have been reluctant. The shrimp had an unusal, high-contrast coloring to them, as if they had been molded out of plastic and dipped in high-gloss shellac. It reminded me a bit of a Japanese restaurant display of sushi and tempura.
The more standard bar fare was nothing extraordinary, as far as how Weiland’s prepares them. I do, however, have to mention that if, by some odd force of the cosmos, I were required to live on bar food for the rest of my life, I would welcome Jalapeno Poppers, Onion Rings, Garlic French Fries, and Quesadillas with arms wide open. I love bar food. That’s “love,” with a capital O-M-G. It doesn’t even have to be outstanding bar food. If it’s stuffed with cheese, battered, deep
fried, and served with a side of Ranch and any brand of hot sauce (though I am partial to sriracha and Tapatio), it will almost always taste good to me. I have no shame in admitting that.
Then again, it may have nothing to do with the food, and everything to do with the fact that I am eating said foods in a bar.
I have to confess, though, that I paid far less attention to the food than I normally do, simply because it was probably hard enough to explain why I was taking pictures. There was nothing that was so extraordinarily good that I have to gush, though I do need to point out that I was more than a little bit creeped out by Weiland’s Crispy Calamari. Some people are creeped out by calamari when they see the little tiny flailing legs of the calamari tossed in with the usual O-rings. I find the calamari legs, which look like tiny alien hands, to be the best part. Weiland’s however, doesn’t serve calamari with either the leg or the O-ring option, choosing, instead, to cut the calamari lengthwise into what looked like fingers that had been amputated from a child’s hand. The taste and texture were fine, but the appearance was just a little too disturbing to enjoy.
Apparently, a rumor had filtered down the length of the banquest sized table that “Happy Hour” was on “The Company.” At the end of the table opposite of “The Director,” there were opportunistic orders from the regular, non-Happy-Hour-special menu. Steak? Who ordered a $16 Steak and Garlic Mashed Potatoes?!?! Not surprisingly, no one took responsibility, so the steak was shared around the table, along with a couple of orders of Fish and Chips that were extra tasty crispy.
Happy Hour officially ended at 7, but the group lingered, doing everything they could to stretch that bit of a break before they had to head back into their Busy Season mode at the office. I lingered too, taking advantage of every last minute with him, our own little corner of quiet amidst the chaos of a brew pub.
And I wanted to put off that rush hour drive back to the Westside as long as I could.
400 E 1st Street (@ Central)
Los Angeles, CA 90012
** a year ago today, laziness bred RiFWoLs (reviews in five words or less) **