Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cheapest Happy Hour in Beverly Hills?

What is wrong with this picture? No, not the skewed angle; I shoot that way, influenced by the street photographers Gary Winogrand, William Eggleston and Robert Frank. No, it's that Cartier, the Beverly Hills jewelry emporium, is on The 99 Cent Chef's foodblog, and that the chintzy chef is in fact imbibing three doors down on ritzy Rodeo Drive.

Welcome to my new feature: reviews of economical drinking and dining in Los Angeles. The Chef doesn't eat out enough, and this makes the perfect excuse to explore cheap eats citywide. Look out, S. Irene Virbila and Jonathan Gold -- a new restaurant reviewer is in town! I will feature meals that a proletarian/student/struggling artist/filmmaker can afford, not just local "expense account" dining reviews. Happy hours and low-cost dining will be my purview, while in higher-end restaurants, the focus is on the least expensive menu items. And if there is a free parking spot restaurant close, The Chef will spill the beans! My future postings will be generously served with scrumptious photos with a side of luscious video.

Squeezing a dime does not limit you to a fast food diet, as my first happy hour review shows. So pull up a bar stool and let The 99 Cent Chef show you the ropes of Cafe Rodeo's Bar 360 in Beverly Hills.

Valet parking is available at the Luxe Hotel on 360 N. Rodeo Dr., where Cafe Rodeo's Bar 360 is housed; of course I am too cheap to indulge, since about three blocks north, just before Santa Monica Boulevard, is ample city parking for $1 an hour - but bring plenty of quarters, since these are old-style meters. A short walk -- past the well-heeled natives mixed with gawking, camera wielding tourists -- brings you to the Luxe Hotel, where right across from the check-in desk is Cafe Rodeo, an upscale room with a dozen white cloth-covered tables and featuring Bar 360, a six-stool copper-covered bar.

Sports play on the 36-inch flat screen and the bartender is quick to hand you the happy hour menu, featuring a Cosmopolitan and Dirty Martini for a mere $3.60. With time clicking off on my city parking meter, I quickly order the Cosmo and $3.60 Parmesano Pomme Frittes appetizer. The Cosmo is sweet and colored like cranberry juice but with a kick.

The pomme frittes are cleverly served spilling out of a Chinese to-go box and liberally sprinkled with parmesan and a bowl of ketchup on the side. They go down well, as I lick my finger to coat it in leftover parmesan. The fries are good as frozen-style fries can be, but disappointing for a high end happy hour appitizer - fresh cut would seem appropriate.

Next up is perfection in a cocktail glass - Cafe Rodeo's chilled martini made with Gordon's gin and a single plump olive. The drinks are the star here - two good ones in a row.

An order of fish tacos and fried chicken skewers follow. The 2 fish small tacos are made with lightly breaded tilapia chopped fish fillets with a chipotle chili spicy aioli, served on a corn tortilla sprinkled with minced lettuce. While tasting fine, this appetizer is way overpriced at $7 for this budget chef (I often get 5 oz. frozen tilapia fillets at my local 99c only Store) .

Stick with the Fried Chicken Skewers, made with white breast meat that's crunchy coated with a mix including bread crumbs. Two dipping sauces flank the large fried skewers; one is a light barbeque sauce and the other is a sweet/hot Thai chili sauce that tastes straight out of the bottle, but it's okay; I like it that way. At $3.60, the chicken skewers are the best bar food deal, although too thinly sliced, which makes them on the dryer side - a thicker cut would result in a moist chicken appetizer.

Service is top notch at the bar. My visit was during the middle of the week, so it was uncrowded; patio tables are available outside at the Rodeo Drive entrance, as well. So when you drop-off your out-of-towners on Rodeo Drive, tell them you'll be waiting at Cafe Rodeo, sipping a $3.60 Cosmopolitan or Martini - this is a great Beverly Hills happy hour deal: just be judicious in choosing an appetizer.

Cafe Rodeo & Bar 360 (inside the Luxe Hotel or patio at enterance)
360 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
California 90210

phone: 800) 468-3541

Happy Hours: Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7:30.
Martinis and select appetizers $3.60. Other appetizers $7-$9. Food items change month to month, so call for the latest happy hour menu.
Parking: Valet or city meters, on same side of the street just South of Santa Monica Boulevard. Bring pocket change, $1 per hour.


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Shell said...

Sorry to hear about the sub-standard fries since potatoes are so cheap. The skewers look tasty.

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