Idle Hour’s unique barrel-shaped structure is a survivor of America’s programmatic architecture, intended to catch the eye of passing motorists. Buildings were designed to resemble oversized things like giant donuts (The Donut Hole), and windmills (Tiny Naylors). LA may have lost The Derby and Tail o’ the Pup, but the 1933 Group has stepped in to rescue North Hollywood’s giant whiskey barrel.
The Idle Hour Cafe was built in 1941 and was run as a successful taproom through the late 60s when it became a flamenco club. After the club closed, owner Dolores Fernandez lived in the second story of the giant barrel from 1984 until 2009. Thanks to the efforts of Los Angeles Magazine writer, Chris Nichols, the building was declared a historical landmark in 2010.
The ceiling of the barrel’s first floor was removed during restoration to open up the space (So no, you can’t live up there now. Sorry). The cedar interior is warm and inviting, with soft amber lighting, original stained glass and brass fixtures completing the look.
The 1933 Group loves a good theme bar, as evidenced by The Bigfoot Lodge and Sassafras. In keeping with the giant whiskey barrel, Idle Hour specializes in simple whiskey cocktails as well as retro 1940s cocktails like the Moscow Mule and World’s Greatest Cosmopolitan. Gin afficionatos will enjoy the Mister President, made with Ford’s Gin, Thyme Syrup, Lemon, Pear Cider and Flamed Cinnamon. The cocktails are reasonably priced at $10 and $12. There is also a long row of taps to serve a rotating selection of craft draft beers. They will also be serving a make-your-own boilermaker.
The menu consists of the usual American bar food — your standard deviled eggs, Sloppy Joes, and mac n cheese. We particularly enjoyed the pulled pork sliders and steak frites. Many dishes have a modern twist. For example, the soft pretzels come with a chipotle chocolate and a white cheese dipping sauce. The most forward-thinking dish is the sweet potato gnocchi covered with melted marshmallows. And that is the dish I will return for again and again.
The eclectic crowd includes elderly men in stylish hats, college kids, and not one, but two mohawked gentlemen. Keeping with the artsy neighborhood, the patrons seemed to reflect the wide variety of people you would see at a gallery opening. Idle Hour is a novel and comfortable place to meet a friend or gather in a large group, who tend to hang out beneath the giant ficus tree on the spacious back patio. Just in case things still aren’t kitschy enough for you, the patio also holds a 2-story replica of Bulldog Café rescued from The Peterson Automotive Museum. Maybe if they have enough space they will keep adding little buildings until it looks like a miniature golf course. I can only dream.
Drinks and food were hosted.