Just in time for the weekend, Filling Stations is a weekly post that highlights one of Los Angeles’ destinations for craft beer, be it a bottle-shop with a great selection, a restaurant with great food to go with their beer list, or a bar serving excellent beers.
- Neighborhood: Culver City View Larger Map
- Type: Restaurant and Bar
- Yelp Page
- Selection: 5/5 Price: 4/5 Staff: 5/5 Food: 5/5
At the far end of the Expo line tracks, within the hustle and bustle of the burgeoning downtown Culver City area is a California craft beer oasis: City Tavern. City Tavern knew that its focus would be on beer from day one, and not just any beer, but specifically offerings from the local and other California-based breweries. In other words, if you’re on the west side and you want to know and understand what’s going on with California craft beer, City Tavern should be first on your list.
Located near the Kirk Douglas theater, adjacent to Sony Pictures Entertainment, City Tavern specializes in gourmet pub fare, revolving taps, and one of the coolest gimmicks to hit the west side, tap tables. Though you won’t be getting a seat at these popular booths every time, they are perfect for birthdays, larger parties, and special occasions. The idea is simple: after you’ve sat down, your server charges up the table with an electronic card, giving you access to pour as much beer as you can legally handle. It’s priced per ounce and the beers featured change on a monthly basis – usually featuring a specific brewery for the month.
The place is hard to miss with an entrance on both the front and back of the building each emblazoned with a giant City Tavern sign. The inside of the restaurant is dimly lit, the walls adorned with rustic chalkboards, pioneer/steampunk light fixtures, and the same style reconditioned wood panelling found on the building facade. It feels like an updated response to the traditional English/Irish pub.
Wood, dark metal, but a surprisingly warm vibe is what you’ll find at night, but if you are lucky enough to come during the full daylight, you’ll find an incredibly warm and brightly lit restaurant perfect for brunch time. When the days are warm they open the large side windows, which give City Tavern an outdoors feel. You can sit outside on the benches with you pup when the sun is out or curl up under a heat lamp under the stars.
The beers, as mentioned before, are rotating. You’ll find only California craft at City Tavern, but if you are one of the few people who haven’t figured out that beer is other than fizzy stuff in a blue can, you can also get that. Taps from California, bottles from everywhere else. The wait staff and bartenders are knowledgeable both about food pairing and beer suggestions. They are expected to try each beer, know how they taste, and display basic, and sometimes advanced cicerone skills. I’ve found that if they just put it on tap and aren’t sure what it tastes like, they’ll go back, try it, and then come back to me, or at the very least give me a taster so I can make my own decisions. This attention to detail is great. The staff always welcomes with a smile and do their best to make sure you have a good time. When things get busy, and they frequently do, you may have to wait a little longer, but get over it, slow down, and take a load off, Culver City is beautiful!
City Tavern’s main strengths, though there are many, have been in their food pairings. Every one to two months they have a food pairing dinner. This is an opportunity for the chefs to be creative, get to know the beers, and exercise their food pairing ability. They stray away from traditional food pairing where bars pair what they have with what they have – and go full force into planning the menu, talking to the brewery, and devising a unique menu for the event. Their first dinner was with Eagle Rock Brewery, and I can still remember the fennel infused Manifesto paired with the fennel crusted lobster roll – yum. When they aren’t doing pairings you’ll find weekly pint nights featuring local breweries and their brewers who generally make it to the events.
Upscale pub fare with a southern twist is how you’ll find the menu. You’ll want to splurge on the short-rib poutine, shrimp & grits, pork belly & beans, duck confit salad, pulled pork sandwich, vodka battered fish & chips, and oh yes, the mac & cheese, which is not baked, but more of a thick creamy fondue style cheese sauce. As we go over the menu here, we should probably mention that it’s seasonal so you’ll find things changing often, just like the tap list. While they do have their standard menu items, pub burger, brussel sprouts, sweet potato fries, I frequently visit and find that I gravitate towards the specials. You may also want to try the cocktail list; while we are all about beer here, the CT cocktail list is delicious and legit.
City Tavern has the best California tap list on the west side and is highly competitive with any others in the larger LA area. It’s located in an up and coming area that has seen significant growth in the food and drink space. With the completion of the Expo line it’ll be even easier to access, and I even hear there are a few breweries with their eyes on the city. What’s even more is that the City Tavern team will be expanding their sphere of influence into downtown with another location on Fig & 7th. There is even rumor of a third space that’ll focus on gourmet dinner style food – get ready Guy Fieri. If you are in the area, get off yelp, and give City Tavern a try. Go in for beer, leave with a full stomach, and enjoy your stay at one of the best that Culver City has to offer.
*Keep your eyes on their facebook. They frequently have events that are always fun to go to. On February 10th, they have a food pairing dinner with Monkish, and they’ll be looking to celebrate their 2nd anniversary in April as well!
Kip Barnes is the founder of Bierkast and co-founder of Los Angeles Ale Works. Kip picked up home brewing after college and has since become an accomplished award-winning home brewer. He enjoys drinking and brewing all types of beers. He is graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema Television and lives in Culver City, CA with his sciency wife Katie. Follow him @bierkast or Follow the LAAW @laaleworks