Sunday, March 13, 2005

Restaurant Review: Lucky Baldwin's

A real pub. A "man's man"'s bar - or a no-frills-kind-of-gal bar. It's not trendy. There's nothing pretty to look at. The music selection shuffles between a few CDs that someone on the staff popped in that night. But there's sports on the TV, Guinness on tap, and they sell cigarettes up front in a little shop if you're so inclined.

There's even outdoor seating. But don't get excited, my frilly ones. If you're envisioning a lovely outdoor cafe in Paris, you'll be sadly disappointed. It's my educated guess that the outdoor seating came to be for two reasons, neither inspired by a desire to create ambiance. Imagined reason number one: as Old Town slowly became more gentrified over the past ten years and other restaurants opened up nearby utilizing their space out back for seating, LB's followed suit to stay apace. Imagined (and more probable) reason number two: since you can't smoke in restaurants (since 1994) and bars (since 1998) in California, where are the blokes who buy cigarettes up front going to smoke . . . and, more importantly, continue to buy drinks?

I know what you're thinking. "Smoking and drinking? Sounds pretty Parisian to me." Well, if we were talking about a pack of Gitanes and a bottle of Bordeaux, maybe. And I suppose if you squint your eyes as you sit al fresco in your green plastic chair under the glow of mutlicolored holiday lights strung above you, you can pretend you're in the City of Lights. But, again, we're talking about a Camels-and-Guinness kind of crowd. If you wanted Frenchy sophistication, you wouldn't be at a British pub, now would you? (Unless you're one of those people who goes to Legal Seafood and orders a hamburger. In which case, please take your I-go-out-of-my-way-to-be-difficult-and-disatisfied self to another site please.)

Okay. Now for the cons. No-frills is one thing. Uncleanliness is quite another. The stench of rancid beer shouldn't hit you like a wall when sitting at a bar, no more than you should smell something fishy at a sushi bar. In the days of the early west when unwashed cowboys with a penchant for spitoon use were the local clientele and we called them saloons not pubs, fine. In the days of running water and refrigeration, that just doesn't fly. So, let's hope they clean up their act - or consider sitting at one of the tables and leave the bartender in squalor, er, um, I mean peace.

Another con - the food. I'll spare you the details. Just stick to the fish and chips, or eat somewhere else before you get here. You shouldn't be coming here for the food anyway. Refer to my Legal Seafood/hamburger comment above.

Walking in through the shop brings to mind the days of speak-easies when businesses and even homes were fronts for hidden bars. Ah, the forbidden. You feel like you're entering a special, secret place. In a crowded, pretentious place like L.A., it's like finding an oasis - a dingy oasis, but an oasis nonetheless. It's the type of place you could picture Colin Farrell walking into, buying a pack of smokes, recognizing the owner, striding over to him, slapping him on the back, and growling with a smile, "Hey ya fuggin' prig, how are ya?" And, really, who could ask more of a pub?

Lucky Baldwin's
17 So. Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105-1913
Mon-Fri 3:30am-1:30am, Sat-Sun 8am-2am