My enthusiasm for what Jason Robley is doing behind the bar at Michael’s in Santa Monica is well-documented. He is slowly transforming every aspect of the bar program at the 33-year-old restaurant. His latest change: adding a happy hour! I had the honor of being the first to try the new menu (mostly because I work nearby and word hasn’t gotten out yet).
Before Jason and GM Andrew Turner could implement the new happy hour, they wanted to replace some of the awkward and dated lounge furniture. Unhappy with the usual furniture they came across, they opted to have the tall bar tables custom-made. I appreciate the new furniture, but I was there for one reason: the cocktails.
There are three cocktails and one punch on the menu, plus a couple of wines ($6) and beers ($4). Jason only makes one punch and “Jason’s Famous Punch #1″ may be my favorite punch I’ve tried in LA. For a sweet punch, I was shocked at the depth of flavor it offered.
None of the other cocktails disappointed. The Downtowner featured Tito’s vodka, lime, canton ginger liquer, St. Germain elderflower liquor, and soda. The Dominicano included Dolin Blanc, Dolin Rouge, Citadelle Gin, Aperol, and orange bitters.
The 15 State cocktail is made with bourbon, ginger, and lime soda. The menu advertises Markers Mark bourbon, but Jason made mine with Eagle Rare, insisting it worked better with the drink.
It became clear that if I was going to sample all of the drinks on the menu, I should also order some happy hour grub to coat my stomach. The bruschetta featured heirloom tomato and melon with mint & basil. It was a simple and refreshing dish.
Since bruschetta isn’t particularly filling, I decided to give the crispy sweetbread “poppers” a chance. These fried delights sitting on a bed of wonderful whole-grain mustard aioli were quite addictive.
If you’re like me and have already worked your way through the happy hour and regular cocktail menus, you can also order a well drink for $6. This is Michael’s, so you won’t be getting some random vodka out of a plastic bottle. The well liquors include Tito’s Vodka, Flor de Cana rum, and Eagle Rare bourbon.
The happy hour turned into happy multiple hours for me, and I realized it was time to get some proper food. While not on the dinner menu, if you ask Michael really nicely, he might let you order the burger. I’ve had my eye on the burger since it received a glowing review in Serious Eats A Hamburger Today. Made with Rocker Bros Meats and topped with grilled Maui onion, North Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon, Gruyère and Stilton cheeses, arugula, tomatoes, and served on a sesame seed-covered brioche from Etxea Bakery, this is a damn good burger that didn’t make me regret the $18 price tag.
Happy Hour runs Monday-Friday from 5 pm – 7 pm. In addition to this happy hour, there is plenty to look forward to at Michael’s: new dishes by the 24-year old new Executive Chef John-Carlos Kuramot, a fall cocktail menu by Jason, improving the rooftop garden, and stepping up the beer offerings (possibly adding a keg or two).
1147 3rd Street, Santa Monica