House of Billiards

Best Pool Hall, May 2005

Pool halls walk a fine line between sanitary and seedy, legitimacy and vice. Too many frills, and you have Chuck E. Cheese’s for adults. Too much character, and you get patted down at the door. Inhabiting the golden middle of cue sports is Santa Monica’s House of Billiards, a neighborhood joint despite the fashionable address. Twenty well-groomed Brunswick tables fill the dark tavern, which serves patty melts and BLTs along with pints of Fat Tire and Stella Artois. An old shark might smirk at the individual rosin bags or the packets of Sani-Hands wipes, but these amenities bespeak gravitas instead of squeamishness. The front tables, according to a sign, are reserved for “known regulars,” and it would be foolhardy to shrug off the warning.