Laurel Tavern

The former Sapphire space has been transformed into a sleek, rowdy, wide-open gastropub with an all-California beer and wine list, gourmet burgers, and more. In the “more” category is a chorizo and cheese fondue with crostini for dipping (we also recommend the french fries), a tomato salad with some of the best burrata we’ve had outside of Mozza, skewers of pork belly, and mini croques monsieurs. Beefy burgers are no Father’s Office, but they’ll do, and they go well with any of the beers listed on the chalkboard, which include many of the newer California Belgians.

Best New Bars, September 2009

Laurel Tavern has given us something unexpected: the Ventura Boulevard sidewalk scene, complete with stilettos, cigarettes, and a bouncer asking you to please—please—stand away from the entrance. Inside, Valley denizens throng the bar to order regional brews (15 California beers are on tap) and way-above-average pub grub (try the salmon plate or the roasted marrowbones) before plopping down at the high butcher-block bar, a rare instance of communal seating that works. Locals count: 53 percent. Signature drink: Pasadena-brewed Craftsman beers. Bonus points: Add house fries to any beer order, and you’ll still come in under $12, including tip.