In homage to the heirloom train stations of Western Europe—draped in white tiles, tin signs and the lit-up beacons of beer brands—Third Street Station’s compact space seduces with disarmingly charm and serious potential for romance. Que triste that the cute bistro spell is too often broken by its sports bar soul and the highly trafficked, Mid-City location, making the trip derail into Eurotrip before it arrives at Before Sunrise. Wooden stools look out through a cut-out window to Beverly Center's megamall traffic, three TV sets hang above the bar and an LED "Arrivals" board announces daily specials and weekly comedy shows. Ironically, the only European vibe comes from a loud local smoking in sniffing-distance from the indoor tables.
Alongside comfort food standbys (burgers, grilled cheese, et al.), the menu channels the Chunnel: Fish and chips ($14), bangers and mash ($14) and duck fat fries ($6) represent the UK, while croque madame ($12), beignets ($7) and hanger steak with Bordelaise ($18), stand in for France. There are also various dishes a Boyardee-weaned Yankee might crave.
Calamari ($11) did in fact "taste like shit," as suggested by the waiter who neglected his duties to hit on customers and their drunken friends. A pork belly panini ($12) would be laughed out of Milan, featuring what is surely yesterday's thick-cut bacon draped with some leftover lipids.
Third Street Station functions more smoothly as a destination for drinking and flirting with West Hollywood breeders. The beer selection is strong—Allagash, Harp and Stone among the many ales flowing from a handsome copper draft system—while Trappist treasure Chimay, golden Belgian Duvel, strawberry lambic and Somerset's Blackthorn cider reinforce the bar's European aspirations.
Cocktails want to be smart but cloyingly miss the mark. Bulleit bourbon is completely masked by Malibu rum in a piña colada-esque "Runaway Train" ($12), and a disasterous "Tunnel Vision" ($12) offered a welcome medicinal finish after the strafing of sugar and sour lime that kicks off with the first sip.
Though the cuisine, customer-service and mixology fall hard in the footsteps of what should and can be expected at a LA gastropub these days, the room somehow remains enchanting enough to make one want to return. Just come with your belly full from a superior kitchen and stay for an ale and a rugby match.
Good for: Getting together with friends after work, picking up cleaned-up singles among the wilder weekend crowds, and happy hour when beer is $4 and wine is $5.
The scene: Sports bar with more dignified surroundings and lazy American comfort food fronting like it has culture.
The playlist: ‘80s and ‘70s pop-rock, a blessing when "Paint It Black" plays, a bust when you have to drink to "Don't You (Forget About Me)."
Drink this: Avoid the too-sweet cocktails and stick to Belgian beers such as Delirium Tremens ($9) and Chimay ($9), available by the bottle. Or order from the impressive roster of drafts, including Stone ($7), Allagash White ($7) and Paulaner ($7).