Tucked away in the sleepy beach town of Playa del Rey, Bacari PDR is a warm and intimate taverna-meets-surf-shack, and just the place for washing down tapas-style cicchetti with wines from all over the globe. Once a kitschy mustard-yellow cottage (and French restaurant Bistro Du Soleil), the space now holds a breezy patio adjoining an itty-bitty dining room of polished cement floors and sleek industrial accents. It’s a strictly no-fuss neighborhood spot, where a short but thoughtful rotating menu of a dozen reds and a half-dozen whites are scrawled onto a chalkboard wall (so that’s a “no" to your usual 10-page ode to oenology). The real draw is the $25-per-person open bar special—a steal at $25 for 90 minutes of heavy-handed pours of house wine, sangria, beer and Champagne. Cocktail quaffers need not fret. Townhouse's Adam Sandroni has concocted 13 easy-breezy swills to pair with executive chef Lior Hillel's Mediterranean-inspired small plates. Fancy a floral-fresh Rose Gimlet ($10, $8 on happy hour) with your grilled lamb burger ($8)? If that doesn’t whet your appetite, there’s a 30-plus spirits list to keep you happy until midnight, at which point you are on your own.
Good for: Getting buzzed with a date while watching the sun set over the Pacific. Given the fact that you’re subjected to street parking, we’d recommend getting a cab (or bartering with your best friend). A side patio decorated with twinkling lights and lamps made with empty wine bottles sets the scene for true romance. Don’t miss the three-for-$21 cichetti such as crab crostini, rainbow beet salad and spicy chipotle cauliflower. The star on the menu is the bruschette. Note: The roasted garlic with balsamic and basil walnut pesto option is essentially toasted bread covered in whole garlic cloves, so it might not be the best appetizer to share with a prospective make-out partner.
The scene: A more subdued, mature crowd lingers over offbeat selections in intimate conversation outside. The real vino drinkers head to the small dining room for unobstructed access to the only wine menu in the house: a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard. Plus, it’s easier to get the staff’s attention inside. There’s a casual vibe, but a palpable hustle as it gets closer to 7pm—when happy hour hits a hard stop.
The playlist: In true wine bar fashion, it’s all about the soulful jams at Bacari PDR—some Marvin Gaye, a little James Brown, but mostly instrumental jazz to set the stage for convivial tête-à-tête.
Bartender says: “People come to eat, drink and be merry.” The wine program focuses on old school esoteric wines—oddball stuff like the funky-earthy, full-bodied Portuguese Vidigal Tinto Reserva dos Amigos ($9.50 glass, $38 bottle). Bottles are ordered in small batches, so the selection changes frequently. Don’t bother asking for a menu—everything they have is up on the wall.
Drink this: The consensus from regulars is that the house red selection is always good, and we’d have to agree. On our visit, it was a juicy, full-bodied French blend from the Languedoc region—well worth the sizable $7 glass. Another goodie was the 2011 Villa Angarano Vespiolo ($8 glass, $32 bottle)—buttery at first, with a pronounced tangy finish. It’s quite interesting, and an Italian white you probably wouldn’t find at your typical wine bar. For dessert, order the Peruvian Chocolate martini ($10). The combination of pisco (Peruvian brandy), vermouth, creme de cacao and topped with an orange twist will make your sweet tooth sing.