For most, the phrase “old man bar” conjures a specific image of worn upholstery, bowls of peanuts on a laminate bar top and crotchety curmudgeons downing cheap, no-nonsense drinks dispensed by a leathery brunette with a gravely voice and a smoker’s cough—let’s call her Barb. There may be a lounge act on Friday nights; the air, for some reason, smells distinctly of prime rib; and the place is empty or closed by 9pm.
This is not the Old Man Bar you’ll find at Hatchet Hall. Tucked away in the rear of the elegantly eclectic Culver City restaurant, Old Man Bar is that only in name. There’s no Barb, questionable peanuts or laminate, but rather an imposing, elaborately carved wooden bar, a grand selection of bourbon and other spirits and bartenders who know how to treat them right. With a post-Jeopardy 8pm opening time, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any old fogeys at the bar. You will find Old Fashioneds, though—nine variations, to be exact, each with a different twist that would make your granddad groan (if he were able to read the menu). The intimate space is considerably dark, even slightly spooky, with taxidermy, antlers, animal skulls and black and white portraits illuminated only by the low glow of etched antique lamps, candles and an ornate fireplace. Despite the beautifully macabre decor, however, there’s something cozy, charming and comforting about Old Man Bar that beckons you to sink into an armchair or booth and stay awhile—and you don’t need an AARP card to appreciate that.
Good for: Indulging in a post-dinner digestif, hiding in the shadows from your Tinder date, stopping off on a Culver City bar crawl or getting drawn into a whiskey-fueled deep and meaningful discussion about the stresses of getting old.
The scene: In the absence of seniors, a spry-looking mix of locals sip stiff drinks in the dark. Between expertly tending to the old fashioneds and craft cocktails, bar staff serve double duty on the music front, laying down vinyl on a turntable behind the bar. Sadly, our visit corresponded with the passing of Prince, but the bartenders paid tribute to the Purple One by blasting his records all night long.
Drink this: You’re not not going to drink an old fashioned here, and while some might prefer to stick with the Classic ($13), made with Old Forester bourbon, demerara and angostura bitters, Old Man Bar mixes it up with variations that incorporate different types of bourbon or swap the main spirit entirely. The Oaxacan ($15), for example, replaces bourbon with Fidencio Clasico mezcal and angostura with Aztec chocolate bitters for a smoky, sweet and slightly spiced finish, while the American Trilogy ($14) brings George Dickel rye and Lairds apple brandy to the bourbon party, creating a smooth and utterly patriotic concoction. For those seeking something a little lighter, an additional cocktail list offers some less spirit-forward refreshments, like the Old Cuban ($13), an effervescent blend of Wray & Nephew rum and Rhum JM Gold with lime, honey, mint and cava; or Jim’s Julep ($12), which defies the syrupy nature of the southern classic with an ingenious kick of black pepper. Served in a classic pewter julep cup, it looks every bit the part of the original, but far surpasses expectations.
Our Tip: Try to arrive right at 8pm if you can. Old Man Bar is small and seats are limited; if you're gunning for the coveted table and armchairs by the fireplace, you'll want to make a beeline for the spot as soon as it opens.