For Serious Dining and Trivial Pursuits

"What's that building down there? The big wooden one with all those vines hanging from it?" a friend asked as we drove the transition road from the eastbound Ventura Freeway to the Glendale Freeway north. "It looks like some sort of redwood flying saucer."

Although its modified-pyramid architecture is a bit otherworldly, this is no Starship Enterprise. It's a seafood restaurant and bar, the Rusty Pelican. And while the restaurant remains earthbound, its popularity most definitely has taken off.

Adjoined by a three-acre parking lot and circumscribed by interchanges and off-ramps, the Rusty Pelican is really two operations--a 220-seat bar and a 200-seat dining room. Both are decorated in what might be termed Maui- cum- Glendale--ferns, fronds, fans and multiple video screens. A well-planned suburban paradise . . . with validated parking.

Behemoth of a Bar

In a way, this behemoth of a bar has become a neighborhood hangout for hundreds of Glendalians and their friends. Laura, a Pelican regular who works at a Glendale financial institution, explained it this way: "I grew up in Kansas City, where we have real neighborhood bars. Of course we also have real neighborhoods there. In L.A. you don't have neighborhoods, you have regions. So this is sort of the Glendale regional bar."

"The bar has a life of its own, distinct from the dining area," said Bob Bronte, Pelican assistant general manager. "In fact, it has its own kitchen, which remains open till 1 every night." The bar serves several pasta dishes, simple fresh seafood plates and an assortment of appetizers, including a quesadilla with crab meat.

The Pelican bar opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 2 a.m.; happy hour, which lasts half as long as an 8-hour workday, begins at 4 p.m. During happy hour the Pelican's Quarter Bar (items cost 25 cents, hence the name) serves oysters on the half shell, smoked salmon and fresh shrimp as well as other daily specialties.

A Popular Diversion

NTN, a national trivia game that uses wireless key-pads, is a popular diversion during happy hour. Questions flash on four 24-inch TV monitors located around the bar and customers compete with one another, answering queries about National League batting averages and the Cartwright clan.

On Tuesday nights, Pelican's NTN champs challenge trivia buffs from across the nation via an interactive computer hook-up.

"We've just come out of a monthlong competition with bars from all over the U.S.," Bronte said, "and we rated in the top 10." In addition to these trivial pursuits, customers can watch major sporting events on a large central screen.

"Live entertainment begins at 9 p.m.," Bronte said. "People in Glendale like music they can dance to, so we book bands that know how to play the Top 40." The bar is particularly busy from 10 p.m. till 12:30 a.m. weeknights, and "on the weekend it can be SRO (standing room only) from 4 p.m. on," Bronte said.

The Rusty Pelican, which has no relationship to the chain of Westside "Pelican" seafood restaurants, has been open for 13 months, but "every day someone new walks in," Bronte says, "and tells me how sorely the Glendale region needed this sort of bar."

The Rusty Pelican is at 300 Harvey Drive, Glendale; (818) 242-9191.

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