THE ARSENAL is the place you go for protection from pretense. From everything that emerges from a limo. From anyone whose bootlegged sex tape makes money on the Internet. Since 1950, the Arsenal has been a neighborhood hang, with gorgeous burgers and a cheap filet, but after the 2003 remodel it has become something else too: a playroom where anyone is easy to meet.
Seriously, the Arsenal is a room for dating, not intimidating. Go there early and grab a high-backed booth in the darkened restaurant and reveal the febrile packings of your heart to one who is truly listening. Munch on the celebrated slider appetizers, wash them down with no-frills suds -- but just make sure you’re in a position to really chew someone’s ear by 10, because, if it’s a Thursday night, DJ Schnitzengruben (OK, his real name is Greg), will be shamelessly trying to make you shut up and dance to the Bloodhound Gang as the room chants, “Let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.”
With walls full of weaponry including machine guns, knuckle dusters, pikes and artillery shells, the restaurant would be kitsch if the place didn’t have two separate rooms cleverly devoid of this truck. When you’ve had your Kobe burger or tuna tartare (new additions to the classic menu), step into the shiny and booming bar or through yonder wall onto an outdoor smoking patio, where neither ironic hipsterism nor showy silicone reigns. And that’s its strength.
“We don’t get the beach bums, but we also don’t get the people who want to go to Santa Monica and spend $12 on the house vodka,” says general manager Esme Nix. “We get the people who know they are hip without having to work real hard.”
And, really, isn’t that the kind of place you’d like to be? The good-looking crowd averages about 30 years old, and you’d never know there’s a big-screen TV behind the bar, because they rarely turn it on.
“It’s comfortable,” says DJ Schnitzengruben, who’s been coming to the bar for many years. “You can have your burger, relax. It’s never too fancy but it’s always fun.”
Arsenal’s bartenders aren’t trying to sell you some wack new martini they just invented; they just specialize in the kind of drinks you love: stiff ones. DJs are spinning Tuesday through Saturday, but the music never dominates the vibe. And it’s expanding: Expect a new Mexican-themed El Arsenal on Ventura Boulevard in Encino in October or November.
“It’s like a house party when your parents are gone,” says Nix, then corrects herself: “It’s like your grandpa’s bar when your grandpa was a lot younger.”
Dean Kuipers may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where: 12012 W. Pico Blvd., West L.A.
When: Bar, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays; 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays
Price: House wine and beer, $5; burger, $8.50: filet mignon, $19; shot of Johnny Walker Blue, $23
Info: (310) 575-5511