If Harry Potter were cool, he'd hang out here

THE lively scene along Los Feliz Boulevard in Atwater Village couldn't be more hodgepodge. You can pony up to the bar at the Bigfoot Lodge for its log-cabin kitsch, saunter in to the working-class Roost and ogle the popcorn machine, or bask in the Old World comfort of the restaurant lounge at the Tam O'Shanter.

But the roughly four-block stretch has a new headliner, the Griffin, located across Boyce Avenue from the venerable Tam.

From the outside, it's a brick cube swathed in neon. Inside, it's something else entirely. Like a lion with the head of an eagle, the Griffin thrives on incongruity.

Stepping inside is like drifting into a 16th-century Spanish cathedral -- arched stone supports crisscross along the cavernous vaulted ceiling, while two fireplaces hold court at opposite ends of the main lounge, each surrounded by the twin parentheses of semicircular red leather couches and the ellipses of several matching knee-high stools. If J.K. Rowling were a twentysomething PR consultant, this would definitely be her hang.

A killer jukebox whiplashes from Wire to Neil Diamond to Datarock as large clutches of patrons swirl from generous pours at the bar (home to a prismatic array of whiskeys and single-malts) to the shadowy corners that house private booths, while the smokers take their drinks to the heated patio enclosed in wrought iron bars facing Los Feliz Boulevard (you know, just like the Visigoths used to).

Owned by Chalet co-owner Aaron Chepenik and screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh (who also have a Griffin in Las Vegas), the bar was designed to be more than just a hangout for people who spell time with a 'y.' "We wanted a place that makes an impression," manager Andrew All says. "Something that lasts for years by being unique, by staying loyal to our local crowd."

The clientele ranges from casual to the smartly dressed twenty- and thirtysomethings, but without the glitzkrieg of uber-trendies typically drawn to the buzz of a hyped new bar.

Ladies will appreciate the fact that no aggressive predators are sleazing throughout the crowd with highlighted lines from Neil Strauss' "The Game" snaking through their brains, and the imposing yet genial security staff ensure that the mood is relaxed and hassle-free.

A clever, surprisingly cozy environment, it could have easily slipped from ambience to Ambien; instead, it's classy dungeon-chic without the torture of ridiculous lines, list-wielding bouncers and too-cool L.A. detachment.

Griffin regular Mattias Rattelmeier agrees.

"It's completely high-end but without the attitude or pretension," he says. "This could be an elitist L.A. hot spot on the strip, but what Griffin's done is create the ultimate local get-together."

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theguide@latimes.com

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THE GRIFFIN

WHERE: 3000 Los Feliz Blvd., L.A.

WHEN: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. weekdays; 8 p.m.-2 a.m. weekends

PRICE: No cover

INFO: (323) 644-0444

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