Dining Out: Bar Verde proves to be hidden treasure

There's a secret spot in the Americana with a wicked hamburger and a mean Mai Tai. You won't find it street side as you wander down shopping lanes. You probably won't see it from the fountain or green. No, this hidden gem is up three escalators, past mannequins bearing high-end children's clothing, tucked into a corner on the upper floor of Nordstrom.

Bar Verde is a bastion of low-key elegance and unostentatious quality with a distinctive Seattle vibe. Warm wood paneling, flattering vintage lighting, private booths and cool alternative music define the dining room. Out on the airy veranda, sounds can be heard from the shoppers below.

The well-stocked bar inside has a timeless quality, meaning you have no idea what time it is. Therefore, having a Mai Tai Chi at two in the afternoon seems perfectly reasonable. But this is not your typical Mai Tai. This one, expertly mixed, has chai tea syrup, lime, house made orgeat and rum. The huge ice cube in the cubical glass only makes this enchanting cocktail better. At Bar Verde, they change the cocktail menu according to seasonal availability. Come summer, basil or berry syrups may be all the rage.

I mention the cocktails up front for a reason. This may not be your first thought for a place to have a drink, but it's a good one especially with a flatbread pizza alongside. They offer daily brick-oven fired pizza specials as well as their standard wild mushroom, arugula or Neapolitan style for $10 to $12.

If you're interested in a full meal, there are some mouthwatering options. Don't think of Bar Verde as a store cafeteria. Think of it as a casual fine dining spot that happens to be inside a store. Popular lunch fare includes Cilantro Lime Chicken Salad ($11) with roasted peppers, grilled corn, pepitas and jack cheese and Roasted Local Beets ($12) with baby gem lettuce, Humboldt Fog chevre, toasted hazelnuts and walnut vinaigrette. Dinner sees some of the same menu items plus upscale plates like Sake Marinated Black Cod ($26) with shiitake mushrooms and shrimp dumplings or Ancho Crusted Beef Coulette ($24) with a red wine demi-glace. Wait staff are professional and courteous.

Found on all the menus (lunch, dinner and bar bites) is the stellar Bar Verde Burger ($13). Ground in house, the beef was cooked to my precise specifications. I'm not sure if it was the Fiscalini white cheddar, the balsamic roast onions or the peppercorn aioli but my first bite elicited an actual groan of pleasure. It only got better as I continued down the road of burger ravaging with sea salt fries dipped in lemon aioli being my only stop signs.

One other standout on the menu was their soup of the day ($4 cup, $5 bowl). We tried the black kale with chicken and red pepper. It was well-balanced and delicate of flavor but perhaps unnecessarily thickened. The produce and meats in all instances were outstanding, probably because Bar Verde is dedicated to sourcing only from local family-owned farms and ranches. Local means anywhere from San Diego to Sonoma but family-owned is just as it sounds. A list of these businesses is posted at the bottom of each menu. The menu itself is appropriately small. Just like with Nordstrom merchandise, the focus is on quality and seasonality.

Whether or not you care about agricultural responsibility, you can't deny the food and drink at Bar Verde taste good. I ran into an old friend there recently who was enjoying pizza and a cocktail with a colleague. When asked why she comes to Bar Verde, she simply responded, "I like to shop and drink." Enough said.

What: Bar Verde at Nordstrom

Where: 102 Caruso Ave. in the Americana at Brand, Glendale

When: Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Prices: Lunch $10 to $17; Dinner $7 to $26; Bar Food $8 to $13; Cocktails $9 to $11

More info: (818) 502-9922


LISA DUPUY has reviewed over 200 area restaurants. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.

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