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Affordable Fun

There's live music, no cover, and good food.


It's no secret that the endless and priceless Metro project has been about as popular as locusts would be to the businesses above it. But the Universal Bar & Grill in Universal City seems to have weathered the storm, not to mention all the dust and parking hassles. The club on Lankershim Boulevard has been in operation for eight years now, not far from the place where dreams are made, Universal Studios.

The first thing one notices about the Universal is the large picture of Mae West on the wall behind the bar. The bodacious blond bombshell is well remembered for quotes such as "When I'm good, I'm very, very good, but when I'm bad, I'm better."

Manager Eva Laczko seconds that sentiment before adding a not totally objective opinion of her place. "My dad had that picture forever, and we thought it would be perfect. This is a wonderful place. The Universal is very unique. It looks like a bordello inside."

Legal and much more affordable than a bordello, the Universal never has a cover. Inside, it's cool and hip and well, very red. There are red chairs, red lights, red everything--even the menu is red. Inside, comfortable chairs line the bar, which faces numerous mirrors, there to check yourself out on the Sad, Happy or Wasted Scale. And the obligatory "No Smoking" sign is not far from the cigarette display. Outside, there's a patio used for summer barbecues or ongoing cancer experiments for smokers.

There's a pool room and a jukebox, plus live entertainment every night but one. The Universal is probably the only bar that doesn't have music Friday night, the traditional rent-making gig for most clubs.

"We have music every night except Friday--people just seem to want to relax and talk, and we do have a jukebox."

Perhaps the venue can afford this luxury by doing so well on the other nights. Sunday through Wednesday, the traditionally worst bar nights of the week, are a hit at the Universal.

"On Saturdays we have different bands, and Sunday is our VIP Blues Jam. Monday is a good night for us. We have Joe Veal & the Cutlets. They play blues and they start right after Monday Night Football. Billy Boy, who has been playing the blues here for more than a year, has made Tuesday one of our best nights. Wednesday is karaoke, which does real well, and Thursday is Grove Connection, a jazz group."

In addition to booze and drinks with Mae West-friendly names such as the Sexy Martini and Sex On the Beach, the Universal Bar & Grill has a serious menu, which weighs about as much as one of West's gowns. The munchies are as plentiful as they are affordable. Your heart doctor wouldn't approve, but the Fry-Up Basket featuring fries, onion rings and chicken is delicious.

"We're open for lunch and dinner because we cater to the Studio crowd, but on the weekends, we don't serve lunch. In the summer, we have BBQs on the patio."

So what sets the Universal apart from everywhere else? First of all, every bar doesn't have Mae West watching over things, and the interior is great, especially if you like red. Then, according to the manager, there's the matter of location.

"Some people think that the Universal is a typical Valley bar because it's located in the Valley, but it really has a lot more in common with the places over the hill in Hollywood. The Universal is sexy, comfortable and low key."


Universal Bar & Grill, 4093 Lankershim Blvd., Universal City. Groove Connection plays jazz tonight; the Mark Harris Band plays classic rock Saturday; the VIP Blues Jam is Sunday; Joe Veal & the Cutlets play blues Monday; Billy Boy plays blues Tuesday; Karaoke is Wednesday. Free. (818) 766-2114.

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