PINEAPPLE HILL, the petite island hideaway nestled in a bland Valley strip mall near Moorpark Street and Van Nuys Boulevard, is the kind of place you go when you want to dissect the meaning of the song "Hollaback Girl." Which is exactly what a tight-knit cluster of giggling waitresses did on a recent Saturday night behind the bar.
"This ... is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S," they sang loudly and in unison, shaking their ponytails before stopping abruptly and behaving as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
Apart from fans with palm frond blades and a large oil painting of a parrot, there is little evidence of the island theme at Pineapple Hill. The interior sports TGI Friday-quality stained glass and a digital jukebox. It's the kind of bar that you'd be thrilled to find near your motel if you were visiting someplace like Loogootee, Ind.
The Valley, however, is flush with below-the-radar gems, which is why it's not uncommon for locals to load up on Pineapple Hill's specialty burgers before heading down the street to the Barrel Sports Bar.
The Barrel, with its mismatched tables and chairs, busted up shuffleboard, grungy popcorn machine and tiny corner stage, feels so much like your high school best friend's basement that you wouldn't be surprised if you saw a couple of guys hanging out at the Golden Tee machine in their tighty whities.
To be more precise: If bars were people, the Barrel would be Jason Schwartzman and Pineapple Hill would be Nicole Richie. That's why the proximity is nice: The bars' differences are jarring enough to guarantee a good time.
For example, while a talented but kitschy band with an inexplicable wealth of guitars set up at the Barrel, the tank top-clad employees of Pineapple Hill focused their attention on yet another Gwen Stefani song.
"That's my favorite line in a song, ever!" one server said. "Which?" the bartender asked. " 'Take a chance you stupid ho,' " the server replied earnestly.
Later at the Barrel, the band's frontman took the stage accompanied only by one of his guitars and a mild-mannered female bass player. They strummed a cover of "James K. Polk," by They Might Be Giants. Their performance captured the attention of the restive crowd, more than a few of whom were clearly not gathered for the music.
In this way the Barrel created an atmosphere of nonchalance that brought its patrons together. So did Pineapple Hill, which played host to a middle-aged woman in glasses and a vodka-swilling old man -- testaments of a class-free bar culture. As the night wore on, both bars became cozy and insulated, and best of all, sitting inside one or the other, drink in hand, you feel like you're anywhere but in L.A.
The Barrel Sports Bar: 4547 Van Nuys Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 990-2095. Open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Well drinks, $4.50; domestic bottles, $4.
Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill: 4454 Van Nuys Blvd., Unit N, Sherman Oaks. (818) 789-0679. Open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Well drinks, $4; domestic bottles, $3; burgers: $7 to $8.