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SUMMER HOT LIST

SCENE SETTER: Henry's Hat

Vintage board games, a cozy den and an a la carte menu add up to a night of low-key fun at the Studio City spot.

July 20, 2009|Jessica Gelt

Tired of your date tucking into the food on your plate? Here's a neat trick: Go to Henry's Hat, a new neighborhood bar and restaurant in Studio City, order dinner and request a game of Battleship from the "play" menu. When your food comes, there'll be a handy wall of plastic sea between you. You'll be so busy bombing each other that you won't have to share.

Or if you'd rather cozy up, opt for a game of Jenga and purposefully topple a tower of precariously placed wood into your date's lap. That'll be good for a giggle, and then you can clean up your mess. And a mess of low-key fun is just what Henry's Hat owners A.J. Gilbert and former "Days of Our Lives" star Martha Madison want.

Before they opened the restaurant, the husband and wife team (who also own Luna Park in L.A. and San Francisco) visited restaurants across the city to see what inspired people to go out.

Citing the economy and unemployment as issues wearing on Angelenos, Gilbert says that people seemed to want a place they could go to for any reason or occasion. Somewhere to hang out with friends, watch sports, play a slew of vintage board games and not feel pressured to drop a bundle of cash.

So you don't have to commit to a full meal, the menu of dressed-up bar-food favorites is mostly a la carte. As an added bonus, a la carte does not translate into small plates. The $8 pulled pork sandwich, stuffed with tender meat in a tangy vinegar-based sauce, is plenty to fill a hungry belly. Add a side of $3 hand-cut fries and you'll be more than satiated.

The chef, Nick Cobarruvias, came from Luna Park in San Francisco, and he's got a deft touch with sauces and sides. The horseradish coleslaw is spicy and sweet at once, with a pleasing crunch.

All the specialty burgers are made with Niman Ranch beef and piled high with toppings: pickles, onions and a fried egg, or maybe balsamic onions, sauteed cremini mushrooms and Danish blue cheese. A juicy garlic-and-herb bar steak with fries clocks in as the second-most-expensive item on the menu at $12.50.

Cocktails are made from scratch with seasonal fruits and house-made syrups. There's also an eclectic list of beer for those with heartier tastes. The beer list plays perfectly with the smaller room just off the bar. Gilbert calls it the den, and it's equipped with comfy flea market couches, TV trays and a 5-by-5-foot projection screen for those days when only a giant Kobe will do.

Otherwise, there's always Jenga, and your date's lap.

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jessica.gelt@latimes.com

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Henry's Hat

Where: 3413 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Studio City

When: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays

Price: Appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, $7 to $9; entrees, pizzas, $8.50 to $14; cocktails, $8 to $10

Contact: (323) 512-2500, www.henrys-hat.com

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