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Bigfoot Lodge West

The next step in Bobby Green's hopes for a barhopping scene along Venice Boulevard arrives. Dare to try the 'horny goat hooch'?

July 24, 2009|Scott T. Sterling

Among the boisterous collection of friends, family and VIPs crowded inside the freshly minted Bigfoot Lodge West near Culver City, longtime local resident Meredith Kleinman is pleasantly surprised.

"The last time one of these places opened around here, some friends and I stumbled across it, but the guy at the door was just too cool to let my friends and I in," she remembers. "Tonight was completely different. We just told the guy at the door we're from the neighborhood, and he let us right inside."

For bar owner Bobby Green, that's exactly the point.

"Our goal was to create an even warmer and more relaxed environment than the Bigfoot Lodge on the east side, if that's even possible," he says over the phone from his office. "It's also a more refined situation. I'm 10 years older than I was when I opened the original Bigfoot. I'm 38 now, so my tastes have grown. I can say that this is a grown-up Bigfoot Lodge."

Indeed, low, dramatic lighting and what feels like a forest of natural wood create an ambience akin to that of a plush log cabin that's miles away from the bustle and concrete of the city right outside. As resident mixologist Ian Malcolm recommends a new whiskey for a couple to try and another bartender lights up a "toasted marshmallow" cocktail, general manager Cara Brechler lights up at the arrival of four guys in motorcycle gear.

"Those guys are regulars at the Bigfoot Lodge up in San Francisco, and they rode down just to be here for tonight. When I invited them I had no idea they'd really come down," she beams. "It makes me so proud that our customers have so much love and loyalty to the Bigfoot."

"Originally, I never thought that I'd have two Bigfoot Lodges in one city," says Green. "But I have a lot of friends on the Westside, and I was constantly hearing how much people loved the bar but couldn't deal with the drive. I realized just how big Los Angeles really is. It made perfect sense to set up shop on this side of town."

It's an area Green knows well. He successfully launched the Saints and Sinners bar just down the street from this new location a few years ago.

"Culver City is still an emerging area," he says. "Just 10 years ago, it was a dead zone. But it's amazing how quickly it's evolved. It's becoming a destination. We had success with Saints and Sinners. We're hoping to create something of a barhopping vibe along Venice Boulevard, so when this space came up, I couldn't resist."

For years, that space was a bar called Rae's, an old-school dive bar that, according to Green, locals were not sad to see leave.

"Every single person I've talked to has been so thankful to see us," he says with a laugh. While the Bigfoot Lodge West champions a more refined bar experience, it hasn't lost the sense of irreverence that marks the original location. Behind the bar sits a massive jar filled with a murky and ominous vodka brew. According to Brechler, there's bark, ants, an actual deer hoof and more swirling around inside.

"We've been calling it 'horny goat hooch' for now," she says, laughing. "It's supposedly good for your sex drive."

"We went to a Chinese herbalist, and he created it for us," Green adds. "He had a million different herbs that treat all sorts of ailments, but we wanted everything that stimulates sexuality. . . . I don't know if it really works or not, but a guy took a shot last night and was dancing around the bar, like, 'I feel it, I feel it!' "

Bigfoot Lodge West might also have the distinction of being the greenest bar in L.A. After a full-size replica of the original Bigfoot Lodge was built for a scene in the Jim Carrey movie "Yes Man," Green bought the set and recycled most of it into the new space.

"All the wood on the walls and on the face of the bar is from that set," says Green. "We used the floor of the set as the ceiling. In fact, every bit of wood in there is recycled. I got some from a friend with a tree-trimming service, and there's a place up in Big Bear where we got the bar top. It's our little cabin in the city."

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scott.sterling@latimes.com

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Bigfoot Lodge West

Where: 10939 Venice Blvd., L.A.

When: 7 p.m.-2 a.m.

Price: Free

Contact: (310) 287-2200; www.bigfootlodge. com

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