In their own modest way, Steve Lieberman and Keith O'Brien are attempting to bridge the cultural gap between New York and Los Angeles -- and create your new favorite neighborhood hangout in the process. Considering that their new bar-restaurant West 4th/Jane is just a block away from the consumer crush and tourist trappings of the Third Street Promenade, it's a formidable endeavor.
"We want to build a good local following and be a more word-of-mouth kind of place," Lieberman shouts over the din in the bar. "We've only been here for about a week, and everyone has been so complimentary. There are lots of corporate giants and college sports bars around here, but there aren't very many cool hangout places for the 30- to 50-year-old business professionals, or just young, cool folks that want something a little more relaxed."
West 4th/Jane's relatively quiet location blends easily into the boutique-filled strip of Santa Monica's 4th Street. ESPN flickers silently on two flat-screen televisions over the dark wood bar while Radiohead plays in the background, just loud enough to be heard without overpowering bar conversations. Eye-popping paintings from local graffiti-style artist Chase line the walls. On the upstairs balcony, a small party has dispersed, leaving a single couple snuggled up next to a Galaga video game.
"We wanted to combine the best of New York and L.A.," says Lieberman. "Keith and I both grew up in New York, but we've also spent a lot of time in New Orleans. So there are lots of touches of those cities in our place."
The location has found a fan in Barry, a local who asked to go by his first name and who's been in three times in the first week and is already on a first-name basis with the barkeep.
"The food is great, the people are nice and the prices are right," Barry says over a Hofbrau from Germany, one of the more than 100 different bottled beers stocked at the bar. "It's just really comfortable. It kinda feels like I'm not in L.A."
"We're very much against the whole flash-in-the-pan phenomenon that seems to rule out here," Lieberman says. "Places seem to change every couple of years in L.A. We're New Yorkers, where bars have been there for 50 or 60 years. There are only a few I can think of like that out here in L.A."
One such place is Harvelle's, an old-school bar that's next door to West 4th/Jane. "We've got a good symmetry with Harvelle's next door," Lieberman says. "They're one of those places that have been around forever. They basically do hard liquor and music. We're more about beer, wine and fun, casual food. We send people their way, and vice versa."
When asked about the bar's name, Lieberman points to a map of New York City. "West 4th and Jane Street in New York is where our favorite bar-restaurant is located, the Corner Bistro," he says. "They've been around since the '50s and are all about keeping it simple and casual. That's what we're going for."
For a spot that's named after someplace else, West 4th/Jane is all about authenticity. The menu is filled with foods generally craved after drinking a few beers. Fries come in a "3some," with matching piles of sweet potato, classic and spicy curly versions. The "Hangover Sandwich" combines turkey, salami and hot coppacolla with a fried egg. But what truly stands out is the bacon-crusted French toast, a concoction created by Lieberman himself. "I'm happy to take credit for that one," he says with a laugh. "Bacon with maple syrup is one of the greatest flavor combinations ever invented. I've had every kind of crusted French toast out there, from Captain Crunch to corn flakes. But no one had ever done it with bacon. When I first made it up and tried it, I was convinced this could be the dish to make me famous."
Where: 1432-A 4th St., Santa Monica
When: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays to Mondays, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays
Price: No cover
Contact: (310) 395-6765