For a city that bills itself as the "media capital of the world," Burbank's neighborhood bars have been slow to catch up to increasingly discerning palates. Beloved yet dingy dives serving Bud Light for a few bucks, such as Rocky's III, still outnumber slightly more upscale neighborhood pubs such as the Snug, where the Chimay flows on tap.
First-time bar owner Tony Yanow saw an opportunity to cater to new Burbank residents and nearby media industry workers, so the former CEO of music.com took over Darts Away and revamped the beer and food menu (the bar soft-opened April 12 and celebrates a grand opening May 10).
"I went out looking for a smaller project and when I walked into this bar, I just fell in love with it," says Yanow.
From the outside, it's hard to see what, exactly, the 39-year-old found enticing. Darts Away (formerly, and now once again, Tony's Darts Away) occupies a narrow sliver of space on a forlorn stretch of Magnolia Boulevard. The 1,800-square-foot room is poorly lighted with wood paneled walls. Yanow did a light remodel, but intentionally left much of the original feel: The walls are still wood-paneled (although new), an old pool table still sits in the back near a lone dartboard and the bar remains unevenly lighted, with neon beer signs at the back competing with television sets near the front.
Yet despite the lack of décor, Tony's Darts Away is a surprise hit — attracting not only locals starved for a variety of hard-to-find California craft beers on tap, but curious vegans who have come from as far away as Santa Barbara to sample the varied menu after discovering Tony's via Twitter.
Twenty-four-year-old Graham Fink, a Silver Lake musician, came with a group of friends on a recent Saturday night.
"We heard of the veggie eats and beer selection so we decided we should make a pilgrimage to see what was outside the borders of Silver Lake," the vegetarian said.
Menu items at the beer and wine bar (Tony's has no full liquor license) include a beet salad and vegan sausages.
"This place has more options than anything in my neighborhood," Fink said.
In combining the vegan menu with craft beers, Yanow seems go have borrowed elements from other hybrid restaurant/bars such as downtown's Wurstküche, which pairs a wide variety of beers with unique food options.
"I've been overwhelmed by the response we've gotten," said Yanow, a Montreal native. "I get Facebook messages from people saying how much Burbank needs this and how vegans are starved for a good place to go at night."
Of course, craft-centric beer bars are nothing new in Los Angeles, and Burbank already has a few upscale choices for beer boosters (see BJ's Restaurant & Brewery or Gordon Biersch). Tony's, however, is a modest under-80 capacity bar with not only a unique vegan menu (the vegan chili sin carne and potato fries with maple-chipotle glaze are popular), but a clever focus on all California beers — a concept that has worked well at Fairfax Avenue's Golden State, which focuses mostly on West Coast ales.
All this has Tony's buzzing on local blogs. Burbank-based network administrator Norman Hayes, who blogs at mybeerquest.com, is happy he doesn't have to travel far to grab a Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale.
"California has so many great beers and I love that they are all on tap," he said.
But not everyone is happy with the new Tony's. Many regulars appreciated the quiet neighborhood feel and $3 bottles of Bud and have since absconded to other decidedly less upscale spots such as Tin Horn Flats — this despite real efforts by Yanow to retain regulars (Yanow kept on two well-liked bartenders from the old Darts Away staff).
One vet of the old Tony's, Patrick Bockert, said he was willing to give it a shot regardless. "It's against human nature for change, but I kind of like it," the 50-year-old said before cuing up a shot at the pool table. "I've got to give it a chance, anyway."
Tony's Darts Away
Where: 1710 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
When: Mon. through Sat., 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sun. from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Price: No cover
Info: (818) 353-1710; http://www.tonysburbank.com