There's pool on the patio, among the many areas to relax in at the Phoenix. (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles…)
It's the afternoon before night-life impresario and restaurateur Adolfo Suaya's new bar, the Phoenix, is due to open in Beverly Hills, and the 4,000-square-foot space bustles with activity. Suaya walks through the main bar with a silver bowl of salted triple-fried fries, offering them to staff and workmen to evaluate while his partners sit at various tables typing away on their laptops. The scene would be just like any other bar opening, except for the fact that it's happening on La Cienega's restaurant row.
In this sea of upscale restaurant and hotel bars, the Phoenix sticks out like a green olive in a whiskey sour. The place would be perfectly at home in Silver Lake or Echo Park, which is just how Suaya and partners Ryan Sweeney, Brandon Bradford and Alan Aivazian (all of Surly Goat) and Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin (of the Dolce Group) want it.
Inside you'll find a shabby-chic wooden interior, a hodge-podge of flea market decorations and furniture, a pool table, a shuffle board, a list of craft beers curated by Sweeney and a menu of exactly one item (steak frites).
"Adolfo basically picked design elements from all over Southern California," says Moore, who opened the celebrity-backed restaurant Dolce with Suaya eight years ago. "It's really comfortable. The idea is for people to sit for a while, not just for 30 minutes."
Suaya regards his handiwork, which includes an adobe fireplace, whitewashed wooden walls and ceilings, a stage for live music or karaoke, a massive patio and two 20-foot-long bars, and nods with approval.
"It looks like it's been trashed by the weather," he says. "Like a farmhouse in Minnesota."
And like a farmhouse, the Phoenix will be filled with animals (of the party variety) who will have a hard time believing they are getting crazy in Beverly Hills, which despite its many charms has never been known as the place to get jiggy.
"We want to bring fun to Beverly Hills," says Aivazian, who developed the game room. "Come in your pajamas, have a beer and play shuffleboard. No one is too cool for anyone here. Leave your negativity outside."
Inside is the "happy-fun" zone — a zone sponsored by fun's good friend, beer. Right now there are eight craft beers on tap, including AleSmith Speedway Stout, which Sweeney says is one of the most sought-after Imperial stouts and has 12% alcohol by volume. Unlike the 47%, the 99% or the 1%, this is a percentage that brings people together.
It also strips you of self-control so you can order another, or perhaps a cocktail from a smart, fancy-pants-free cocktail list created by mixologist Andrew Kelley, who is focusing on classic cocktails like Manhattans, martinis and Sazeracs.
"We don't want to be a whiskey bar, a mixology bar or a beer bar," says Sweeney, who is working on opening a whiskey bar in Pasadena called the Blind Donkey (yes, Sweeney likes to pair adjectives with animals for his bars). "We just want to be a good bar."
That explains why there is only one item on the menu. The Phoenix doesn't want to be a restaurant either. Suaya has been there done that multiple times and he is understandably over it after taking one too many body blows from the sour economy.
"I don't want 21 people in my kitchen," says Suaya, walking into the kitchen where one guy, a chef named Larry Greenwood (BoHo, STK) stands contemplating a secret Dijon sauce. "I've done that before."
Greenwood says he likes to keep things simple too.
"We're doing very few modifications," Greenwood says. "You can only have two temperatures: medium rare or well done. But you can get it with a salad instead of fries if you want."
When you're lost in the fun zone, the $14.95 steak frites are a real steal. Plus, there are so many areas to eat and drink in at the Phoenix, which adds to the sense of play.
"You can have a different experience based on where you sit yourself," Bradford says. "Each area has its own character. It's a great mixed-use bar space."
As an added bonus, you actually will be able to talk to your date or friends just about anywhere you decide to sit. Too-loud music is on the no-no list at the Phoenix.
"You won't have to yell, 'Where are you from?!'" says Lonnie, grinning at Malin. "Mike might actually find a date."
Where: 14 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills
When: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Price: Cocktails, $7 to $11
Info:( 310) 289-5925; http://www.facebook.com/thephoenixla