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Cheers, Ma

Add Sonny's Hideaway in Highland Park to the list of places to raise a toast in style on Mother's Day

May 10, 2013|Jessica Gelt

Even seasoned drinkers have mothers. This is certainly the case with the Enabler, who despite an ongoing penchant for brooding over a stiff bourbon also enjoys the simple pleasures of taking her mother out for a scoop of gelato. With Mother's Day approaching, the Enabler's thoughts have turned to her provenance, and the many sacrifices her mother made to ensure that she was well-swaddled as a child.

In her early years, the Enabler was raised on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. Her mother arrived there from Massachusetts in a VW bug to become a teacher, and for a time lived without electricity or running water. Life was not easy, yet in every picture of the Enabler as a baby, her mother looks lovely and the Enabler fat-cheeked and content.

The thought made the Enabler want to raise a toast to the woman who raised her, and on Mother's Day she's far from alone. But sometimes -- most times, in the Enabler's case -- this simply can't be done as effectively at the typical Sunday brunch as it can be in a bar. But where? A person can't just drag their mother to any old watering hole. The place must have a certain amount of class. The music cannot be too loud, the clientele too garish or the drinks too stiff.

Fortunately, there are many places in Los Angeles that fit the bill, including Musso & Frank in Hollywood, the Tap Room at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena and Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas. But the Enabler was in the market for something new. That's when she heard of a new mom-friendly bar and restaurant in Highland Park called Sonny's Hideaway.

Pre-Mother's Day reconnaissance is a must, so on a recent Tuesday the Enabler drove north on the 2 Freeway to York Boulevard, which has been experiencing a bit of wind change these days with coffee houses, restaurants and wine bars opening in quick succession. Sonny's Hideaway is the most upscale joint to open in this increasingly upscale landscape. But it manages to remain unpretentious and fits in with the mixed neighborhood just fine.

It's small and dimly lighted with a row of dark leather banquettes, a few wooden tables with bench seating, and a comfortable bar where mixologist John Kelly O'Hare (formerly of the East Side Show Room in Austin, Texas) mixes craft cocktails made solely from small-batch liquors. The New American menu is short and flavorful -- executed with style by chef Jimmy Everett (Michael White's executive sous chef at NYC's Marea and Al Molo in Hong Kong). In addition, the music is soft, cellphones are kept at bay and quiet conversation drifts about the relaxed room.

Best of all, Sonny's Hideaway is run by men who love their mothers. Owner Derek Lyons, who opened Sonny's with business partner Ryan Ballinger (who owns the York gastropub down the street), says that his mother is coming to L.A. for a belated Mother's Day on the 14th.

"She likes cocktails, a little Champagne, a little wine," says Lyons. "She absolutely loves it here, my whole family does. She's so proud of me."

Lyons' ideal meal for mother is the grilled octopus appetizer with tangy avocado puree, crisp watercress, and radishes (the octopus is some of the most tender the Enabler has had); followed by the sea bass with spring garlic on an airy cauliflower puree; and finished with decadent blood orange custard with dark chocolate sorbet.

When it comes to a drink for mom, O'Hare says he would stir up a cosmopolitan.

"It's not a cocktail I like, but my mom likes it," he says. "I usually do it with pomegranate instead of cranberry juice. Sometimes she'll let me switch it up, but it always comes back to the cosmo."

The Enabler's mother would enjoy a cosmo, but the Enabler thinks she'll make her try one of O'Hare's more adventurous creations, like the Napali Death Toll, which blends rum, Acqua di Cedro, Legendre Herbsaint, passion fruit, allspice and lime over crushed ice. The resulting effect is a rosy-cheeked glow, a slightly loosened tongue and a general feeling of well-being.

Ballinger's mom lives in Florida and Ballinger says that he and she make bets on basketball and football based upon East Coast vs. West Coast allegiances. They bet bottles of wine and write the final scores on the bottles. He keeps a bottle that he would send to his mom behind the bar. It's a 2008 Cimarone Le Clos Secret.

"Nine times out of 10 I lose to my mom," confesses Ballinger. "When we visit each other and we want to rub it in, the bottle with the scores is the one we open."

Everett says his mother is a picky eater and that she would never eat octopus, so he'd serve her the ricotta dumplings with stewed tomatoes, Swiss chard and Parmesan.

His mother also lives in Florida, but sadly, she does not know Ballinger's mother.

"I think a lot of people's moms and grandmas live in Florida," he says. So true, but luckily they can still find a place in Los Angeles.



Sonny's Hideaway

Where: 5137 York Blvd., Highland Park

Hours: 5 p.m. until late, Tuesdays to Sundays; closed Mondays

Price: Cocktails, $10 to $14; appetizers and entrees, $6 to $20

Info: (323) 255-2000

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