La Canada Flintridge? Really? Yes.
Posted by Glenn Gritzner on February 1, 2014
Hello Enthusiasts –
How are you? How have you been? It’s been awhile. For those of you who have asked whether you have been “kicked off” the blog list, I have two answers: a) No. I have just been too busy to write lately. Deepest apologies. And b) it’s just a website. Feel free to type in amateurenthusiastla.com whenever you want (or, heck, just click here. Though you’re already here. So that’s circular.). Not password protected or anything. There’s even an RSS feed so you can get proactively notified anytime my newest bon mots drop. Point being: your loyal Enthusiast is inclusive, if not prolific.
Sheesh. There’s so much I want to tell you about. There’s one of my new favorite restaurants in Downtown, the Stocking Frame, which really isn’t that new, but is probably new to most of you, and fantastic. There’s my new favorite rooftop bar in Downtown, atop the brand spankin’ new Ace Hotel. For those who don’t know, Ace Hotels have earned their hipster cred in places like London, Palm Springs, and Panama (and Portland and Seattle, but that seems a little suspect). So for now, it’s all scene-y with lots of people who normally don’t venture east of La Cienega. But they’ll eventually figure out that they’re trekking to the intersection of 9th & Broadway, decide the Uber fare is too expensive, and it will become just the cool Downtown spot it’s destined to be.
I want to tell you about Factory Kitchen, occupying an odd-but-welcoming spot in the Arts District, run by veterans of Valentino and Drago Centro, turning out way better Italian food than this location has a right to ask. And speaking of Italian, some fellow Enthusiasts wax rhapsodic about the new Maccheroni Republic, though I haven’t been there (no, contrary to popular belief, I don’t race out to every single new place the day they open).
So there’s a lot going on. And I promise (though I certainly can’t pinky swear) that most if not all these places will get their due. But today, I want to tell you about a place that I can almost guarantee you know nothing about. And you should. It’s not in Downtown – it’s in La Canada Flintridge. Yes, a trip up the 2 to the land of comfortable white people. And it’s in a strip mall. But don’t hold any of that against them. Because this place is getting way too many things right, and deserves a little love.
Fellow Enthusiasts, I give you The Proper. Why am I using my first blog post in months to focus on this place? I’ll give you three reasons: 1) the food. 2) the drinks. 3) it’s the least likely that anybody reading this has heard of.
Loyal readers of this little vanity project know that I am a big fan of things that are better than they have to be. And it would have been really easy to open something called a “gastropub” in La Canada, serve better chicken wings than most people, and call it a day. But the attention to detail, the quality, and the commitment at this place shine through at every turn.
I like to give you pictures, so here’s a couple of the interior (again, the exterior is in a strip mall, so you’ll just have to find it):
It’s tough to tell from these, but the place is divided roughly in two: the very inviting bar half, and the very inviting restaurant half, with the same menu in each.
The chef is from the Patina Group, and the bartenders are all squarely in the mixology-but-super-nonpretentious camp. They have to serve their market, so I’m not going to say that the food is knock-your-socks-off creative (think steak, salmon, chicken pot pie, etc.), but the quality is incredible. And the cocktails – a topic near and dear to my heart – are top notch, ranging from the century old classics to house-created originals.
Speaking of cocktails, you can’t write about the Proper without mentioning that they have what they call the world’s largest collection of gin, and I ain’t arguing with them. But, beyond that, aside from every gin you can think of, they actually make their own gin, with botanicals grown within 15 miles of the place. (fun article talking more about how they do it here.) Whether you like gin or not (if you’re a vodka drinker, please – just one time – swap in gin for whatever you mix your vodka with and see what you think), you gotta admire folks with the dedication and discipline to be so local and so committed. Gin is a difficult-to-make spirit, and they do it with herbs and botanicals they either grow or gather themselves. Impressive.
Not convinced yet? They have barrel aged cocktails – 10 of ’em! (most places have 2 or 3 max) – some aged up to 86 days. They have breakfast cocktails (yes, they’re open for breakfast). They have spicy duck wings, scorpion chili pulled chicken, and martini mussels. And if you sit at the bar and talk real polite to the nice bartenders, you never know what might come out of the kitchen or from behind the stick.
So look. If this place was in Downtown or Silverlake or Hollywood, you would have already heard all about it. And you would have driven farther than the 10 minutes it’s going to take you to get up the 2 to get to this place. You’re just used to fighting the 101 or 7th Street or whatever to get to places you like. So one night when you’re looking for something different, try this place. You won’t be disappointed.
More to come. Hopefully measured in weeks, not months.
464 Foothill Blvd. (just past the 2/210 split)
La Canada Flintridge