Meet My Bartender BFF, Freddy Smalls
Meet Freddy Smalls. Freddy is fun, hip and cool. Freddy is always down for a good time. Freddy is my new best friend.
Not a restaurant that delves in mixology but rather a bar that serves great food, this West L.A. joint is casual and intimate with tiled walls and floors, classic bar stools and metal lampshades. The overall feel is that of an old-school diner — only nicer and more upscale. Photos of famous Freds and Freddys cover a wall while classic hip-hop pumps from the speakers. The entire vibe is vintage meets laid back meets sophisticated — and who doesn’t want those qualities in a new friend?
“We really try to develop a family in a bar,” says bar manager David Fleisher (from 7 Grand fame). That means no attitude and no BS. Even the name, which was invented when the owners bought the building and gutted everything except a stained glass window that simply read, “Freddy,” evokes this everyman friendliness.
The bar program here also reflects that easy-going, no worries approach. Says Fleisher: “You don’t need twenty different things in a cocktail to make people happy. I like working with spirits you don’t have to dress up.” One of their more popular drinks, The Stumbling Cowboy, is simply rye and homemade sarsaparilla. Their Mayberry Smash (gin, berries, sage honey, lemon and mint leaf) is another example of letting the spirit shine through and has, as Fleisher happily states, “won people over who don’t like gin.”
The food at Freddy Smalls is an inventive riff on bar food, with chef Charlie Parker (another great name) offering up such plates as cashews with bacon, jarred pickles, deviled eggs and fingerling potatoes with dip. Fleisher says he is “constantly challenged by chef Parker, who is not just sending out burgers.” This is evident with his drink Whiskey Stones, which has Maker’s Mark, Stone Pine liqueur, dry vermouth and bitters. Matching this with the in-season pickles is an excellent pairing or, as Fleisher states, “whiskey and pickles are never a bad thing.”
As with any good friend, it’s always fun to discover something new about them. Freddy Smalls does that with their “Freddy Recommends” board. This is an opportunity for customers to discover new cocktails or new approaches to their favorites or, for those adventurous ones, to place their trust in the hands of Freddy’s knowledgeable bartenders. Says Fleisher: “People feel sophisticated about ordering. And, of course, a true test of a good cocktail is if someone orders another one.”
Adding to this sense of friendliness that defines the bar is Freddy’s Monday night “101 class” on drinks. Twice a month people come to the bar to learn about specific spirits, beers and wines. “Whether it’s 15 people or two people, we just hang out, drink and talk,” says Fleisher.
I’m pretty sure Freddy Smalls may be even better than my real friends.
Freddy Smalls, 11520 W. Pico Blvd., LA, CA 90064