So, a few days ago I headed up to Licorous to check out their "Mid Week Happy Hour" that Kathryn Robinson blogged about. I should say first that Licorous’s sister eatery, Lark, is one of my favorite restaurants. John Sundstrom’s style kind of epitomizes what I like best about West Coast dining: local ingredients creatively cooked into simple, flavorful dishes, warm, knowledgeable staff, and zero pretension. And I love the idea of Licorous, Lark’s sister bar next door, too. The cocktails have a fun culinary spin, the small plate menu is perfect, and though the color scheme is a bit fleshy, it’s somehow not unappetizing. The place works.
The thing is, I get a weird vibe from the service. It’s polite but a little cold, and a few weeks ago I went there and felt the way you do when you are with a rowdy crowd at an upscale bar: tolerated, but disapproved of. This, despite the fact that I was seated at what must have been the quietest table in the house. I should mention that we were almost overdressed, having come from to a work event beforehand. So that wasn’t the issue. It was bewildering.
I know this place has a lot of regulars and I understand the value in cultivating that. But there’s a reason the Brits named them “public houses:” everyone should feel welcome. I’ll leave it at that.
Onto the food and drinks. The happy hour runs Tuesday through Thursday (5-7; 10-12), and each day Licorous picks one of their specialty cocktails and charges four bucks for it during HH: a great way to get people to try new cocktail. When I went it was a Kaffir Lime Sour (see entirely-too-dark photo. I promise to get better at taking pictures in bars)—they infuse the kaffir leaves in vodka and adds lime juice and a splash of soda and pour it over ice. Kaffir is in a lot of Thai curry pastes, and the drink will definitely remind you of your last bowl of tom yam kai. It’s a really unexpected, tasty drink.
There are two small-plate specials, a “chef’s choice” tartine and pretzel “dots” with Coppa—actually a wee sandwich made from pretzel bread with cheese and coppa inside. Both items are a dollar apiece. The pretzel-wiches are delicious—my coworker Andrew (holla) ordered six and made a dinner out of it. The options are obviously limited, but this is not a case of "let’s buy some cheap junk food and make a happy hour menu out of items we’d never put on the actual menu." The food is the real deal.
Quality for your dollar, this is probably one of the best happy hours in town, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone else had a similar experience feeling a little less than welcome here. Maybe I’m paranoid? But if that’s true, how come I almost never feel that way at other local bars?