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Checkers Downtown (Los Angeles, CA) – FOUR Is My Favorite Number

May 2, 2010

I’m an accountant. I know numbers, I can do math. Check it out:

FOUR at the Checkers Downtown
– Only offered on the 4th weekday in week (i.e. Thursday).
– Good for 4 hours, from 4-8PM.
– Four drinks at $4 each.
– Four plates at $4 each.
– Eight (not four!) new things to try.
– Even if you order all four drinks and all four plates, you’re still under $40 before tip.

(See why FOUR is my favorite number?)

I was originally going to wait to write this review until I’ve been four times but I just couldn’t wait. Plus, if I’ve been there twice, for two different weeks, and two is halfway to four and…

…Okay. Enough with the math. Let’s get down to the review.

If Checkers served mediocre food and mediocre drinks for $4, FOUR would still be considered a good deal. But, Checkers doesn’t serve mediocre food and drinks – they serve delicious food and well-mixed drinks, which then makes FOUR a great deal. I mean, check out these two menus and tell me this isn’t a great deal…



From talking to the bartenders, hard alcohol sponsored nights are more popular than the wine nights, and for good reason – Checkers cocktails are really good. This particular Thursday, I had a refreshing cucumber-mint cocktail and their version of a Salty Dog, my personal favorite for the night.

Typically made with gin and grapefruit juice, this particular drink was made with the sponsored Ocean Vodka instead and included a hint of rosemary as well. I liked the slightly tart, very citrusy grapefruit against the salty rimmed glass.

As for food, my first dish – an endive salad – was very similar to one I had at Craft, with its combination of endive, apple and blue cheese and walnuts.

Dish 2/4: Grilled Caledonian Prawn

Of my second dish, the cara cara orange was my favorite component, adding acidity and brightness. I was also happy to see they left the heads on the three large shrimp (the head is the best part!).

Dish 3/4: Halibut Cheeks in Red Thai Curry Stew

My dining companion and I ordered two of every dish except the halibut, which I began to regret after I had a taste. Described as being in a red Thai curry sauce, the curry was actually quite demure – not at all spicy or overpowering as one would expect – and allowed the fish and vegetables to really shine.

Dish 4/4: Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly

Typically fatty and melt in your mouth tender, the braised pork belly was instead crispy, as if it was fried. I expected this to be my favorite that day, but ended up being my least due to the texture issue.


Although hard alcohol nights are more popular than wine nights, that’s not to say the wine night’s aren’t good too. Sometimes you just want to swirl a glass of pinot rather than down a martini.

As previously mentioned, FOUR offers four dishes for $4 a piece. This particular day I just wasn’t feeling the second dish on the menu, a white bean soup with chorizo. Therefore, I only ordered the other three.

Dish 1/4: Caledonia Prawn Scampi

The sauce was flavorful but not heavy and the pasta was cooked al dente. It was supposed to pair with the chardonnay (which I also ordered, pictured above) but I enjoyed the food much more than the wine.

Dish 3/4: Maitake Mushroom Toast

The mushroom toast was a little too rich for my taste. The hearty mushrooms would have been enough, but the mushroom butter was almost overwhelming. Additionally, the toast was lost underneath the piles of mushrooms and was slightly soggy from the butter.

Dish 4/4: Pan-seared Sonoma Duck Breast

The duck was my favorite of the four for this week – I ordered two orders. My first order was spot on – the duck was tender, not dry. The dates were huge (and almost looked like medallions of sweet potato). Out of all the dishes, I felt that this one embodied the wine theme the best.


I know some of you are probably still in disbelief. “…Wait, what? High quality for a low price?” Stop pinching yourself, it’s true. Yes, some dishes may be hit or miss but for $4, you really can’t go wrong.

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Checkers Downtown
535 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 624-0000
Twitter: @CheckersDT

Checkers Downtown on Urbanspoon

The Varnish (Los Angeles, CA) / Copa d’Oro (Santa Monica, CA) – Cheers to Custom Cocktails

April 14, 2010

I’ve had a tough busy season. I’ve been working 17 hour days (one of those days being my 25th birthday), spending my waking hours in a cold, white room and my sleeping hours in an old hotel.

After this is all over, all I want to do is go up to a bartender, look him in the eye, say “I want ____”, and have him mix me exactly what I want.


Copa D’Oro

Ever since it opened more than a year ago, I’ve been meaning to try Copa. I would hear friends describe Copa’s expertly mixed cocktails, great vibe and attractive bartenders and wonder when I would find an excuse to drink on the Westside. Thanks to Victoria of Vixen’s LA Happy Hours though, I FINALLY found an excuse to experience Copa:

Happy Depression happy hour.
$5 drink specials.

Sounds like a good excuse to me!

First two drinks I ordered, the asian pear cocktail and a pisco sour, were from their regular priced drink menu and their happy hour, respectively. Both were well mixed, balanced in flavor, but not quite what I was craving that night. Then, remembering the original stories that lured me to Copa, I decided to order a custom crafted cocktail as my last drink.

I gave the bartender free reign over my cocktail, only dictating that I wanted vodka, cucumber (I’ve had a recent craving for all cocktails cucumber) and some kind of fruit in it. What he concocted was amazing – A combination of lemon, lime, mandarin orange, cucumber and lychee. The inital flavor was refreshing, with the cool cucumber and the bright citrus, but slowly mellowed out to end with the lychee. Everyone who had a taste was caught off guard with the lychee ending – it was deliciously unique.

Copa D’Oro
217 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 576-3030
Twitter: @copadoro

Copa d'Oro on Urbanspoon

The Varnish

Pick your liquor, they’ll make you a drink – Bartender’s Choice.

Now I’m a girl who enjoys a surprise now and then (especially when I’m craving a drink) so when I saw that typed on the bottom of the cocktail list, I knew that’s what I would be having that night. I asked for my drink to be made of gin (not my typical, but I was feeling adventurous that night) and was brought the following:

My Bartender’s Choice was a combination of gin, lime juice and honey. Somewhat sweet but still sophisticated, I would have to say that was the most enjoyable gin based cocktail I’ve had to date.

The Varnish
118 E Sixth St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-9999


Like I mentioned before, after this week, all I want to do is a bartender who can mix me exactly what I want. Basically I’m either going to The Varnish or Copa D’Oro…or both. These guys make a damn good drink.