Woody Allen started Annie Hall with this line: “two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." And if I'm starting out with that sentiment, you'll be surprised to see how this review comes out fairly positive in the end. But that's how as an establishment, Rascal just somehow works.
Rascal is a small restaurant and bar just a stone's throw south of Wilshire on La Brea, so you can expect to struggle to find parking. The décor is very “now”; it's a lot of exposed brickwork, edison lightbulbs and dark woods, but pulled off in a way that doesn't feel like it's trying too hard to be trendy. It's the sort of restaurant where you *could* show up in a T-shirt and jeans and not get disapproving stares from all the other patrons, but you instinctively wouldn't want to do that. Rascal is definitely an establishment for real grown-ups.
The wine and beer list is concise and shows the power of skillful editing; with the lone exception of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the can, there isn't a single bad drink option. The food side of the menu isn't exactly expansive: the entree list covers the steak, fish and chicken bases and decides that three is good enough. However, the meatless diner need not worry: there are a couple nods to the vegetarians in the form of a mushroom burger and a grilled polenta with mushrooms appetizer.
The restaurant's happy hour, called the “Daily Dose”, offers a good deal; three of their sandwiches and a handful of the wines are $5 between five and seven pm. You do get a lot of food for your money. More importantly, you get a surprisingly generous amount of wine. Each of these is a mere $5.
But is it worth it?
Rascal touts that they use La Brea Bakery bread in their sandwiches, and that choice can produce some delightful sandwiches. The blackened fish Po' Boy sandwich was consistently good. The red pepper sauce comes through well, yet it doesn't dominate. My only complaint is that the amount of fish within the sandwich felt a little skimpy, but I'd order it again. At only five dollars each, I'd order two. The chicken sandwich with pesto is less successful. My chicken was dry and overcooked, sometimes to the point of an unpleasant and slightly ashy charred flavor. Least appetizing of all, the vinaigrette dressing on the side salads comes in heavy on the vinegar. It cuts through the bitterness of the mixed greens, but finds itself in territory that's too acidic.
At the end of it all, I'm left with a dilemma. Yes, I can point out that the french fries and the fish and chips sandwich receive rave reviews, but I didn't eat those dishes. And yes, there were flaws with the dishes I ordered, but the two old women from the Woody Allen quote don't emerge triumphant here. No matter what faults I can find with some of the dishes, Rascal is more about a well thought out selection of drinks and a good time with friends than it is about food. I'd come to Rascal to sit and talk with friends, I'd come to drink, and I'd come for the ambiance, but I wouldn't come hungry.