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Idle Hour Café, The Rebirth Of California's Famous Barrel Bar

Idle Hour Café, The Rebirth Of California's Famous Barrel Bar

Picture of Todd Bisson
Updated: 1 December 2016
North Hollywood’s restored Idle Hour Café, that giant barrel of curiosity on 4824 Vineland Boulevard, finally pushed open its 75-year-old doors again. We dive straight in to find out all about this rejuvenation.

 

You can now enjoy a venue erected in 1941, during the heyday of LA’s now mostly extinct Programmatic architecture. In 1971, the barrel was sold to Jose and Dolores Fernandez, who renamed the venue La Caña, and transformed it into a flamenco dinner theatre. La Caña shuttered its doors and windows in 1984, but Dolores remained, living in an apartment at the top of the barrel, until 2009.

The building was landmarked by the city in 2010 and in 2011, was bought by 1933 Group, the folks that managed this resurrection and are well-known for working kitschy revival wonders with waterholes about town. First impressions count, and Idle Hour lives up to the $1.4 million renovation hype, with both ambiance and great sustenance. Despite its dusty, storied past, it’s a fine venue for modern folk to convene.

The interior delivers on the exterior’s instant iconica: surprisingly roomy, all-wood main bar area, with mostly glass back wall, giving way to ample patio. Out back, there’s a giant bulldog smoking a pipe, a replica of another Programmatic cafe that once stood on Washington Blvd.

Beer rules the room with 24 taps on hand, many jutting out of a huge barrel that dominates the bar. There are also mixed cocktails on tap. That said, the solid selection of hand-made signature cocktails is hard to pass up.

The Barrel also has a full kitchen with well-rounded, minimalist modern offerings such as pretzels with dipping sauce and a delicious Ahi tuna tartar. General manager Jeff (as opposed to door man Jeff) stated on opening night, that they really just want to be a ‘neighborhood family bar.’ This may be hard to achieve, in a good way. Two days after the opening, the room was already buzzing with LA’s late night youth and beauty. Visit today and don’t miss out on this rejuvenation of a classic.