HIGHLAND PARK SUPPER CLUB WITH KILLER DRINKS
It’s no secret that some of the best drinking there is to be in done in Los Angeles actually happens in Pasadena (thanks to faves like 1886 Bar, and Punch) but before you ever hit Arroyo Seco Parkway (the oldest freeway in the USA) from the 110 Freeway you have to pass through sleepy Highland Park and that’s home to the one and only Sonny’s Hideaway.
While Highland Park is up and coming, Sonny’s Hideaway is already there, thanks to bar manager John Kelly O’Hare who runs a killer, over-proof cocktail program. He even collaborated on this summer’s 1886 Bar drink menu and that speaks volumes. A fan of all things Tiki and boozy, Kelly’s punches are so stiff that he can’t even sell him by the bowl—their only poured by the glass.
At Sonny's Hideaway, the punch sits for at least 24 hours before it can be served in a glass. And Kelly is definitively taking a new turn with his punches by using mangoes and plums, as well as bitters and even absinthe to counter balance sugary or creamy taste, boasting it almost "creates a new taste."
"My punches derive from the idea of a creating a cocktail originally," Kelly says, "then I start thinking how it would change. I like to keep pushing the envelope—keep adding to the story, whether it's punch or cocktails."
During my recent visit to Sonny’s, I started with the potent Port Royal, a stiff mix of Jamaican gold pot stilled rum, China Amer, Campari, and smoked Angostura bitters. Since I knew I’d be trying several cocktails, I actually could only have a couple of sips before pushing this one off to the side and that never happens.
The Croatoan is a fiery mix of mezcal, Campari, yellow chartreuse, amaro, and lime oil. Smokey and stiff, it’s a very fine cocktail. Likewise, the Crystal Plumage made with Navy strength gin, rhubarb, Rosa vermouth, and grapefruit oil is a really nice and light yet sweet drink. This one is ideal for day drinking.
A good one on the boozy side is The Mexican Pope made with blanco tequila, Benedictine, apricot liqueur and lemon. I was also a big fan of the Dorothy Vallens, a delicious blend of rye, Cynar, China Amer, sapins, and smoked Angostura bitters.
A favorite night at Sonny’s Hideaway is Tiki Tuesday when you can get a slew of Tiki cocktails, including the Headhunter’s Repentance made with rye whiskey, chai, lime, pineapple, and toasted coconut—delicious! The Tiki drinks run $12 a piece and the kitchen even serves Tiki eats like cured hamachi, and smoked ham croquette. Happy Hour runs daily from 5-7pm and includes discounted Old Fashioned, French 75, Pimm’s Cup, Moscow Mule, and a daily punch special for only $6 ($5 for the punch).
While the booze is at the forefront at Sonny’s Hideaway, the kitchen, led by executive chef Alexander Abdel-Monem, offers a limited yet appealing menu, including dishes such as braised meatballs, grilled octopus, coffee braised pork chop, and Falafel fries. Larger entrée items include mussels, branzino, roasted chicken breast, stout braised pork shoulder, bacon burger, and slow cooked short ribs.
I have to admit I had never been to Highland Park before my night at Sonny’s Hideaway. I’ve driven through numerous times but now that I know better, the big boys in Pasadena definitely have some stiff competition to face. For crying out loud, Sonny’s is closer, but play it smart as their drinks are on the potent side so cab it, Uber it, Lyft it or buy a pal dinner and hire ‘em as the designated driver. You can get next.
Sonny’s Hideaway is located at 5137 York Blvd in Highland Park. Hours: Tues-Thurs 5pm to midnight; Fri-Sat 5pm to 2am; Sun brunch 11am to 3pm/5:30pm to midnight. Call 323-255-2000.
Story By: Jose Martinez