Happy Hour at Bouchees Bistro
The Hours: 4 to 7:00 pm on weekdays
The Scene: Downtown Long Beach is by no means a food Mecca, tending more towards gimmicky, corporate-type restaurants affairs than the food-forward spots we predominately prefer here at Stick a Fork in It, but Bouchees is one bright spot on Pine. The restaurant moved to its currently location--formerly Smooth's, a sports bar--late last year after pleasing many customers and building a devoted following at their original location on Long Beach Blvd. After a minor redesign of the interior space and with chef Tony Zervas taking over the kitchen, the restaurant/bar reopened in its centrally located Pine Ave. location.
The sports bar feeling has been maintained, with numerous flat screens showing any variety of games, from soccer to various lower-tier college basketball tournaments--not to mention March Madness games--leading to a very diverse crowd of spectator-drinkers at game time. Its dark inside and the patio, while huge, is covered with a huge awning, blocking any chance at getting some sunlight by drinking and dingal fresco
The Sauce: The drink specials are plentiful: $3 draft beers, margaritas and well drinks; $4 craft beers and wine-by-the-glass; $5 for a variety of martinis. Judging by the names of said martinis--Sex in the City, Caramel Apple, etc.--they would be martinis in-name-only, not the classic gin and slight bit of vermouth, but there's a decent selection of craft beers for those who prefer their drinks with little sugar and no bright colors.
The Eats: Nothing can make the cheap-drinks bonanza that is happy hour better than good bar snacks. Padding an empty stomach for some light afternoon drinking is not only tasty, but an advisable practice in order to avoid becoming a word-slurring mess in front of office friends--often not the people you want to be your drunkest self around--before the sun has gone down. The bar snack most synonymous with Long Beach are the pickled eggs--and sandwiches--from Joe Jost's, but as the bar is sans-happy hour, for this Monday's edition of Drunk After Work, we looked elsewhere and found some good competition at Bouchees Bistro. There are half-priced wings and pizza, but the real winner, taste and price-wise, is the trio of sliders--burgers large and small being the house special--featuring a cheddar cheeseburger with all of the fixings, a bacon chipotle cheeseburger with pepper jack and caramelized onions and a seared Ahi tuna and avocado burger. Impaled with toothpicks and fully topped with their various fixings, the burgers make for less of a snack than a full meal, especially when the side of Parmesan fries are figured in.
The Verdict: My only small gripes with the food were the cold buns--isn't a steamed bun requisite for a slider?--and the less-than-crispy fries. And having outdoor seating is kind of ruined by making it resemble indoors as much as possible. But these problems are easily washed away by a pint of Stella or two.
The Grade: A-. The Bouchees/Smooth's marriage has yielded a spot with a sports bar vibe and a gourmet-leaning menu, making it the perfect place to catch the game or just catch some drinks. And some sliders, too.
Bouchees Bistro: 144 Pine Ave Long Beach; (562) 437-7700
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