Formosa Cafe - Happy Hour - by Maren Swanson
My car had recently been giving me problems, so I dropped it off at a nearby mechanic on La Brea and Santa Monica Boulevard. With a 3 hour window to fill, I was off to Target to buy a bunch more of stuff I didn't really need. Starbucks in hand, a haircut and 2 plastic bags full of products later, I wanted to relax so I picked up my phone to search for a nearby and walkable happy hour - thanks Lovehappyhour.com! I noticed that Pomodoro (the small, yet commercial Italian joint) in the shopping mall plaza was closed, but better than that was Formosa Cafe just a skip away.
Formosa Cafe opened in the 1920's and has continued to keep its "old Hollywood" appeal with the original red trolley structure and an expanded upstairs patio area and bar. Black and white photos of celebrities line the walls inside and out, with a giant neon sign facing the street entrance. After being threatened with demolition in the nineties, concerned citizens fought to keep the neighborhood joint in tact.
The happy hour food menu was hand-written with daily specials that shared an Asian theme: chicken satay, spring rolls, sesame wasabi fries and sweet and sour rib tips. We decided on the chicken satay and spring rolls. The satay came out with 2 grilled skewers; tender, yet simple on a sparsely dressed plate. Our vegetable spring rolls were fried and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. I thought they were a little oily, but again, they were fried. I had hoped for a little more flavor and pizzaz with the food, but perhaps the main menu promised better flavors? Meanwhile as we ate, I noticed a different server only a couple feet behind us listening over our conversation in the reflection of the nearby mirror - it was little distracting. Otherwise, our main server was very friendly and attentive.
The dated and nostalgic flare of the Formosa Cafe is classic; you feel transported to a Hollywood bar when things were done just little bit differently than they are now. I love that they have stayed true to their original decorative integrity but maybe some enhancements to the menu would spruce things up from a culinary stand point. I ended up returning later that night for Caroline on Crack's 7 year blogger anniversary and the specialty cocktails the bartenders had created were spot on. I'm sadenned to see other older establishments such as Coach and Horses and Silver Spoon have closed their doors, but it's great to see that Formosa Cafe has still kept their's open.
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