By Hungry Hungry Harris
First off, Happy “Drink a Beer Day” to everyone. I know every day could be “Drink a Beer Day”, and it probably is for most of us. But you could shower your significant other with gifts everyday too and not have to wait for Valentine’s Day. Just sayin’. In celebration of my newest favorite appreciation day, I visited Forman’s Whiskey Tavern in Toluca Lake. I know what you’re saying, Whiskey Tavern on Beer Day? But hear me out. Not only is Forman’s serving some of the best Whiskey cocktails in the Valley if not all of Los Angeles but they have a worthy list of craft beer offerings as well.
When I first heard of Forman’s Whiskey Tavern I immediately imagined a warm, dimly lit setting with a cabin like feel. So when I walked into the place, lo and behold that’s exactly what is was. This is the perfect Fall/Winter bar. It’s weird to think about, but since LA doesn’t really have seasons we have to rely on the settings that different establishments create for us. It’s like a real life movie set. Forman’s home-like feel makes for a super comfy place to drink. There is one big communal table in the middle and few smaller tables scattered around the bar floor with plenty of standing room. The walls are decorated with taxidermy, snowshoes, pheasants and beer steins. Again everything about this place screams Whiskey and beer tavern but definitely not in an obnoxious chain bar way. It feels genuine. The dimly lighting and use of real candles makes it feel sexy. You definitely feel like a grown adult out for a classy drink but without the smugness.
Again, a Whiskey Tavern for Beer Day? But, I will put Forman’s beer list against your favorite bar any day. They have beers styles for every pallet, unless your pallet calls for a Bud Light or Natty Light. They offer IPAs, ambers, lagers, ciders, hefs, Stouts (on and off Nitro). They cover the taste spectrum from sweet fruity beers like Golden Road’s Mango Cart to the hoppy Deschutes, 10 Barrel Joe and Dogfish Head IPAs. Speaking of Golden Road’s Mango Cart, Forman’s bartender Tom, combined the mango tart with Tajin to create a Michelada-like drink without the heaviness of tomato juice. For those in the know, think of those chili-mango lollipops we used to eat as a kid. The Mango Cart is light and fruity with a low ABV; you could drink a million of them, catch a decent buzz and not feel terrible the next day. I have recently fallen out of love with IPAs but even their options had me wanting to go back. The Deschutes Fresh Squeezed, 10 Barrel Joe and Dog fish Head 90min. IPAs all had the familiar hoppiness but also offered their own unique flavors and weren’t overbearingly bitter. They were very easy to drink but more importantly paired very well with their food.
With that being said, their food was amazing. Their menu is short and to the point, with everything from a meat and cheese plate, beet hummus and quinoa to burgers and smoked wings. I got to try a little of everything and if it wasn’t for the size restriction on my pants I would have ordered more. We started out with the Mezze Board which is red beet hummus, quinoa tabbouleh, baba ganoush and accompaniments like feta cheese, pickled beets and pita bread. Not only was it a beautiful looking dish but everything was absolutely delicious. I’m usually not a fan of beets but the pickled versions were addictive. We moved from the Mezze Board to more traditional bar foods. The garlic parmesan fries had the perfect crunch. With garlic fries, usually when you get to the bottom they start to get really soggy but these stayed crispy to the end. And what’s a serving of French fries without a burger. With about 4 solid burgers on the menu, I went with the Jalapeno Burger. Forman’s prides themselves on the fact that they grind their own burger patties every day. That quality and hands on approach definitely shows as every bite literally crumbles in your mouth. The Jalapeno Burger takes their freshly ground burger patty, cooked to a perfect medium rare, and top it chipotle sauce, jalapeno and poblano chiles, pepper jack cheese, onion rings and sandwich everything in the perfect bun. Don’t be scared off by the chilies used as most of the heat was overruled by the savory burger meat. The chilies were definitely present in the aromatics of the burger, so it smelled spicier than it tasted. It was a great burger and I can’t wait to go back and give their Hickory, Backyard and Tavern Burgers a try. The star of the show for me was their Smoked Louisiana Wings. I’ll be honest I could eat wings every day because I love them so much. That may play a role in why I loved them, but the flavor on these little morsels of chicken were out of this world. The wings themselves were charred on the outside but juicy and tender on the inside. The smell and taste of clean smoke took over all of my senses. These didn’t need sauce but if you’re going to add it might as well make it the best damn sauce in the city. The hickory BBQ sauce did not totally consume the wings; it complimented the already smoky flavor of the meat. The sauce was tangy and gave a nice little kick to the back of your throat. The wings are served with ranch and bleu cheese but honestly dipping them would be a disservice to yourself. Beer and bar food go hand in hand obviously, but when whiskey is in the name of the bar, you have to try a few cocktails.
Sure I was there to try the food and beer, because again “Drink a Beer Day”. But the list of signature cocktails had me at hello. I have a new found love for whiskey so I was excited to give this menu a try. I started out with an Old Fashioned, if a whiskey bar can’t make a decent Old Fashioned there is no hope for the rest of the drink menu. But that never crossed my mind at Forman’s. Of course their Old Fashioned was absolutely perfect; it’s even served with the giant ice sphere instead of cubes so it doesn’t get watered down quickly. Their Old Fashioned uses Old Forester Bourbon, Averna Amaro (an Italian liqueur), Dom Benedictine (a French herbal liqueur) and spiced cherry bitters. If you’ve ever had an Old Fashioned then you know aromatics play as big a part as taste when drinking one and Forman’s nailed it with their spin on this classic drink. Next up was The Huntsman, I’m going to add this one to my favorite drink list. So good I ordered it twice. The Huntsman uses Eagle Rare Bourbon, banana tea syrup, toasted pecan bitters and garnished with a banana chip. The use of banana tea syrup as opposed to simple syrup definitely takes this drink from good to great. The sweetness of the drink doesn’t coat your mouth, and only lasts a few seconds before the whiskey hits every part of your pallet. I believe that certain drinks correspond to the different seasons and this was absolutely a Fall drink. The Huntsman doesn’t have that sharp bite like an Old Fashioned; it feels very rounded in your mouth. As for my last drink of the night I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. Honestly when I first looked at the menu I saw shishito peppers and thought it was the food menu but no. Forman’s The Far East cocktail uses Kikori Japanese Whiskey (rice whiskey), lemon, sugar, muddled shishito pepper, egg white and angostura bitters. The combination of these ingredients created an aromatic, frothy and delicious combination. I enjoyed this drink from the moment I brought it up to my nose to the moment it splashed down my throat. There is always something on a bar or restaurant menu that makes me wonder how the hell the chef or bartender knew to put those ingredients together to make, in this case, this awesome drink.
I want to thank everyone at Forman’s Whiskey Tavern for their hospitality and awesome service. Everything that came to my table was made well by people who care about what they are serving to their patrons. That definitely showed in their awesome ingredient choices and made for some amazingly tasty food and drinks. If you’re ever in the Valley make sure to visit Forman’s Whiskey Tavern. Do yourself a favor and order the Louisiana Smoked Wings and wash them down with a beer and then a whiskey. You’ll thank me later.
Cheers, Happy Drink a Beer Day!