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dineLA October 2009: Essex Public House

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It's always a little curious when you arrive at one of the many eateries participating in dineLA's popular restaurant week and they don't hand you the dineLA menu. As a diner there to check out a spot you've maybe never been to before this means things can get off to a rocky start when right out of the gate you have to wonder if you were mistaken, or if the dineLA crowd is really all that welcome where you are. (Baffling, right? After all, restaurants choose to participate, so why not pimp it?) You know that "new kid" feeling? Yeah, that's the one.

Essex Public House on Hollywood Boulevard just a few short blocks east of Highland is a newer face in what's slowly become a more user-friendly food destination (as opposed to the area's previous designation as a place where unfriendly users begged for change to buy "food," some might note). In any case, the vibe at Essex is boisterous and warm, so when we arrived one evening last week to check out their dineLA offering, it wasn't too awkward when we had to ask our server specifically for that menu since we'd been seated with just the regular one. Well, maybe it was a little awkward.

During what was a curiously long wait for our server to return we did, however, cruise the delightful beverage menu, and zeroed in on the specialty drinks section, each of us picking something to go with our impending meal: A "Southside" (Ocean Vodka, Cucumber Slices, Mint Leaves, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup; $9) for me and "The Rounder" (Dash of bitters, sweet vermouth, Rye Whiskey; $10) for my dining companion. The special menu finally arrived, and we made quick study of its three-course offerings priced at a reasonable $26.