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Let's Do Lunch: Laurel Tavern

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There are some great lunches to be had in this town, and we want to celebrate the midday meal. So, let's do lunch, shall we?

Why is lunch on Ventura Boulevard always cause for so much shouting? "It's up on the right. No, further passed it!" Laurel Tavern, which only started serving lunch last month, is helpfully painted black to stand out from the neighboring businesses. It is your standard gastropub, perhaps one of our best imports from England since the Beatles ...well, maybe Radiohead. The ceiling is high, and large windows that open out to the less-than-bucolic street still give the room an open feel that makes you feel less guilty about sitting in a bar drinking beer at noon.

The menu is a mix of small plates for the people who came to drink and more substantial offerings for those who came to eat. You have to discuss portion sizes with the bartender since descriptions on the large chalkboard menu don't offer hints. Some salads are big, some salads are small, and some salads are just right. Like Father's Office, you order at the bar and the food is brought to the table. Unlike Father's Office, you are greeted with a smile and an explanation of protocol at the door.

Unfortunately the lunch menu is limited, so there are no roast marrow bones or pork belly skewers. Fortunately, what is on the menu is still pretty good. The goat cheese salad is comprised of fresh mixed greens topped with a baked pear and a bright vinagrette. The giant Laurel burger is topped with gouda and served in a cake pan so you can bake your own dessert if you really need one. The french fries do stay hot and crisp in the unusual pan.

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The mussels even passed our East coast transplant's strict seafood test. The artichoke is charred black. A well of intense lemon vinagrette rests in each half. But be prepared for black fingers from the artichoke's char (and if you park on Ventura, don't forget to feed the meter).