The Federal Bar in North Hollywood just opened last month and it wasn’t a moment too soon. North Hollywood has desperately needed some bar variety, because you can only go to Big Wangs and Pitfire Pizza so often. Plus, The Federal Bar is not simply a bar, it is a gastropub featuring a tasty-looking menu just waiting for an unvegan visit. The visit came on St. Patrick’s Day, when my coworkers and I were in dire need of a beer and didn’t want to wait in line anywhere. We were amazed to find The Federal Bar had a surplus of seats available and sat down to see what it was all about.
I started with a Grand Teton Sweetgrass beer from their tap for five bucks, then checked out the food. The key to any gastropub in LA is a good burger, and if it wasn’t good, The Federal Bar would quickly vanish from my meal plans and simply be a place to drink, like Father’s Office. Their signature burger was creatively named Federal and came with aged cheddar, romaine, balsamic onion and garlic chips. The price was definitely in a good range, plus it came with chips or salad. I ordered mine cooked medium, without the romaine or onion, then asked if I could upgrade the chips to their House Fries, which were made with herbs, parmesan and garlic ($4). The waitress said yes, so I got ready for some burger and fries.
By the time our meals arrived, I was ready for another brew and this time I chose the Nibble Bit Tabby, because it was an Irish Red Ale and I felt I should pay some sort of homage to the people of St. Patty’s Day. Then I got down to burger business. The first thing I noticed was the lack of fries. Accompanying my burger were some waffle chips instead. These had a decent flavor, but a rather erratic range of saltiness and were sort of glorified air. Yet, they were definitely a step up from your average gastropub burgers that don’t have any side, so I couldn’t complain too much. Dan asked about my fries, and the waitress quickly brought them, so my meal was truly ready to eat.
I bit into the burger and found something pretty good. The bun was light, sturdy and toasted to a crisp, making it a perfect burger conduit. The aged cheddar was delicious, although a bit more cheese wouldn’t have hurt. The garlic chips were a nice little twist, and since I always feel like there’s no such thing as too much garlic, they were a welcome addition to my burger. Finally, the meat itself had a hearty thick grind, which was sadly somewhat ruined by an overcooking. The burger was brown all the way through, and although this meant I wouldn’t be getting worms, it also meant I wouldn’t be getting the full flavor and juiciness that the burger had to offer. But even so, the burger was not dry enough to require ketchup for lubrication.
As for the Nibble Bit Tabby, when it arrived it was certainly not what I expected. Looking and tasting more like a stout than an Irish Red Ale, I asked the waitress if it was the right beer. She was new and very confused, and assured me that she had hit the correct button on the computer. Concerned, she asked if I didn’t like it. Fortunately, it was a pretty good stout and I had no reason to return it other than confusion.
Finally, the fries were a delicious addition to the meal. These things definitely went for quality over quantity, because while they tasted good, they weren’t too plentiful. I wondered if this was a result of them being an upgrade from my chips, rather than a full side, but that is a mystery that won’t be solved until next time I head to The Federal Bar. When the bill came, I saw that the fries weren’t on it. And for the record, the Nibble Bit Tabby was also listed, so if it was actually the wrong beer, at least the waitress wasn’t to blame.
So in the end, I had a good beer-filled lunch at The Federal Bar. While I did enjoy each aspect of the place, I found that I liked the idea of the place more so than my actual experience. Nonetheless, it was definitely good enough to bring me back and the price and location are really hard to beat.