Stiff L.A. Drinks, Loose Island Vibe

Posted September 2, 2015 by The Argonaut in Columns

Sunny Spot’s new craft cocktail menu shines a light on the power of rum

By Christianna Reinhardt (

The sturdy rum, rye, vermouth and grapefruit bitters concoction known as the Brooklyn 15 (foreground)  and a frozen piña colada with Smith and Cross rum  float and $2 bonus shot  Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

The sturdy rum, rye, vermouth and grapefruit bitters concoction known as the Brooklyn 15 (foreground)
and a frozen piña colada with Smith and Cross rum
float and $2 bonus shot
Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

Everything “L.A. Son” and multi-restaurant chef/owner Roy Choi touches turns to gold in this town, doesn’t it?

In the case of Sunny Spot restaurant in Venice, it turns to rum.

Behind Sunny Spot’s high walls on Washington Boulevard is an indoor-outdoor dining room that, like many of Choi’s endeavors, gracefully highlights the foodways of different cultures without appropriating them. Prior to a month ago, Sunny Spot’s Caribbean-themed food menus and drink lists remained roughly the same since the restaurant opened a few years back. But on a recent visit, a revamped drink menu dropped on our table, and it changed the course of our evening.

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your Ubers.

Chris Getz, the five month’s-new general manager of Sunny Spot, is making some user-friendly upgrades to the drinks menu and overall atmosphere of the space as a warmup before taking on the larger task of reworking the solid but aging food menu. He and team re-launched the drinks first because, as Getz explains, bartenders Brian Butler and Aaron Mendoza were in place and ready to make creative changes.

They came out swinging with overproof rum and strong pours, and even today with a live menu, they’re still making tweaks to fine-tune more octane performance into each glass. All of the drinks pack a similar punch and still draw heavily on consulting chef Choi’s self-described “West Coast Indies” theme. House made daiquiris that loosen your thumbs in preparation for calling a Lyft stand alongside equally strong and stealthy rum-infused Coconut Juleps; Sunny Spot’s Caribbean-styled twist on a traditional mint julep — with the bourbon still included, of course.

“In my experience, there’s a real difference in Westside and Eastside palates. On the Eastside, they’re heavy on brown spirits,” says Getz. “On the Westside, the palates prefer sweeter drinks. It’s a vodka drinking crowd, more of a ‘safe’ drinking crowd.”

Sunny Spot created drinks such as the Brooklyn 15 to bring a little Eastside trend to this side of the 405. If you have somewhere to be afterwards, we hope you walked because those brown spirits are what make the Brooklyn 15 a sippin’ drink. It’s a sturdy spin on a pre-Prohibition style Manhattan, mixing up rye, Jamaica rum, grapefruit bitters and vermouth.

Frozen piña coladas combine the lightest of flavors in the fleet, but if you add the optional float of Smith and Cross overproof rum, you score one of the last great drink deals to be found in Venice — a $2 100-proof extra shot.

Food and drinks on the floor move on Los Angeles time. Those come out quickly and as they’re made. However, as you’re slowly and responsibly consuming your adult beverages, you’ll notice a slower vibe — an “island time” in the dining room, where everything else moves at your own leisurely pace. Servers encourage you to linger and won’t give you the stink eye when you do.

“That’s the calling card of a good restaurant,” says Getz. “Service is the only part of the restaurant experience that is not subjective, so it has to be great.”

Sunny Spot is doubling down on that “stay awhile” feel with the recent installation of a new espresso machine. They partnered with Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a venerated Portland coffee roasting company, to bring high-caliber coffee to a café experience they are cultivating during daylight hours. Working on your newest startup idea? Funemployed? They have your remote office covered. Lingering with your laptop is encouraged.

“We’re a Caribbean-themed restaurant so we’ll still be playing a lot of Bob Marley,” Getz says.

The lazy beach hangout by day and the transition to … umm, spirited … dining room at night are mainstays of the restaurant’s atmosphere.

Under Getz’ watch, however, there are big changes to Sunny Spot’s food coming in the next three months. He hints that food and drinks menus will change with the seasons (Remember seasons?), and the addition of nightly dinner specials. Themed food special nights like Slider Night Mondays and Taco Tuesdays have already been added to the calendar.

“It’s time to mix things up,” he says.

Now, if Sunny Spot would add beach cruiser valet parking, the Venice-Caribbean vibe would be complete.

Sunny Spot 822 Washington Blvd., Venice (310) 448-8884
Christianna Reinhardt lives in Venice. Follow @heychristianna on Twitter for more adventures in food.


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