Healthy eats meet craft brews in a relaxed café that pays homage to “The Jetsons”
By Shanee Edwards
Take it from a regular: Astro Pub delivers on its promise of wholesome food, craft beer and cocktails, and an ambience that’s lively but won’t make you feel rushed out the door.
All that inside a grocery store!
Astro Pub is tucked next to the upstairs courtyard of the new Whole Foods Market that opened a few months ago in the Runway at Playa Vista retail and entertainment complex facing Jefferson Boulevard.
The café takes its name from Astro, the family dog in “The Jetsons,” and draws inspiration from the 1960s space-age sitcom’s whimsical take on future technology. At the Astro Pub, there’s a video loop of Astro running (perhaps chasing some kind of Orbit City squirrel) projected on the wall and a tiny portrait of the space-age Great Dane behind the bar, adding to the kitsch factor.
The interior design evokes the SoCal-born futuristic Googie architectural style, with bubble-style window booths that call to mind a lunar café and a color scheme that’s predominantly Pop Art blue and neon orange. You might call it Googie meets Scandinavian design.
Astro Pub’s long counter bar, however, is thoroughly contemporary. At any given time there are 24 craft beers on tap, most if not all of them brewed in California. A broad selection of red and white wines by the glass share the drink menu with fun cocktails: the Playa Martini, Marina Margarita and Dockweiler Daiquiri among them. There’s also a Build Your Own Old Fashioned that lets drinkers choose the base spirit, sweetener and house-made bitters.
It’s enough to take the edge off a meeting with Mr. Spacely.
The mood is casual, in a Playa Vista kind of way. You’re just as likely to see young moms as you are young executives who walked over from some creative office space just down the way.
The food menu keeps it relatively simple, playing up $10 to $12 daily specials that include “a brew” — tacos on Tuesdays, for example, and on Thursdays a fabulous and deeply satisfying hamburger with fries.
During an outing last Monday, I decided to splurge and try the house-made tots for an appetizer. They arrived more like crab cakes in both size and texture (obviously without the crab), and with Sriracha ketchup the dish made for a solid snack. The $8 price tag did seem a little steep for just three tots.
Another appetizer I’ve tried is Mary’s Chicken Wings, which really complement a beer and taste about as healthy as wings can taste while still being delicious.
For my main course I ventured into new territory. The Poutine Bulgogi with potato wedges ($10) is one of four cast-iron skillet dishes that appear front-and-center on the Astro Pub menu. The dish was hearty and creamy, but a bit overwhelming to me. The pork belly melted in my mouth, but it was a bit greasier than I prefer my meals to be and I ended up focusing on the potato wedges doused in Cholula.
I know, I know — it’s pork belly, not a salad, and pork belly fans may love it. But being inside a Whole Foods, my brain prepared my taste buds for slightly lighter fare.
Good thing I also had the Poke of the Day, created by resident poke chef Master Mike. The dish featured super-fresh seasoned raw fish, pineapple, raspberries, cucumber and green onions. It was a light mix of salty and sweet. Most people enjoy the poke alone with chopsticks, but having grown up in Southern California I’m used to eating tortilla chips with just about everything. My helpful server Shirley said the kitchen didn’t have chips but brought me some thin crackers that did the trick of adding just a little crunch.
Though I didn’t order them myself, I stole a glance at someone’s order of oysters on the half shell. Presented on ice, the six oysters looked very appetizing and appear to be a great deal for only $6. Next time!
The Margherita Flat Bread Pizza, served without tomato sauce, ($8) is another lighter option, but my preferred flat bread here is the Hog Wild ($10), which is topped with artisanal pepperoni, salami, prosciutto, mozzarella and tomato sauce. The Hog Wild feels closer to a real pizza.
But my favorite Astro Pub meal is the Classic Burger ($10) with lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion on a brioche bun, to which I add cheddar cheese. The fries that accompany it are savory and satisfying.
The tempo of wait-service is mixed, depending on the time of day. As a writer, I prefer my cafés to have a relaxed waitstaff. Here I can spend hours on my laptop, taking advantage of the super-reliable Whole Foods Market Wi-Fi while I’m rewriting my latest television pilot.
Bottom line, if you’re looking to have a drink with a healthy meal of natural, sometimes organic ingredients, Astro Pub is a great place to hang out. For warmer days, there’s also an outdoor patio.
I’d highly recommend a visit during happy hour — from 4 to 7 p.m. seven days a week, with beer, wine and cocktails discounted $2 — for spending a couple hours with your laptop to get inspired about the future.
Astro Pub 12746 W. Jefferson Blvd., Playa Vista (310) 862-9900 facebook.com/WFMplayavista/